VoiceOver Lessons and Techniques The Power of the Pause

An essential part of building a profile in voiceover or setting yourself up to get regular work is understanding what voiceover acting actually means.

If you’re unsure about what it takes, voiceover lessons will help. That’s why I create these blogs full of useful information and techniques.  So let’s talk about voiceover first.

You may have already heard that voiceover is not an area of work that’s easy to get into.

To do that you need to know:

  • what the skills are…and have at least some of them
  • what the techniques are…and know how to use them
  • what your unique voice is…and how to create samples of work that says you know what you’re good at, and
  • how to market yourself and build relationships that guarantee you create a niche for yourself and get job after job

Yep, it takes commitment and passion.  It takes stick-with-it-ness.  And it takes enormous faith and confidence in your abilities

Doing research is really important. Try Google and YouTube for videos that show voice artists working, blogs and podcasts by other coaches and producers of voiceover or audiobook narration.  Another thing to do is visit voiceover agent websites and listen to voice demos of those who you think may be like you.  What work are they doing?


Now Where To

When you’re sure voiceover is something you want to work in, you’ll need to refine or perfect what you have.  For this, find a reputable voiceover coach or a producer, currently working in the industry and get skilled up.

The blogs I create are little voiceover lessons in themselves.  They’re designed to give you information that may help increase your knowledge of the industry.

Mostly though, they’re technique blogs which give you a deeper understanding of how to approach any script you’re handed.


So, ready for the lesson?

It’s all about ‘the pause’.  Often, one of the first things I hear when someone I’m coaching is handed a script, is that they read really fast, sometimes barely pausing between sentences.

This is a big no, no!  It’s equivalent to listening to someone with a motor-mouth.  In a short time, your brain wants to explode.

No matter what kind of script or text you’re reading, you need to allow the listener access to what you’re saying, what the message is, or what story you’re telling.

The only way you can achieve this is to consider your audience or your listener and ‘pause’ so you allow them to hear and understand what you’re saying.

Each different area of voiceover, Commercial, Non-Commercial, Animation or Character work and Audiobook Narration all have slightly different reasons, or considerations, for pausing.

You might want to ask your script or text this question.

Where Does a Pause Go and Why Does it Go There?

So, to find that out we need to look at those 4 areas of work,


Firstly, there’s Commercial Voiceover.

If you listen to a lot of commercial radio advertising, you’ll notice it’s generally wall-to-wall words.  Mostly, all breaths are removed in the editing process, and writers, on behalf of their clients, often cram in as much information about the product as they are able.

But there’s still the case for a pause or pauses, in order to draw attention to something. In Commercial Voiceover, you’re always dealing with key words and phrases, and they’re always the language that tells us, ‘what the ad is about’.

Often, pausing just after or before a key word or phrase, which will often be the product name, will help to highlight it.  At least, it gives the listener a small break to ‘hear’ the word or phrase.   

For instance, a line such as, “If you could take the smoothness of white velvet and freeze it …”

Where could you apply a pause?

If you said, after white velvet, you would be right.  There are two reasons.  One, ‘white velvet’ is visual language. The listener wants to see it.  So, give it a beat (a short pause to a count of one) before you move on.

The other reason is that there are two different thoughts or ideas going on in this sentence (or part of a sentence).  The part that says “and freeze it” is a different idea thought or visual.

Try reading it both ways and see if you can get a feel for how much more powerful that language is when you pause.


Next there’s Non-Commercial Voiceover

Non-commercial describes voiceover work that’s not part of ‘paid media’, which is spots on radio, TV or online.

In the non-commercial world, Companies create information videos for their staff, clients, potential clients, shareholders and stakeholders.  That’s quite a diverse audience, so many large companies make a lot of material to deliver to these groups.

And, as I said before they are almost always full of information. And that’s the reason you need to pause, to allow the information to be heard and understood by your audience.

 So, here’s the technique.  Look at the language in the script and separate out each ‘different’ piece of information, pausing after you’ve delivered it, for just long enough for the listener to ‘get it’.  I use a one beat/two beat count. Or, you could say, one or two seconds.

A one-beat pause is used following each single piece of information on a similar topic or subject, and which leads to the next piece of information.

I use a two-beat pause when I am shifting to a new paragraph or moving on to deliver very different information.

To work out how to deliver this information, you need to be able to put yourself in the listener’s shoes. Who are they?  What do they need?  What is the problem they have that you’re solving?

Often, non-commercial scripts can be a little ‘dry’, so try to read as though you are an expert on the subject, that you created the information and that you love it.


Then there’s Animation and Character Voicing

Whether you’re creating a character for animation or finding a voice for a character in a radio or screen ad, pausing is the technique that will create characters’ who are believable and entertaining.  This is always called voice acting, because you are acting.

In animation and character voicing, use the pause to create the illusion that you’re having a new thought.  

Pausing also gives you a moment to reveal your ‘voice acting’ abilities. You need to sound as though you are moving from one thought to the next, as though you are making it up as you go along.

If you listen to comic performers and great storytellers, you’ll hear pauses which can hold the listener in suspense, or create a moment of surprise, comedy or irony.

Pausing is a performance technique.  Powerful!


And Lastly Audiobook Narration

Oh boy!  If there’s any spoken-word medium where pausing is both King and Queen, it’s audiobook.

This is why prepping your audiobook is so important.  After you’ve thoroughly read your book and done a deep-dive into the story and its characters, as well as its structure, style and the author’s intentions, you’ll need to understand where and why to add pauses.

Audiobook is a deeply intimate engagement.  Your job is to gently lead the listener through the journey that is the story.

And to do that successfully, you must not only be able to inhabit the book and all its characters, but you must be able to put yourself in the shoes of the audience.  And it’s almost always an audience of one.

It helps to question how your audience might feel, how they might respond to any of the character’s or how the emotional content could impact them.

Knowing as much as you can about both the story you’re telling and the character’s you’re revealing, will help you know when to pause, and for what reason.

Here are three reasons you may need to pause in audiobook narration.

  • When the language is visual.

That is, when you’re describing a person, a room or any environment or object, pause after every different visual description.  Pausing allows the listener to create the visual for themselves.

  • When you need the listener to believe you’ve just had a new thought.

In life, when we have a new thought, we think it first…then it comes out of our mouth.  That moment (or beat) between the thinking and the speaking will translate to a powerful pause.

  • When you move from talking about something in particular, to talking about something different.

You need to ‘inhabit’ your book.  You need to ‘feel’ things.  So, again, just like in life, when we’re narrating audiobooks, we may move from something that affects emotionally to something that makes us smile, to the next, which may be something we’re cynical about.

You’ll need to pause between all of these changes, so we can hear you ‘inhabiting’ the story and therefore believe it is YOUR story, not that you are just reading the words.


Well, that is quite a long blog.  Thanks for hanging in with me and I hope it helps shed light on the power of the pause.

Happy pausing! 