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Finding the Right Energy Level for Voice Over

13 March

Ever been handed a voice over script and been told, ‘we just want a really natural read…just be yourself’!

Well…don’t take it literally!

The producers may want the end result to sound as though you’re having a conversation with someone.

They may want the words to sound like your own – like you’re making them up as you go along.

But it’s still an ad!

Producers also want:

  • to make sure the product name is heard,
  • that the reason for the ad is clear,
  • that the key words and phrases are emphasised in the right way, and
  • that your delivery of the message reaches the half-listening audience and convinces them to do what the advertisers want…

And while you’re doing this…sound completely natural!

To make sure your voice over read connects with the listener, you need an ‘energy’ driving the message of what you’re saying. 

The best way to summon that energy is from within – working from your core.

Don’t forget – we’re dealing with the digital medium, which is a ‘cold’ medium.

When we’re speaking with someone face-to-face, there’s an energy, sometimes electric, that is passed between us. 

We’re also 100% us, complete with facial expressions and body language.

Now cut to the disembodied voice on the digital medium!

It’s just your voice, without the benefit of body language…

Your voice needs to travel through a microphone, into an editing system, where it’s tweaked and twiddled until it sounds right, and then it’s delivered to a source to be broadcast.

It’s anything but natural…it’s a technique and you need to fake it!

A tried and true technique I use to sound energised about what I’m saying is that it’s ‘the best news you’ve ever given anyone’.

Yup that one always works!

Give it a try next time you’re faced with a boring voice over script.

The energy or feeling that you fake, can take the form of  emotional states like ‘glee’, perverse pleasure’, ‘wryness’,  ‘arrogance’, ‘care’ or ‘concern’.

Variations in energy throughout the read are what gives a read its flavour, colour and personality.

You can never just rely on your voice to deliver a script with meaning and feeling – it’s important to sound as though you are really engaged with your subject. 

Relying on what comes out of your voice box may work if you’ve been gifted with one of those effortlessly deep, resonant voices and you know your stuff. 

But for most of us, the right kind of energy for voiceover (and it’ll be different for every script) takes some experimentation and heaps of experience.

So, when you’re in the studio and you’ve spent some time with the script, and once you have the meaning right, plant your feet and work energetically with your own nervous system.

Reading for Retail, Promos or Energised Scripts

I was reminded today just how much energy some jobs require, when I did a job for a retail client.

It was a price and product job, with a lot of emphasis on how great the deals were.

So, in order to meet the client brief of ‘hit ‘em hard with this information’, I need to:

  1. Go like the clappers (as in, the script is over-written so I need to talk fast)
  2. Hit the discount percentages and the key-words hard, and
  3. Convey in my utterly manic way, my excitement at the value therein!

Actually the style of price and product retail reads that I’m talking about is done quite a lot in Australia -but rarely anywhere else.

Here’s the technique I use to “Energise those Reads”

Because I need to ‘read fast, and hit ‘em hard’, I need to pull my volume back as far as I can, and lift my energy from my core. 

You could almost imagine this technique as a pressure, where I’m forcing volume down and energy up, at the same time.

I call this ‘contained’ energy – because it is just that…contained!

The thing about the retail or energized read is that it still needs to sound like you’re NOT shouting at people. 

That’s when the ‘contained energy’/’pressure’ technique really can come in handy.

And if it’s really working, it will feel like a mini work-out – I can work up a real sweat in any voice over studio!

In fact one of the studios I work at, voicing ads for one of my retail clients, has a special ‘Abbe towel’ in the cupboard, for when it’s extra warm…or there are multiples of scripts.

I use energy in every script I approach. 

I may not need the ‘Abbe towel’ in each session, but I always engage my whole physical self in the process – that’s one of the reasons why I don’t like to sit down and read.

Voice Over Coach Abbe Holmes






Of course that will change if it’s anything long-form and for comforts sake, I will sit.

But I always take a stretch and wake-up break every 30 minutes or so.

It often takes, and needs to take, a great deal of physical and personal energy’ to perform in voiceover.

Make sure you eat well, sleep well, drinking heaps of water and exercise. 

They’ll all help to keep you in good shape no matter what’s dished up in the studio.

Happy voiceovering!



Abbe Holmes About Abbe Holmes
Find Your Voice As a Voice Over Actor And Artist With The Voice Over Coach. For over 30 years I've had a successful voiceover career. I work in mainstream voice over for radio and television, narration for the corporate sector, website content and documentaries, as well as characters for animation, IVR, ADR, on-hold and foreign film dubbing.

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3 Responses to “Finding the Right Energy Level for Voice Over”

  1. Gary Terzza March 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

    Very true Abbe; there is a huge physical element to voice overs. In addition to energy, long form reading requires stamina too – an 80,000 word novel could easily take you a week (or more) to record, edit and review …. and that’s solid, daily work.

    Thanks for the great article. Now I need to go for a lie down!

    • abbe-holmes March 15, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      Thanks for the heads-up Gary…and yes, stamina is a great word to describe what we need to get through big stuff. It takes an enormous amount of energy just to remain consistent.

  2. David Robson March 16, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    Very helpful article. Thank you Abbe!

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