One of the secrets to success as a voice over artist is being able to take any script and convert written word into meaningful, connected spoken word…but what do you do when the language is written in a rhythm or a way that is completely foreign to you?
We all have a particular, unique way of using language. Our accent, voice personality, rhythms and patterns of speech are what we’ve collected over the years, from family, school, jobs and relationships. Life colours the way we speak naturally. So much so, that we seldom analyse it.
In voice over, you need to be able to covert language that someone else has written into something that sounds completely natural for you to say.
That’s all very well, but scripts are seldom written in naturalistic forms. That’s because scripts for mainstream radio and television are all selling something, convincing the listener that the solution to their problem lies in doing whatever it is the ad is suggesting they do…use this skin cream, buy this car, take advantage of this offer, and on and on.
Those scripts all have one thing in common though. They contain product names, key words and phrases, concept words and meanings that need to be interpreted in order that you sound completely natural. The secret to great voice over reads is in being able to identify those words and phrases, understand their purpose and decide how you’re going to interpret them.
Here are two things you need to ask a script
- Who am I talking to?
- What do I want to convince them to do?
The question of who you’re talking to is really important. I always feel it’s better to be really specific. Rather than saying, “I’m talking to tradies who buy utes”, or “mums who buy kids clothes”, you need to be talking to just one person.
Don’t forget, radio and television are intimate mediums and, unless the script calls for you to yell for some reason, your volume level should be no more than the level you would speak at when you’re talking one-on-one with a friend.
Next, what do you want to convince them to do?
Look at it this way. Whenever we are in conversation with anyone, we’re running an agenda? I know that sounds like a negative, but the truth is that we’ve been using language to seduce and manipulate our way through our lives since we were able to speak. It’s not bad…well unless you use it in inappropriate ways…it just ‘is’.
In a script, our agenda might be to get whoever we’re talking to, to laugh, to feel better, to know a solution is at hand, to know how simple something is, how amazing it is, how cheap it is, how important it is.
Once you understand what it is you’re trying to convince your person of, it’ll be much easier to find the language in the script that will help you do that.
In every script, there will always be words and phrases that are more important than others. Getting the message across and sounding completely natural, as though the words are your own, relies on your understanding of how to use these words and phrases to convey the meaning in the script.
Reading someone elses written word, like the words are your own is ‘the’ voice over skill. Next time you’re looking at any writing that’s an ad, look a little deeper at those words, apply my two questions and start to get a feel for the technique of voice overing!
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.