Sounds kind of like a dream job, doesn’t it? Getting paid to simply read aloud; to talk… And, we’re not even referring to the most dreaded of all (for many) “public speaking” format. Voice-over artists usually speak in an empty, sound-baffled room. So… how is it that one “good” voice resonates above the rest?
My experience has been that, yes; it’s about the voice. But, like any other job, it’s about more than mere natural talent. The application is everything. The value-added abilities of a voice-over talent often create the difference that gains the “in” with an agency, studio, or client. These are the “minor” details that will gain a client’s confidence, allowing him to move ahead and begin processing the next project on his eternal list. And, the faster and more effectively you can help him check off a project as completed, the more likely it is that you’ll gain a long-term relationship. More on that later…
While the voice-over business has changed considerably from the early nineties, when I first found a microphone, there are certain standards that remain firm. Efficiency and the ability to edit on one’s feet remain two elements that can lift one voice above the chorus of competitors. Don’t waste anybody’s time, and save it if you’re able. This goes well beyond basic courtesies and professionalism.
You may be paid for the use of your voice, but the client is also purchasing your ability to focus. Ask the right questions to ascertain what sound environment the client is trying to create. The “voice” is simply recreating what a client or agent has already heard in her head. Words like: warmth, friendly, powerful, pensive, genuine, edgy… convey alternate, differing tones, as do descriptions such as “announcer”, “best friend”, or “helpful neighbor”. Artists communicate with shades of color; tones and nuances shade the palette of the voice-over artist. Developing a perceptivity to the way people speak and to the way people hear the spoken word will help a talent to “say it” like the client wants to hear it.
“Focus” also means being able to change your pronunciation, word emphasis, speed -even the whole approach- as needed. “Bloopers” aren’t really so humorous when someone is paying for studio time. If it takes you multiple takes to land multi-syllable words, you will be remembered but not re-called. On the other hand, if the script is poorly written, with significant tongue-trippers or too many words, it is reasonable to tactfully suggest alternatives. The end goal is always a quality delivery of the message.
“Focus” also includes the mental ability to tune out peripheral issues in favor of the script in front of you, even if that “issue” is your own persistent cough, to be stifled thirty commercial seconds at a time… And, even if you’re racing through your day, a disciplined focus will prevent that telling “edge” from creeping into your tone.
A good “voice” is an actor, who can transform words on a page into an influential audio experience, drawing upon her own inner resources to create the right vocal environment for a specific message. It requires more than merely possessing a pleasant speaking voice. You must know how to use it as the communication tool it is.
A consistent yet flexible voice, a disciplined focus, and a well-developed intuition are the qualities that will generate repeat business for a voice-over artist. And, the ultimate goal for any business is not to complete jobs, but to create clients.