Self-Directing and Voice Scripts

Wondering how to self-direct with your voice scripts?

Use these five clues to approach the different voice scripts that you’re handed, so you land the booking!

If you’re working as a voice actor today, you need to understand how to navigate your way through each of the different voice scripts that you’re handed.

You need to know:

  • what it’s for,
  • what it’s about,
  • where the key words and phrases are,
  • what the central premise or concept is,
  • who it’s for, and
  • what voice style to use.

Figuring this out is key to your read being connected and engaged (on behalf of your advertiser).

But how do you know where to start when you’re working with a voice script?

It doesn’t matter if:

  • you’re doing the work alone,
  • working in a home studio from a brief, or
  • you’re in the sound studio working in collaboration with a producer and/or sound designer or engineer – my favourite!

You get a lot of kudos when you demonstrate that you understand that the script you’re looking at isn’t just a bunch of words. 

Usually (well, hopefully!) it’s a cleverly crafted piece of advertising – designed to convince a ‘half-listening’ audience to do what the advertiser wants them to do.

And you’re the messenger!

Usually there’s been a decision-making process between the ad agency and client (advertiser) about the type of ad and who it’s for. This can involve statistical research about who buys the product, or who the advertisers wants to target as their potential, or existing audience.

You don’t have to actually know what that process was, because most of the clues will actually be in the script.

You just need to know how to find them, and then work out what to do with that information.

The voice over component of production is (in almost all cases) the icing on the cake! If it’s a television or video voice over, you’ll often see the pictures and hear the sound bed, which will inform some of your choices.

If it’s radio, then it’s all down to you to:

  • create great visuals,
  • capture the intended market by understanding what they want, and
  • then delivering the message with dynamism on behalf of the advertiser.

This is what will get you the next job, then the next and next!

I know that many voice actors auditioning from home studios struggle with how to understand and make sense of their voice script.

Some of the mistakes I hear being made on auditions are:

  • making it ‘about’ your voice
  • not understanding the purpose of the ad
  • not knowing who you’re talking to – and what you want them to do
  • not understanding how to find the ‘key words’ in the message and zero in on them (so that the listener gets their meaning), and
  • placing emphasis on words that are not ‘about’ the product or concept

1 Your Voice

If you think that voice over is all about your voice, you’re going to find it tough going.

Sure, if you have a magical voice of honey or a ‘big voice’, people may sit up and take notice, even complement you favourably on your gorgeous pipes!

At the end of the day though, there’ll be something of yours on a sample track or voice demo, they’ll identify as your signature sound.

If you want to work in voice over you need to understand what that voice style is – when it’s not accompanied by your body language or facial expressions.


2 The Purpose of The Ad

When you can look at a script and deep-dive the copy to discover the word, words or phrases that describe the purpose of the ad, then you’re well on your way to making sense of the message.

It’s not always easy to find this. You need to remind yourself yourself that you’re looking for the words that describe the concept or idea behind the ad.

Sometimes it can be the very reason the company or products exists.


3 Who You’re Talking To

Knowing the ad’s purpose will help you work out who you’re talking to.

You’ll also be able to see in the language what it is the advertiser wants you to convince the listening audience to do.


4 Find The Key Words

Now that you know all the above, it’ll be easier to find the key words – but this can be tricky!

You need to choose words that are about the purpose of the ad only. In any script, key words are just that. So pare down  – you’re just looking at words that actually are ‘key’ to the message. 

You may see a lot of words in your script that you want to make important!  That’s a sure-fired way to sound like you’re on the racing roller-coaster.  More info on this coming up next!


5 Placing Emphasis on Words

Be careful with this one!

Placing emphasis on words that are not about the ad or the product, will detract from its meaning and, often, make it sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

If you’re auditioning, they’ll pick this up in the first line and pass you over for the next guy – make sure you know absolutely where you’re headed with meaning.

Keep it simple guys…voice over is about zeroing in on what it’s about and only what it’s about – it means zeroing in on key words and phrases.

Have fun discovering what applying this process might mean for your reads.

Happy Voiceovering!