Script Techniques for Voice Actors

Voice Actors tips – how to create memorable reads!

The secret to creating reads that connect with the listener is to make the language sound like your own. I often hear reads by voice actors who have a great voice, but are missing the meaning in the script by not understanding deeply enough what the script is actually saying.

Whether you’re a:

  • professional voice actor working regularly,
  • just beginning to get work and build a career, or
  • a complete beginner

…you need to know how to convert someone else’s words and make them sound like they’re coming from your own knowledge, expertise or experience.

There are several different ways that language is structured to create an ad. 

I’d like to talk about the two most popular styles used in advertising, naturalistic and announcer style and give you some tips on how to make the meaning stronger in every script you read.

First style – Naturalistic

Also called conversational style, the language in the script will be written to sound like a real conversation. 

That is, you, the voice actor will deliver the message as though you’re talking directly to a friend about something you’ve discovered.

In the script, the friend doesn’t have any dialogue, but in order to make the read sound real and connected, you need to imagine they are really there and responding to what you’re saying!

In this case, the listening audience is “eavesdropping on the conversation”. 

Generally these scripts are written for a specific target market, such as a parent who buys kids clothes or a teen who shops at sports stores.

Often the script will be written using a very common advertising structure.

That structure is called the problem/solution structure.

This is where the script begins with a problem and then at some point in the ad, we hear the solution. 

And it’s at that point where the name of the product is nearly always introduced.

However, the most important part of this conversation style read, is that there’s an ad lurking there.

It’ll be about something that the advertiser wants you to do – otherwise what’s the point of creating an ad at all?

Here’s the technique:

You need to work out:

  • what the product is,
  • what the script is actually saying, and
  • what the ‘story’ of the script is – that is, all those words (and only those words) that are about the product and the reason for the ad .

It’s so much easier to deliver the read with a real connection to its meaning!

Don’t fall into the trap of giving any emphasis to words that aren’t about the product or reason for the ad.

Here’s an example from a script for a product called A2 Milk, which contains a protein said to help children with a sensitivity to dairy.

Female V/O:

At first we couldn’t understand why our daughter was getting tummy pains all the time. 

This first line points to the problem. But there are only three words in there that are about the problem.

Do you see them the moment you read the sentence?

They are the words ‘daughter’ and ‘tummy pains’.

The next line continues the story,

Then we realised it happened whenever she had milk.

The ad is for A2Milk, so the word milk is a key word that needs to be emphasised – but the part of the sentence that is the key phrase is ‘whenever she had milk’

If you just say those key words and phrases in those two lines now, you are, albeit in short form, telling the story of the ad.

I always do this with those I coach – I ask them to try reading the sentence putting the emphasis on things that are not about the product and see if it works.

I often hear people reading this script and putting emphasis on the words ‘we’ or ‘understand’ or ‘why’. 

Can you see that those words are neither interesting or about the story?

Understanding how to tell only the story of the script is crucial to getting the meaning right!

Second style – Announcer

This style has the voice actor as the representative of the company.

The ad is full of information and the language is written in a very stylised way and in quite a different structure that we would use if we were speaking one-on-one with a friend.

For instance, the ad will often begin with the company name, say ‘at Microsoft’, closely following by a personal pronoun, such as ‘our’, or ‘we’ and then follow with the message.

In Announcer style reads:

  • the language bears little resemblance to the way we speak naturally, and
  • the target audience will usually be broader than that of the naturalistic or conversational read.

The ad’s purpose is to give information to a broad market, such as individuals who need car insurance or people who are searching for a roofing or banking solution.

As a voice artist your job in an announcer style script is to do one thing very well. 

You need to create a persona that we trust. 

This is very important to advertisers – often you’ll hear that in a brief, “get me a voice I can trust!”

Because the language is so stylised, here’s some information that might help you work out how to approach these scripts.

One of the key ‘fails’ in emphasis, is when you use a downward inflection on a crucial, or key word.

Here’s an example from a script I use to coach with, that’s for an Insurance Company.

(This excerpt is actually from the point at which the ad shifts from problem to solution).

‘That’s why we’re launching Complete Replacement Cover. So, if a customer’s home is destroyed, we guarantee to re-build it to the same size and standard as it was, no matter what the cost.’

Apart from the fact that you would place the emphasis on the product name, ‘Complete Replacement Cover’ (by doing nothing more than slowing down through the phrase), you now need to look at what the other key words or phrases are in this paragraph.

The word guarantee is an extremely important word in an ad.

Guarantee is the word in a script where we need to hear ‘trust’ in your voice.  

Your reading of it needs to say:

  • ‘you can absolutely believe us’, and
  • ‘we definitely, positively, absolutely guarantee ‘complete replacement cover’.

However, there’s a trap here and that’s the phrase that falls at the end of the line, ‘no matter what the cost’.

I hear many people reading this script and often what happens is that they use a downward inflection before the full stop.

Here’s a big tip…

Using downward inflections on important words or phrases, always sounds like you

  • don’t care,
  • don’t mean it, or
  • you’re lying!

You need to use a neutral or slightly upward inflection on these important phrases, to make us believe, that you believe what you’re saying. 

Practice inflections that make you “sound like you mean it” with with my example.

Well, that’s all folks!

I hope these techniques help you get a big tick next time you’re in the studio.