The Skill of Creating The Meaning in the Message
Many voiceover artists are not professionally trained actors and many have never performed at all. Voice over acting relies more on a set of natural abilities that are well informed, than intensive performance training.
However, being a voiceover artist does require you to act, you may need to act like the ice cream in the ice cream ad you’re reading is the ‘best thing you’ve ever tasted’. You may need to act like the bargains at the sale you’re reading an ad for are ‘sensational’. You may need to act warm or bitchy, be authoritative or manipulative, whatever it is the script is asking for…and in order to really ‘pull off’ the read, you need to understand what ‘attitude’ you need to have or what ‘stance’ you need to take in order to make the script work.
Let’s talk about ‘attitude’ first. Attitude also means approach; and the way you approach a script depends entirely on the message the script is trying to deliver and who is delivering it. As soon as you understand the message in the script, you can decide who the messenger is.
Now let’s talk about ‘stance’. Stance also means things like manner, feelings, thoughts, opinion, mind-set and way of behaving. Once you are clear about the message and who, you can make decisions about ‘stance’ which also encompasses how. This is when emotions come into play. Often in voice over the emotional choice can be rather theatrical, especially in character or character driven reads. After all, this is not real life, just a very short-form ‘slice of life’ that just happens to be advertising.
All this may seem rather complicated but it’s just a matter of making these decisions.
What: What is the message?
Who: Who is delivering it (or who am I?) and to whom?
How: How will I deliver the message? (what attitude or stance)
Let me give you an example of how to use the process. For instance, say you are handed a script for a shopping centre for a Father’s Day ‘gift-with-purchase’ offer. You may make a decision that your ‘attitude’ is going to be ‘that this is the best deal ever’. Of course this is a very common attitude in retail. I use it all the time.
Now that you know what your attitude is, you need to make a decision about ‘who’ is delivering the message. Say for instance, you make a decision that you are a best friend, delivering the message to your own best friend. Visualising strongly who you are and who you’re talking to can really mean the difference between your read being beleiveable or not.
Now that you’ve made that decision, the next one, ‘stance’ should come pretty easily. If you’re delivering only to your best friend, your stance could be secretive, as if you don’t want anyone else to hear or it, could be warm and casual, because that’s the way you are with each other.
Of course, the listening radio audience knows nothing of your decisions. All your listening audience hears is the message of the best Father’s Day deal ever, being delivered clearly, in an engaging way and meant directly for them.
This is the ‘act’ of voiceover; to engage the listener in such a way that they feel a connection to the messenger and the message.
Listen out for commercials where you really feel that the voice artist is connecting just to you and others where the person is just reading the words. The difference is astonishing. One message will definitely get through. The other may not. Let me explain the difference in another way.
Voice number 1
They have charm, charisma and a way with words and language. In life, they’re the kind of people who almost always have a little band of people around them, hanging on every word they say.
Listen for way they accentuate certain words. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of recording commercial breaks, so that you can analyse scripts and work out what the voiceover artist is doing.
It’s true that commercials are often wall-to-wall words, but listen out for pauses…pausing for effect can be one of the most powerful ways to draw attention to a word or phrase.
Voice number 2
Nice voice but tends to go on and on, ad nauseam with an absence of colour or real meaning in their words. They just sound like they’re ‘reading’ the words. They just get tuned out.
Don’t be voice number 2.
Often voiceover artists I work with – and even those of my students – who are comfortable and confident with themselves and are prepared to be playful in the studio and experiment with ‘attitude’ and ‘stance’, are those who have the most success.
And if you want more on techniques for voiceover, take a look at my downloadable audio technique programs or sign up for a One Day Studio Intensive.
Don’t forget, listening study is free voiceover technique study, so make sure you tune the ‘voiceover artist’ in you to the commercial breaks whenever you listen to radio of TV. Listen to demos of other voiceover artists and try and work out what you could be doing or where you fit in…and really enjoy the ‘act’ of voiceover and creating great voice over reads every time.