Raise your hand if you ever turned off the radio, TV or Internet video just because you didn’t like the sound of the person speaking? Most of us probably have, proving that the voice-over read of any given project can make or break that project’s success.
A high-quality voice track is a key part of the communication of the message, and that communication involves a lot more than just the words being spoken. Combined with the visuals and music, the voice-over read is what pulls the entire presentation together in the heart and mind of the audience. Five tips can help you find the best voice-over talent to pull your next project together with panache.
1. Look for Experience
Years of experience means years of honing and perfecting their voice and skills. Look for someone who has many years of experience in general and, ideally, a reasonable amount of voice-over experience with the type of project you’re producing.
While there may be certain situations where the particular sound of a voice outweighs the need for a long track record, an experienced pro is typically the way to get the most effective execution of your script. Remember, it’s about more than simply reading the words, but using the voice as a tool to engage with your audience. The pros have mastered this art, and it’s a lot trickier than one might think.
2. Know the Role Your Talent Will be Playing
Some projects need a knowledgeable educator who instructs the audience. Others need a narrator who tells a story, a spokesperson who promotes the product, or an announcer who presents information in an impartial and authoritative way.
Or maybe you need the gal or guy-next-door kind of voice, as someone speaking to friend. One of the latest industry trends has been choosing voices that sound the most like your target audience, which would involve finding a talent with who can reproduce the overall tone and speech patterns as your ideal customers.
Understanding the role the voice-over talent will play in your particular scenario, will help you pinpoint the type of voice that can deliver it with conviction.
3. Determine if You Need Someone With Strong Acting Abilities
There is a big difference between voice-over talent and voice-over actors. Voice-over talent may only be accustomed to reading straight narrative copy, or simple announces, and may be uncomfortable being asked to produce multiple reads for character lines, or something that involves emotive ability.
Voice-over actors, on the other hand, are often thrilled to do multiple takes in a variety of characters. They are generally backed by acting training and improvisational experience that lets them serve up numerous variations on the same line, if the first take doesn’t sound quite right.
The terms “voice actor” and “voice talent,” are often used interchangeably on websites and in marketing, making it hard to know for sure at a glance. So, if you need a real voice-over actor for your project, double-check that they have actual acting training and experience. You should be able to find that in their bio or just ask them directly for details on their acting background.
4. Take a Look at Some “Real” Project Samples, Not Just Demos
While a high-quality VO demo may sound good at a quick listen, it’s important to remember that what a demo provides is a quick earful of what the talent can do, in very controlled circumstances.
However, real-world project samples are the proof of successful projects the talent has actually done. They showcase the actor’s voice in jobs they were actually hired to record. A professional voice talent will usually have samples showcased on their website or have a playlist (or 2 or 20) on YouTube and/or Vimeo.
Producing a demo often involves hours spent in the studio crafting and fine-tuning the voice-over reads until they have just the right inflection – and then audio processing the clip for a professional sound. Project samples are real-life clips of what the talent can do under pressure, time constraints and following other stipulations set down by the client, and give a better indication of what the talent really brings to the table.
5. Evaluate the Fit
Evaluating the overall fit of the voice-over talent means making sure the voice meshes with your audience and subject while providing the credibility and quality you need.
A high-pitched, squeaky voice, for example, may not be the right fit for your sophisticated, high-tech product. And a deep, resonating, authoritative voice may send kids screaming for cover if you use it to sell children’s toys.
Another important element of a good fit is the connection between you and the voice talent. The most successful business relationships typically occur when both parties are authentic, share the same goals and values, and exhibit mutual respect. Even if a person happens to have what you think may be the perfect voice for your job, the fit may be less than perfect unless you click on a personal level.
Of course, there are many more criteria used to forge the perfect fit between client and voice-over actor, but these 5 steps are a good start to get you on solid footing from the outset.
Just as the voice-over talent does more than simply read some words, choosing the best voice-over talent for your project involves much more than deciding between male and female and calling it a day. These five tips can give you a solid path to follow to ensure your project is graced with the voice it needs – and your audience stays tuned in to listen to your message and take action.