Skills for Successful Voiceovers

Things You Need To Know Before You Kick Off!

The landscape of voiceovers reaches far and wide, and I don’t just mean globally, although that’s happening more and more.  I mean that within its landscape the variety of work is ever expanding.

The thing is, to work in voiceovers, and make a decent living or a reasonable supplement to your existing income you need to be skilled up. 

You may not need a University Degree to do this work, but you sure as hell need to know what you’re doing.

Having the desire, a good voice, a laptop and a microphone just isn’t going to be enough.

But what is enough?

Well, to begin with:

  • You need to know the industry
  • You need to know where the players are in your area, or online.
  • You need to know what you’re good at as opposed to what you’d like to be doing, and
  • You need to be across all the different kinds of voice work and the wide variety of scripts that you’ll come across.

Let’s talk about scripts.

They may all just  look like a bunch of words on the page and you may think that all you need to do is read them well but that’s not enough either.

You need to build your knowledge of scripts.

You need to think about every script you’re handed as a creative challenge.

You need to be able to deliver something that will take the message to the audience in a really engaging, memorable way.

That’s how you’ll get the next job and the next and the next.

So, to do that, as I said, you need to know what you’re doing.  You definitely need to know that one of the most important things to know is who you’re talking to and what you need to convince them to do on behalf of your client (the advertiser).

Finding a good coach, who is either currently working in the industry or producing voices, is a smart move.   Find someone who’ll be straight with you about your abilities and your chances.

But even before you make an investment in your potential voiceover career, make a study of what’s out there.

  1. Listen consciously to ad breaks.  Don’t skip the online commercials.  They’re probably only going to be 15 seconds long. 
  2. Study the voice.  What are they doing that works?  Or not? 
  3. Next time you see a simple animation or a scribe video on a website, listen to the voice.  Do you get the message.  Do you understand what they’re saying?

If you’re not doing this kind of study, you need to.

I call it the free training.  You need to research and research and listen and listen.

Anyway, that’s it for the homework!

Now I want to share some of the skills you’ll need to be across, to have success.

First, let’s look at script styles in the area the area where there’s still the most work.

Commercials: That is, TV (including online commercials) and radio

Announcer style   The voice artist is speaking on behalf of the company.  The message is often written in a very stylised way.

The skill:  You need to sound like an expert, so you need to be confident with the material you’re reading.

These scripts will often begin with the name of the company, such as ‘At The Marriott, we don’t just make sure…’(etc, etc) and will almost always include the possessive ‘we’ or ‘our’.

You need to look at the language in the script and find all the words that are ‘about’ the produce or the message.  They’re your key words, and however you finally choose to deliver the script, those words must stand out.

All you do to give them emphasis is to slow down a little when you read those phrases, just as we do in real life when we’re relating a story to someone and we get to the important bit.  Yes, we slow down.

Conversational style:   You are someone who’s discovered some information and are now sharing it with a friend.

The skill:  You need to sound completely authentic.  These scripts are written to sound more like a conversation (even thought you’re not really having one).  Voice actors who do this really well use their ‘language’ skills, rather than their ‘reading’ skills to get into the head of the half-listening audience.

Imagine that you’re actually having a conversation and that the other person is responding to something you say.  Here’s an example of what I mean.  The script reads, “Did you know that 80% of men prefer manual cars?  That’s right….” 

Okay, so I just made that up.  But the thing is, even though it’s an ad, it sounds more like something we would say in conversation.  If we were really in conversation, the other person might even interject after the word ‘cars’ with a response, “Really”.

So, if you were reading this commercial and you imagined someone responding with a ‘really’, then your phrase, ‘that’s right’ would probably sound more natural, more conversational.

And that’s what you need to achieve in these reads.  So practice putting another person in your script with you and make these words sound as though they are your own.

It’s also this script style that you’ll often be asked to find a character voice or character performance.  In this case it’s rarely about ‘cartoon’ voices. (that’s for animation, which I’ll touch on in another blog).  It’s more likely to be about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and telling the story.

Don’t forget, it’s not ‘about’ your voice.  It’s about sounding authentic.

Promo, Cinema, Trailers and Narration

Of course all networks, radio and television have both male and female voice actors doing their promos.

With the increase in reality television shows globally, (what on earth will they think of next, right?) there’s work for voice actors to present/narrate the shows.

If you listen to any reality TV show, you’ll hear that the disembodied voice has become a major component.

If you’re a person who’s been told, “you have a great voice for radio”, you’re more likely to be a male, with a big voice.  ‘Voice of God’ it’s sometimes referred to.

That’s all good, but sometimes a voice that’s right for radio announcing might not be right for most voiceover. However, it might be right for this area. It just loves the big voiced male.

This is definitely a very stylized area of voiceover.  It’s about creating something unique and standing out.

If this is you, search for and listen to what those voices are doing.

The Skill: If you can match what you hear in strength, dynamism and over-all presence, then I would say, make a demo that reflects your skills and get it to the *right people.

*That differs wherever you are in the world, but target radio and TV networks or find out which studios in your area record this kind of material.

Get the skills for the styles that are produced most and it stands to reason…you’ll book more work.

Happy Voiceovering!