What am I Saying??

Have you ever picked up a voiceover script and said to yourself, “What the heck am I reading aloud here??”

Over the years we’ve been asked “what’s the difference between a ‘good’ VO talent and a ‘great’ one. I had lots of responses that come to me that are more related to the business side of being a voice over talent. Things like showing up on time, prereading the script, being open to direction, etc. are all important aspects of being a professional. If you got selected for the VO job you must be good – or good enough, right?

But on further reflection, we’ve concluded that the one true benchmark between good enough and really good is the ability of the voice talent to express, with their voice, the feeling that they know what they are talking about.

So often, as a seasoned professional, you fall into a routine of getting a script, going over it for pronunciations and grammar and then just launching into a read. But did you really understand what you were reading? Did you know where you were going with that read and what all those terms you said aloud actually meant?

This is particularly important with corporate narration projects but even applies just as well to commercials. The true pros, the people who build a loyal following are the narrators who genuinely SOUND like they know what they are talking about – like they live this subject matter every day and are sharing their wealth of knowledge. In fact it is really the WRITER’s wealth of knowledge.

How do you get to “great?”

Stop a minute. Ask yourself: What am I talking about here? Where is this script going? How does this thing I’m talking about work?

Don’t be afraid to ask the client questions. How does this widget get made? What’s really going on when I talk about X? What did you mean about with Y? Look up words that are unfamiliar to you – not just for pronunciation but for meaning as well. Take the time to educate yourself about the client’s product or service.

The payoff? The client will know you truly care about the voiceover job you are doing which builds client loyalty. Also, your read will sound genuine and that “truth” of the copy will totally come though in your voice – in much the same way as when you plant a big smile on your face the listener can HEAR that smile come through.

This post originally ran on the www.voiceoverherald.com website.

5 Tips for a Better VO Session

1) Make sure your client thoroughly reviews and signs off on the final script in advance of your VO session. If you think your client needs the extra effort, record a “scratch track” with a temp voice for your client to review. Revisions to the narration after the initial VO session may not always match the energy and sound quality of the original performance and can be avoided with pre-production efforts.

2) Prepare the script in a format that is easy to read and understand. 12 pt fonts or larger and lots of spacing for the narration copy will make the session go smoother. The extra space allows for the talent to write in last minute changes that come up during the narration session.

3) Work out ahead of time how you would like the program paced and which places are good for music and narration transitions. What kind of music (if any) will be used throughout. This will help the talent get a feel for the segments that need more emphasis.

4) Direct the voiceover session. This seems like the obvious one but with the changes in the VO business this step is often overlooked. It is important to give guidance and direction as the VO is being recorded, either by phone or in-person, to avoid costly re-do’s. It also helps assure correct pronunciations and emphasis as well as a good performance.

5) Don’t over-direct and avoid the use of “line reads” if possible. Respect the fact that every voice talent has his or her own pacing, tempo and speech patterns. It is best to use positive words and encouragement to guide the talent to where you would like them to go with their read and which words require more emphasis.

This piece originally ran on the www.mcai-oc.org website.