Reading aloud: 7 tips for scripts that sound great

male voice over artist Identifying a voice with the perfect tone for your project is only part of the story. To enable that voice artist to achieve an audio recording that meets your expectations, you must provide them with a great script. By putting in the extra effort when structuring your script, you will be able to get the best from your voice artist.

But what makes a script great? Essentially, clarity and concision. Fine tuning a script takes time. However, remember that this is time that you will save when you’re paying by the hour for your voice artist’s talents!

1. Choosing your message

A great script begins before any words are put together. Take the time to discuss and brainstorm what your key points are. Be ruthless and remove any messages that overlap and duplicate other points. Whether your project is a corporate video or commercial advert, it is easy to become enthused with your business message. Try to limit the points that you are aiming to convey. It will mean that those messages that form the focus of your script are clearly represented.

2. Keeping it simple

Once your key message is identified, find ways to express it briefly and concisely. Remember that your audience has a finite amount of attention. This is one thing that all audiences have in common! You can keep listeners engaged by varying the tone and pace of sentences. Avoid delving too deeply into your topic with industry jargon and slang. This is more likely to alienate than engage.

3. Detailing what is spoken

There are potential stumbling blocks that sneak under the radar of most scripts. Look out for dates, acronyms and URLs. You should detail the exact way that you wish a date to be spoken. So: ‘fifth of June twenty eighteen’. Any acronyms should be fully detailed in the first instance and you should be clear to the voice artist whether they should say individual letters or pronounce it as a word. Don’t include the www prefix when referring to URLs. It is extremely clunky when spoken and is unnecessary for an audience’s comprehension.

4. Reading it aloud

Throughout your script writing process, read the words aloud. What appears clear to the eye may not be so to the ear. So if you stumble over some sections, it is likely that your voice artist may do the same. Even better than checking your script by reading aloud is to read it aloud TO someone who has not been working on the script. Any sections which were unclear on first listen or are repetitive should be revisited and altered.

5. Approving a script

For corporate projects, you may have several departments who will feedback and approve the script. So the text document may accumulate various thoughts and notes. For your final script, delete anything that you do not want to be spoken aloud. Keep any directorial notes completely separate to the voiceover script to avoid confusion. If you do not intend to dial in to the recording of your voiceover this is even more vital.

6. Remaining flexible

To achieve the best possible voiceover product, it is important to remain flexible. This is why it is advisable for you to dial in to the recording of your script. Communication with your voice artist is imperative. Remember that these are experienced professionals so if they have any comments or suggestions, be collaborative. You’re more likely to get a voiceover that ticks all the boxes and avoid the need to re-record.

7. Remembering silence

As important as words, pauses and short silences allow an audience to process the information that you wish to convey. Indicate pauses inside brackets, so: [pause]. If your project includes vibrant visual elements, consider how the use of pauses can complement the visual stimulation on display.

The sacred trinity of the modern voiceover artist

professional voiceover artist reading a scriptThe voiceover world, as with a lot of industries has undergone a huge transformation over the last decade. Gone are the days where every voiceover involved a visit to a swanky Soho studio and boozy lunch afterwards. For the most part, those jobs have largely disappeared. That’s not to say that the voiceover has disappeared. In fact far from it. In this age of 24 hour contact-ability and instant information, the voiceover is more relevant than ever. Any website worth its salt will have a video nowadays and that video more than likely will have a voiceover.

Add to that the fact that when most online customers are considering a product or service the second most likely place they will visit after Google is Youtube and once again you can see the power the moving image and how it has become extremely important for modern brands and customers. Just as the old adage was

A bad website is worse than a no website

so the same can be said for your narration. A good voiceover can rescue a lack lustre video but conversely, a poor one can ruin an otherwise good piece of content.

So there are far more voiceovers happening a year than ever before but the landscape has changed dramatically. For this reason, the modern voiceover artist needs a different set of skills. No longer do they regale the client with stories of their showbiz pals, now they need to be efficient and provide value for money.

