Getting the Best Performance from Voice Over Talent
by Peter Drew
Your client’s approved the copy. You’ve cast the voiceover talent. You’ve booked the session. Now, it’s time to record. With the talent behind the mic, ready to lay down the track, you wonder, “Will I get the read I hear in my head?”
The best chance at a great read starts the before the session. Regardless of the voice talent’s experience, there are things you can do to help the talent give you an exceptional performance.
It all starts with your talent budget. In voiceovers, as in most things purchased, you get what you pay for. In local and regional productions, very often less consideration is given to how the message is delivered, i.e. the voiceover, as opposed to how many times the audience will be exposed to the message. In other words, the client will skimp on production and take the extra few bucks to buy an extra spot; instead of making sure the spot communicates as effectively as possible each and every time it airs. Try foregoing the extra spot. Put the money into securing a more experienced talent and see the positive difference it can make in how your product or service is perceived and how well the ad sells.
The same principal applies to long-form projects. A seasoned talent can provide the extra bit of credibility and confidence to the message you’re trying to communicate in a corporate video, online presentation, sales presentation, etc.
Naturally, less experienced, less costly talent shouldn’t be overlooked, because you might find a great talent who hasn’t raised rates yet to reflect his or her value. Still, your production is akin to, say, a baseball game. It’s bottom of the ninth, two out, runners on first and third. You need one run to win. Who are you gonna put in--the rookie with a.225 average and 28 RBIs, or the .327 hitter with 123 RBIs, who can slap the ball to any field?
Of course, without good copy even the best talent will have difficulty getting a message across. The good old formula A.I.D.A.—Attention, Interest, Desire, Action—is still a great template for creating effective copy. Get their attention, get ‘em interested, get ‘em to want it, and get ‘em to go get it. And, of course, people love stories. Tell an interesting story using A.I.D.A. and you’ll sell your product, service, or idea.
Interesting copy itself will elicit a better performance from voice talent. It’s motivating. But there are other simple things that mean a lot to a voiceover person. Double-spaced copy, NOT IN ALL CAPS, shows you know white space helps move the eye through the copy for easier reading. It also gives the talent room to make any marks for inflection, emphasis, and pace, as well as space to make copy edits, if needed. In long-form scripts, not carrying the last sentence on a page on to the next page is appreciated, too. It results in less paper rustling and eyes losing their place, which can cause a stumble and an unneeded edit.
One of the best things you can do to elicit a superb performance from your voice talent is to have just one director. Sure, have the client, the client’s mother, personal trainer, whomever you please at the session, but make sure only one person communicates direction to the talent. The less confusion coming from the control room, the more together the performance of your talent will be.
Little things do mean a lot. Attention to the simple things listed here will pay off in a superior performance by your voice over talent.
© Peter Drew