John Gagnepain – Training & Development Manager at Six Flags St. Louis – offers these strategies for successful voice overs.
1. Practice – It’s a bit cliché, but as you probably know a lot of people have a hard time getting used to hearing their own recorded voice. The more your hear it, the more you can make adjustments to your tone and inflexion.
2. Imitate – I’ve spent a lot of my life listening to and imitating comedians, singers, radio voices, sports casters, movies/tv, etc. Depending on what I’m doing, I literally just pretend I’m a professional at whatever topic I’m doing. For example, in this video, I was thinking “If this was on VH1, how would that person sound?” Then I try and do that voice.
3. Rehearsing – I base how I rehearse on what sort of project I’m doing. If I’m doing something where I’m instructing a specific task (like a screencast on some software) then I rarely rehearse because I just go through the steps and that’s about it. If I’m doing something that is more entertainment or has a strict time table (like this digital story), then I rehearse like crazy. But I ALWAYS record the rehearsals. That’s the great benefit of digital recording. I just let the “tape” roll and keep trying things until I think I’ve got what I want. Then I go back and see what works and what doesn’t and then record a clean final version. Sometimes I can find enough good takes from the rehearsal that I just cut and paste those parts into the final version without doing an “official” take. My digital story was made up of around 25-30 separate voice overs. My first version was 6 minutes long so I just started shaving a sentence here and there until I got it down to under 5 minutes (the Director’s cut will be on the DVD…lol)
4. Timing – One of the benefits of listening to music and comedians is that I’ve developed a good sense of timing. Knowing how to pace yourself to find just the right tempo for your audience and material is very crucial, but only comes with practice.
5. Being Listenable – One of the biggest things I talk to new trainers about is being a “listenable” speaker. The question they should always as is “Would I want to listen to myself talk for 2-3 hours?” If the answer is “no”, then you need to be trying something different with your voice.
6. Microphones – I think some people equate microphones with public speaking so they tend to get nervous about speaking into one. As I mentioned elsewhere, microphones and I are well acquainted because of my job. Again, the more your do it the more you learn how to.
7. Tell your story – Another thing I say a lot is “just tell your story”. I take this approach for everything. If I have something new to pitch at work for example or a new management concept to teach a group, I just think about what I can say so the person or persons I’m talking to can see the same vision in their heads as I have in my own. I’m constantly trying to persuade people to my side. Even something less exciting like a software screencast, I view it like I’m telling a story about how to use that software.
8. Don’t take yourself too seriously – I never act like what I’m doing is the most important thing in the world. I just have fun with it.