That is because in today’s world most busy voiceover artists work from their own studio and that means they need to understand how to use it. It’s why when artists apply to be on our sites we look for three very important qualities, the sacred trinity of the modern artist.

As has always been the case, they must have an exceptional voice. Although trends have changed and regional accents are far more in vogue than 30 years ago, the basics of having a pleasing timbre haven’t.

What has changed however is, very often now, there isn’t the budget for a director. That means clients rely on the experience of the artist to get the best out of a script and often that experience and input include script editing. So a quality which we ask for in our artists is the experience and ability to instinctively interpret a script. This is something that happens naturally after years in the industry and essential if clients are to get value for money in these budget conscience times.

Finally because all our artists work from their own studios, it is essential they understand them and know how to use them. This is something artists of the past never had to worry about. There was a chap who switched the switches and moved the faders, now it’s all part of the same job. That’s why the voice artist of 2018 is a very different animal and from a client’s perspective, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Accents, Regions and Why They’re Important

voice over artistNot that long ago, actors and vocal artists would, as standard, work incredibly hard to lose their regional accent. The scope for diversity within voice over was extremely limited, with anything beyond RP (received pronunciation) frowned upon. This is a reflection of the class assumptions of the time and is now outdated and unnecessary. In fact, many clients who require a voice now seek specific regional accents to reinforce their brand through audio.

Britain is a melting pot of accents, tones and dialects, all of which inspire different associations in different audiences. Of course, an audience is a transient thing and must be considered and profiled to the same extent as the voice that you choose to represent your brand. What tone and accent will be most appealing to your audience?

Advertising

Appealing to consumers is clearly a variable business. Brands seek to gain the trust of social profiles from different backgrounds, different regions and different age brackets. Obviously what appeals to one may not appeal to the other. Which is why many high profile brands spend a great deal of research time and money in discovering what voices are most effective for them. As a general rule, northern British voices are perceived as more trustworthy. Many advertisers look further beyond this to choose a celebrity or familiar sounding voices to further suggest trustworthiness.

Policy and Advice

In contrast, many areas of the UK respond more positively to advisory information when it is transmitted through Home Counties or RP voices. For this reason, many instructive uses of audio such as those advising tax deadlines or the digital switchover have employed an authoritative RP voice range. Conversely, residents of some regions prefer to listen to lifestyle direction such as warnings against drink driving, smoking or faulty smoke alarms when they are spoken in the local vernacular.

Storytelling

Narrative voices in projects such as audio books are often directed by the story genre. Where menace can sound especially effective through a Glaswegian accent, romance can be conveyed to wonderful effect through melodic Welsh. Alternatively, storytelling that is area specific can be chosen based simply upon geography. A tale set in Birmingham, for example, can better conjure its fictional world with a voice appropriate to that geographical area.

Corporate

Sometimes geography is intrinsic to an organisation. So when corporate projects such as whiteboard instructional videos seek a voice, it may be imperative that the local business area is reflected. Newcastle accents are often associated with warmth and understanding, so are often chosen for customer service focussed projects. However, if your corporate brand is global (or aspires to be so), then it’s best not to go too niche. Mid-range American or Home Counties British tends to strike the balance well here.

Social Media

Of course, this segues into both advertising and corporate activity. Designing a video which is intended to advertise through social media relies upon its scope to go viral. For this reason, it needs a great voice. Distinction is the key here. So familiar and characterful accents are a great place to start. Think Liverpudlian or West Country. Both of these accents, although geographically miles apart, are attention grabbing whilst maintaining a relatable familiarity.

Training

Very specifically instructive, training audio requires accents with clarity and authority. Where RP is a great accent to achieve this, it can sometimes be perceived as bland and in this way struggle to demand the attention that training requires. Many training projects choose the North Western Mancunian to achieve a more textured educational audio.

Whilst every project is entirely unique to its individual aims and targets, thinking about accents is a great way to narrow down a pool of voices. Regional dialect is such an inherently ingrained aspect of British society that choosing the right vocal accent for your audio project is arguably the point that will lift it beyond the ordinary.