Tips For Building a Voiceover Career 1
To build a successful voiceover career, you must know how to deliver authenticity!
I work with many people who have interesting, engaging voices in real life.
Often they’ve found me because someone has said to them, ‘Wow you have a great voice. You should be doing something with that!’
And I also work with those who have a love of, or passion for, character voices.
They’ve been entertaining everyone for years with their repertoire and rather than a particularly amazing voice, they have acting skills in abundance and almost always these people have great skills for jumping into someone else’s shoes, or mimicking others.
Both these groups may well be right for voiceover, but the litmus test for whether or not they could build a career is in knowing this…
The most important skill you need to be successful in voiceover is to sound authentic.
But to sound authentic, there’s one skill you need to be brilliant at, sight-reading!
A great sight-reader can read anything at first glance, and make it sound like they:
- Know what they’re talking about, or
- The words are their own words and they’ve just made them up, or,
- In the case of character work and animation, that they have brilliant character-based story telling skills.
If you’re already a great sight reader, it’s most probable that you:
- Have a good vocabulary and word knowledge,
- Read ahead probably about 5 or 6 words,
- Understand how to tell a story in visual terms, or
- Know how to deliver information, so that it makes perfect sense to the listener.
Sounding authentic is only possible to achieve once you understand how to convert someone else’s written language, into great ‘spoken word’ language.
This is called ‘transparency’. It’s achieved when we listen to someone delivering a message and we believe, that they believe what they’re talking about.
To be a great voice actor, you need to know that your job is to deliver the message, on behalf of the advertiser or client, and make that message really connect with who ever is meant to hear it, or if it’s animation, or story telling of any kind, you need to have the ability to take someone on a visual and/or emotional journey.
Listen to any of your favourite narrators or cartoon actors and you’ll hear just that.
So, I want to give you some techniques for lifting the words off the page and delivering them as though they were your own, thereby creating authenticity.
First, you need to really understand who you’re talking to.
Often it’s obvious in the script who your target audience is, but I believe you get a better result if you choose one person only and imagine that you’re delivering the message to them.
There are two reasons for this.
One, when we talk to just one person, our volume is quite low. It’s much easier for the disembodied voice to sound ‘connected’ if the volume is not too loud.
Remember, the digital medium doesn’t like loud voices. Less is definitely more in terms of voiceover volume!
Two, you need to be able to convince your audience that what you’re saying is of value to them. Talking as though you’re just speaking to an ear will allow you to ‘act’ much easier and it will sound more authentic.
Second, you need to understand the central reason or purpose of the message or story.
You must understand what it is that the advertiser and client are actually saying?
Look for the clues in the script. Deep-dive the language to see if you can find the line or phrase that sums up what they are talking about, or what problem they’re solving.
And look for the language that states what is it that they want to get the listening audience to do.
In the case of a voiceover actor who’s working with dialogue or an animation script, you need to make choices about the character’s environment and what the character wants to achieve.
This will inform the techniques needed to create authenticity, such as pausing for effect, changing pace, emphasising a certain phrase, or just one word.
If you listen closely to the way we all speak when we’re in conversation with friends or family, we use all these techniques to communicate.
You need to be able to transpose those techniques to your voiceover scripts, in the search for an authentic read.
Third, you need to know that you’re not just reading words on a page.
You’re actually working through the words to create a strong visual for the audience.
This gets right back to the skill of sight-reading and the skill of creating transparency in your reads.
You need to be so proficient, so comfortable with every aspect of spoken word, that when you read…anything…you sound completely connected.
The skill to becoming a great sight-reader or improving your ability is this…
When you’re reading, you’re not just looking at the words and sounding them out. You’re actually imagining that you’re speaking directly to someone or a group, and you use the words on the page merely to prompt you.
Once you have the skill of doing this, your words will always sound as though they are your own.
And you’ll become known as a voiceover actor who sounds authentic.