Mastering VoiceOver Techniques – Part 2
Key Words and Phrases
This is the second of a three-part series, full of techniques for converting ‘written language’ into perfect ‘spoken word’ language, especially, but not exclusively, for the commercial area of voiceover.
At the heart of voiceover success is your ability to understand your scripts and deliver ‘the meaning in the message’. And that meaning it’s always going to be found in the language.
But what language, which words?
Scripts are full of words. So, how do you discern what word, or which phrase, gets the attention?
This lesson, Part 2, is about key words and phrases; how you find them…and then how you begin to understand the ‘purpose of that language the script’ and further…how you need to deliver those key words and phrases, to ‘get the meaning’ right.
And once again, because this a spoken word story, I’m going to deliver it to you via an audio file, so you can ‘hear’ what I mean.
Prepare for the Lesson
As I mentioned in Part 1, it’s going to help if you cut and past the script text below to a document so you’re able to mark it up.
Better still, print it out and have a pencil (rather than a pen) and an eraser with you, to mark those key words and phrases. This process will help you navigate the script when you read it.
Click on the audio file now
Here we go.
Also, as I did in Part 1, I’m reading from the blog script and endeavouring to make it sound as though I’m just making it up as I go along.
This is a ‘big ticket item’ in the voiceover world.
Your job as a voiceover artist is to own the language, own the concept…and convince the listener by being brilliant at delivering the correct meaning of your message.
Problems will arise for those who are untrained and who have little to no experience, or understanding of the craft of voiceover.
And voiceover is a craft.
It’s not about just reading the words as they appear on the page.
It’s about engaging your listener and sounding convincing by getting underneath the ‘face meaning’ of the language as if you’re the expert.
And you become the ‘expert’ by delivering key words and phrases like a master. So, first you need the knowledge of how to find key words and phrases.
That’s what this lesson is all about.
I’m going to do a first read of the script shortly. It’ll sound unpolished, just as a first read should. At this early stage, it’s not about ‘perfect performance’.
It’s about getting to know what’s going on.
It’s about finding any problems and then creating solutions, so I’ll be ignoring all the key words and phrases for the moment.
***But as I read through without any colour, or particular emphasis, see if you can recognise where those key words and phrases are.
This is what I call an ‘announcer style’ script. That is, the language is very stylised and not written in a very conversation way. As in, we don’t usually speak like that…to anyone 😏
Also, you’re representing the company.
You need to approach this script and the language in it, by first finding all the words that are about what this is about, then by separating the different thoughts and ideas. This is when a pencil comes in really handy.
So, here comes the script.
“Put your health first…with a premium health check in the hands of experts.
Epworth Health Check is a comprehensive medical examination that gives you a complete overview of your health and offers peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
The process is designed to give you the best chance for important prevention and early detection of illness and disease.
Take the first step to better health.”
Now you know what the ad is about.
So, let’s look at the script again and work through how to make it sound more like an expert speaking, rather than a voice delivering a rather unnatural and very stylised script 😏
Also, you may have noticed that there’s very little in the way of punctuation. I quite like this though and I’ll tell you why when we’ll be dealing with punctuation in Part 3 of this blog series.
When no or minimal punctuation is used, it means we need to look deeper at the language and learn how to not be guided by the punctuation, or at least ‘question’ whether it serves the ‘spoken word’ read.
But as you heard when I read it, I did need to pause. So, when we mark up a script like this one, we need to add the punctuation.
Oh, and that’s the magic of a pencil and eraser. If it’s not right, you can change it.
Alright, so let’s find and discuss the key words and phrases.
Remember, only the words that are about what it’s about, get the emphasis.
We’ll go line by line, to get clear about what and where those key words are.
“Put your health first…with a ‘premium health check’/ in the hands of experts.”
So, if you guessed that this ad is about ‘premium health check’ you’d be right. That is the key phrase in that first line. You may have said health first too, but even though it’s important information, ‘health first’ is not ‘what the message is about’. ‘Premium health check’ is.
Notice there are ellipses (…) after health first. In this case the ellipses punctuation mark indicates a slight pause. But as I said, I’ll be dealing with punctuation in the part 3 of this series, so I won’t go into that now.
Also notice, I’ve put a forward slash after the key phrase. That also means ‘pause’. Why? Because it’s stronger if you pause for a short moment to let the audience hear what you just said. But sometimes there are other ways to make the meaning clear. You might try not pausing and see which sounds better.
In this case, I would read with the pause. With a premium health check/ in the hands of experts. Can you see that both those phrases, premium health check and, in the hands of experts, have a different job to do in the overall messaging?
Let’s look at line 2
“Epworth Health Check/ is a ‘comprehensive medical examination’…that gives you a complete overview of your health/ and offers peace of mind for you and your loved ones.”
We begin the sentence with the new information of who is offering the service; Epworth. So, that becomes an important key word.
‘Health check’ we’ve already said once, so now it’s not as important.
Then we move to what they’re offering, a ‘comprehensive medication examination’, a very key phrase.
Then by underlining complete overview and peace of mind, you’re reminding yourself to tells us what we’ll get. So, these phrases, while not key phrases, are important in the ‘sell’ of the message.
When you say those phrases, just give them a bit of ‘love’. The most successful way to do that in voiceover is to smile😄
And on to the next line.
“The process is designed to give you the best chance for important prevention/ and early detection of illness and disease.”
As you can see, I’ve highlighted prevention/ and early detection of illness and disease, and placed a forward slash after prevention, because prevention is different from early detection, so a good choice is to pause between those two different thoughts.
And here we go with the last line.
“Take the first step to better health.”
Take the ‘first step’ is what you want your audience to do. ‘Better health’ is what they’ll get’.
And don’t forget to smile.
I hope this lesson on key words and phrases gives you some guidance on how to look deeper at the language in the script and work out how to deliver this kind of stylised language, so that the message reaches its intended audience.
Part 3, coming soon focuses on punctuation, and how voice actors use it, or not, to create the best spoken word performance.