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How To Perfect Your Business Voice Over Reads!

24 March

How to handle scripts that are full of clunky language! 

Voice over is the art and skill of taking someone else’s words, lifting them off the page and having them sound like they’re your own words.

Sometimes, this is a breeze!

I’m fortunate enough to work with Advertising Agencies, Production Company’s and Radio stations, who employ talented copywriters to craft language that delivers an advertisers message in an entertaining and engaging way.

Their scripts will most often be lean and lively, with every important word in its place and a place for every important word.

It’s an absolute joy to work with a quality script!

And then there are times when, for whatever reason (usually budgetary) where I’ll voice a script that’s been written by the client. 

Or in the case of Corporate or Industrial scripts, written by the person in the Company who does the business writing.

The general problem here is that they’re written by someone who has little to no idea of how to write for spoken word.

They aren’t skilled in the art of choosing the right word or the right phrase that just ‘sums’ it all up, so their choices are often long-winded or repetitive.

They don’t understand that we don’t communicate using formal language.

We communicate, using natural phrasing and rhythms that are familiar to us.

Another hard-to-deal-with aspect is the long sentence.

Here’s an example of what I mean, along with some tricks and techniques for ‘helping’ the script come to life!

Business, Corporate or Industrial Scripts

Often, what trips up the unwary voice actor in these types of script is ‘jargon’ and ‘unfamiliar terms and phrases’.

This can be challenging because you need to ‘sound’ like you know what you’re talking about!

When there is something you don’t understand or the script doesn’t make sense, it helps when the client or their representative is present or at least contactable.

If not, it can become an unwieldy job to try and second-guess what something means.

Another thing that can get in the way of you making sense of the voice over script is repetition of words.

There’s a process I go through when I first look at the script, which is to note which words are repeated and work out what I’m alluding to each time I say that word.

Here’s a small portion of what was a long and very wordy Corporate script I voiced.

This script has a lot of the elements that can make it difficult to make yourself understood.

Here comes the script.

“Objective Setting

The Individual Objectives or Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) must be established to accord with the business’ ‘Critical Few’ target and AITS’ business focus. These are then cascaded down to departmental targets and ultimately to individual action items.

Therefore our objectives must be linked to the company’s business direction and ‘critical few’ and structured so that an individual may identify where they fit with company objectives.

At all times we must be able to identify what each person is doing to contribute to achieving our company objectives.”

Yikes! 

It’s full of all the things that need to be worked out before you launch into your read.  You need to be clear about these things:

  • jargon
  • long sentences and unhelpful (or no) punctuation
  • repetition of words, and
  • where to place the emphasis.

Let’s look at Jargon

The first paragraph in this script is so jam-packed full of jargon, that it’s almost all jargon!

The Individual Objectives or Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) must be established to accord with the business’ ‘Critical Few’ target and AITS’ business focus.  These are then cascaded down to departmental targets and ultimately to individual action items.”

The best, and really the only way to deal with this stuff is to say it simply and confidently, as though you say it every day.

You need to be careful with emphasis when you’re dealing with jargon.  Avoid placing emphasis on everything – it would sound soooo unnatural if you did.

The best way to do this is to break up the sentence.

Which brings me to the next problem you may be faced with…

Long sentences

Let’s look at the first paragraph…

You need to breathe.  So, you need to work out where the natural pauses are in each sentence, because that’s where you can take a breath.

A good rule to follow is to pause every time you move from one thought or idea, to the next.

I always mark a pause (or a change of thought or idea) with a slash (/)

 

The Individual Objectives or Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)/

 must be established to accord with the business’ ‘Critical Few’ target/

 and AITS’ business focus./

 These are then cascaded down to departmental targets/

and ultimately to individual action items.

 

This technique will help you get through a long sentence.

Before you begin, make sure you’ve taken in a decent amount of air – you’re going to need it!

 

Next – Repetition of Words and Where to Place the Emphasis

For the last two elements I’ll look at the last two paragraphs.

The thing about any long-form script (that is, something that’s over 60 seconds) is that at all times, you need to know where you are, in relation to where you’ve been.

You need to know that if you’ve already mentioned something and that word appears again, how to read that word with a different meaning attached.

Look at the words before or just after that word that add some new information.

Both repetition and emphasis come into play here.

Look at the paragraphs below at the words or phrases that are repeated and work out how you’re going to treat them.

I’ve underlined them, to help you.

 

Therefore our objectives must be linked to the company’s business direction and ‘critical few’/ and structured so that an individual may identify where they fit with company objectives.

At all times we must be able to identify what each person is doing to contribute to achieving our company objectives.”

 

Now that you can see where the common words or phrase are, you need to work out where to place emphasis, so the meaning is clear.

 

I’ll bold where I think the emphasis needs to be so the other words just need to be said without emphasis.

Move through those ‘other words’ as if they are one long word, only pausing when you get to a change of thought or idea.

 

Therefore, our objectives must be linked to the company’s business direction and ‘critical few’/ and structured so that an individual may identify where they fit with company objectives.

At all times/ we must be able to identify what each person is doing to contribute to achieving our company objectives.”

 

You see how the first time I say ‘company objectives’, it’s emphasised, but in the second paragraph, it’s not about company objectives, it’s about ‘achieving’ them.

This is how you work out where to place emphasis.

 

It’s a special skill understanding how to make sense of clunky, jargonized, business scripts.

But considering it’s the fastest growing area of voiceover, it’ll pay you to get good at it.

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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4 Responses to “How To Perfect Your Business Voice Over Reads!”

  1. Corson April 1, 2014 at 1:23 am #

    I agree with most of what you said, but for me, from the beginning (your “jargon” paragraph this is a case for proposing a full rewrite. I don’t just read, but I WRITE some of this stuff for a living and as you made clear, this example script is horrible. As a voice artist, the first thing I do in this case is offer to rewrite it and give them all of the good reasons (that you mentioned) for why rewriting would give a better result. If it is short, I might even include the rewrite in my rate. If it’s long, I’d charge my technical writing fee plus the narration fee.
    For me, the worst thing you can do is try to turn that text into something it isn’t just by using your reading style; it embarrasses the client’s company, it embarrasses the voice artist, and the intended listeners will consider both of you to be insensitive and unprofessional. The old “silk purse-sow’s ear” adage comes to mind.
    So much for my opinion.

    • abbe-holmes April 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

      Hi Corson

      You’re absolutely right about jargon-filled scripts needing a re-write at times. It certainly can be a challenge voicing them. Most of the work we do in Australia is studio based. So, this blog is aimed at those who get booked for the job, arrive at the studio and are faced with a ‘dog’ of a script.

      In that case (and for the sake of relationships) you just have to put your mind to making the script work! The last thing I would advise anyone to do when they’ve arrived at the studio is to suggest a re-write.

      When you’r working from home, I do think you have more flexibility to have a conversation about the ‘inaccessibility’ of language in the script. But sometimes, they’ll just want you to do it as written!

  2. Maria Boyce August 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Abbe, you are so right. One would need an established relationship with a company to be able to mess with their script. I am a public servant and I know how invested our corporate division is in its particular message. They have stylistic guides and are very particular about them.

    By the way, I am new to your blog and have spent the past hour gleefully devouring your posts. If you see this you have my daughter to thank for your new follower and soon to be student. I will be in touch.

    Maria.

    • Abbe Holmes August 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

      Hi Maria

      Thanks for the great feedback. So glad to hear you’re enjoying the blogs.

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