Finding Your 'Voice Over Persona'

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To help you understand just what I mean by ‘Voiceover Persona’, I need to explain this.  Successful voiceover artists all have the ability to read an ad or tell a story in an entertaining and engaging way, by using their disembodied voice.

Voiceover is all about the disembodied voice creating a strong visual.  Voiceover is never just about reading words with a pleasant tone.   It’s about interpreting the words on the page and creating meaning by understanding the story that’s being told.  And as you probably already know, I say that all ad’s tell a story, whether it’s an ad for the newest burger at KFC or a socks sale at Kmart.

I often meet someone who tells me that friends have told them for years that they have a great voice and could work in voiceover.  While I’m talking to this person I often get a sense of what their friends are seeing that makes them think this.  Very often this individual has a great personality and a lot of charisma.  Often they use their face in an expressive way.  They may have a great command of language and are natural story tellers.  Often they’re funny, certainly warm, and people like to be around them and listen to them.

But the thing is, those people who make comment are not just listening to them.  They’re looking at them as well, taking in the whole person, including body language, speech rhythms and spontaneity.  The whole picture is exciting and interesting.  But this alone does not make a voiceover artist.  It’s the ability to create a strong persona as a voice over artist, which can be unlike the person you are in real life, that can be the difference between the occasional job and a burgeoning career.

So what is a voiceover persona and how do you create one?

I met a young voice artist last year who called me up and spoke with a fairly flat, dare I say, quite uninteresting voice.  However, he said he was working as a voiceover artist and wanted to do some more technique coaching.  I must say I was a little skeptical.  Mostly voiceover artists do have a particular kind of personal energy.  But he said he had a demo and I asked him to send it to me.

Well, surprise, surprise, the demo was fantastic.  The examples showed someone who really understood that voiceover is not just about reading words using your own voice, no matter how pleasant.  What he had managed to do really well was create his voiceover persona, as a voice artist who was able to jump into the shoes of many different people and therefore create reads that suited the concept of the script and the market he was endeavoring to reach, so he, in fact, had a whole repertoire of persona’s that he used for different reasons.

I visualize very strongly when I work.  I often need to jump into someone else’s shoes.  Frequently I’m playing someone who’s either younger than I am, more energetic, more reserved or authoritative than me, so I truly visualize someone who is like that and visualize what I am saying, as coming out of their mouth.

I visualize ‘where I am’ just as strongly, and always make a decision about ‘who I’m talking to’.  So, over the years, I’ve added different styles to my repertoire, and by doing so have created many different voiceover persona’s.  For me, it’s been the secret to longevity.

For you, it begins with the acceptance that you don’t have to have a dozen personas to be a voiceover artist.  Your voiceover persona can be many different persons and personality’s or just one.  You just need to be really good at the one’s,  or one,  you can create.  You need to accept that not all voiceover styles will be easy for you.  Some scripts you will feel completely comfortable with.  They’re the script styles you need to work with and polish.  Some scripts will prove difficult.  Only work with what feels right now!  As you become more experienced, add new styles, persona’s, to your repertoire.

Next, you need to really practice jumping out of your skin, into someone else’s.  Don’t forget, you’re using your disembodied voice, which means that the you your family knows and loves, doesn’t really exist in voiceover.

I’ll say again, voiceover is never just about reading words.  It’s about creating the right meaning, by understanding what the script is trying to say and ‘who’ is delivering the story.  Make time over the holidays to listen out for voice artists who literally leap out of the radio, because you can ‘see’ them and what they’re doing.  They are voiceover artists who are successfully working with ‘voiceover persona’.  It’s certainly the way to a successful career.