Being A Voiceover Artist – The Act

Posted in

You don’t have to be a trained actor…but you still need to perform!

Many voiceover artists are not trained actors and many have never performed at all.  There is absolutely no need to be professionally trained.  Voice over relies more on a set of natural abilities that are well informed, than intensive performance training.

However, being a voiceover artist does require you to act, you may need to act like the chocolate in the chocolate ad you’re reading is the ‘best thing you’ve ever tasted’.  You may need to act like the bargains at the sale you’re reading an ad for are ‘sensational’.  You may need to act warm or bitchy, be authoritative or manipulative, whatever it is the script is asking for…and in order to really ‘pull off’ the read, you need to understand what ‘attitude’ you need to have or what ‘stance’ you need to take in order to make the script work.

Let’s talk about ‘attitude’ first.  Attitude also means approach, and the way you approach a script depends entirely on the message the script is trying to deliver and who is delivering it.  As soon as you understand the message in the script, you can decide who the messenger is.

Now let’s talk about ‘stance’.  Stance also means things like manner, feelings, thoughts, opinion, mind-set and way of behaving.  Once you are clear about the message and who, you can make decisions about ‘stance’ which also encompasses how.   This is when emotions come into play.  Often in voice over the emotional choice can be rather theatrical.  After all, this is not real life, just a very short-form slice of life that just happens to be advertising.

All this may sound rather complicated but it’s just a matter of making these decisions.

What:                    What is the message?

Who:                     Who is delivering it (or who am I?)

How:                     How will I deliver the message?

Let me give you an example of how to use the process.  For instance say you are handed a script for a shopping centre for a Valentines Day ‘gift-with-purchase’ offer.   Your ‘attitude’ may be ‘that this is the best deal ever’.  This is a very common attitude in retail.

Now that you know what your attitude is, you need to make a decision about ‘who’ is delivering the message.  Making a decidion about ‘who’ you are is incredibly important.  It will give you focus.  Say for instance, you make a decision that you’re delivering the message to your best friend only.

Now that you’ve made that decision, the next one, ‘stance’ should come pretty easily.  If you’re delivering only to your best friend, your stance could be secretive, as if you don’t want anyone else to hear or it could be warm and casual, because you’ve made a decision that says, ‘that’s the way you are with each other’.

Of course, the listening radio audience knows nothing of your decisions.  All your audience hears is the message of the best Valentine’s deal ever, being delivered clearly, in an engaging way and meant directly for them.  This is the ‘act’ of voiceover; to engage the listener in such a way that they feel a connection to the messenger.

Listen out for commercials where you really feel that the voice artist is connecting just to you and others where you hear the person just reading the words.  The difference is astonishing.  One message will definitely get through.  The other most probably won’t.  Let me explain the difference in another way.

Voice number 1

This person has charm, charisma and a way with words and language.  In life, they’re the kind of people who almost always have a little band of people around them, hanging on every word they say.

Voice number 2

Nice voice but tends to go on and on, ad nauseum with an absence of colour or real meaning in their words.  They just get tuned out.  Don’t be voice number 2.

Often voiceover artists I work with – and even those of my students – who are comfortable and confident with themselves and are prepared to be playful in the studio and experiment with ‘attitude’ and ‘stance’, are those who have the most success.

And if you want more on techniques for voiceover, take a look at my downloadable audio technique programs or sign up for a One Day Studio Intensive.  So, go and learn how to be voice number 1 and really enjoy the ‘act’ of voiceover and creating great voice over reads every time.  To get really thorough coaching at home on the rules and techniques for voice over, download my audio programs.  And remember, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, the rules for voiceover are all the same.  The only thing that changes is the product and the accent.