As voice over styles evolve, there is a trend toward a more natural, personal read. But what exactly is this “conversational” sound and how do you achieve it? Here’s how to perfect your conversational technique.
Voice Over Started at the Circus and Vaudeville Then Moved to Radio
Voice over started as announcing. And there’s not much difference between “Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages” spoken by a circus ringmaster 100 years ago and “Let’s get ready to rumble” of Michael Buffer fame. And since it was originally acoustic (no microphone) it required a supported, projected voice.
And everyone notices that newscasters always sound like they’re trying to talk over background noise on the street or at a convention. Even when they’re sitting at the news desk side by side.
And radio DJs have an “amped up” delivery that probably comes from generating excitement for the “latest sounds” that they are playing.
So there is a definite “announcy” sound out there. And your friends don’t talk like that when you’re having lunch at Denny’s.
But when a client asks for conversational they actually want three aspects of your performance to change. Let’s look at Old School versus New School reads to understand these changes.
Old School Voice Over-The “Parent-Child” Read
The old school read has been called the “parent-child” read. As a nod to bad parenting it demands that you “sit down, shut up, and I’ll tell you how to think”. And it’s this nature of read that advertisers have found ineffective in modern advertising.
The Parent-Child read has three components:
- You sound like an announcer-it is reinforced speech, newsy sounding
- You sound like the factory guy-and no one trusts the manufacturer
- You sounds objective-that is, the information you convey is logical, not emotional
New School Voice Over-The “Peer-to-Peer” Read
As advertising has evolved and incorporated more psychology, reads have become more natural. The modern read is called “peer-to-peer”. It sounds like you’re talking to a friend or colleague.
The Peer-to-Peer includes these components:
- You sound conversational-it is like natural speech
- You sound like a consumer-someone who has tried and recommends the product
- You have emotion in your speech-indicating how you feel about the product
You Need All Three Components to Perform a Conversational Read
Many voice talents make the mistake of just softening their voice to achieve a conversational read. But most important is to change is from sounding objective to sounding subjective-a change from a logical description to an emotional description.
In real life we don’t say anything to anyone unless we have a reason to say it. And that reason or motivation comes through as emotion in our voice.
If we’re frustrated with the results of a competitive product, that frustration should be in our voice. If we’re pleased with a product that satisfaction should be in our voice. Then the listener will respond to our feelings in a similar way and believe–and more importantly feel– what we are saying.
Here’s How to Perform a Conversational Read
First, achieve the conversational sound. I call this your telephone voice: “Hello? No I can’t do it today. Maybe next week. I’ll call you back tomorrow…” Don’t sound like you are addressing a group of people or talking over traffic noise. Let the microphone do the work.
Second, since it is a peer-to-peer sound, you must speak like you’re talking to a friend or colleague. Imagine a friend standing on the other side of the copy stand and tel them the story.
Finally–and this is where many talents come up short–search for the emotion in the copy that you are reading. If a line says “I’m worried about my future…” sound worried. If a line says “my headache is gone…” sound relieved.
Advertisers are looking for talents that can sound distressed about the problems a product addresses and then sound satisfied about the solution: the advertised product.
So Try the Peer-toPeer Conversational Read
When the script direction says natural, guy/gal next door, sincere, conversational, etc., use this technique to give them what they want to hear. You’ll book more business and gain more clients.