The entertainment industry is rife with myths, and voice over is no different. Unfounded rumors and misconceptions can hold you back as an artist, so, let’s shed some light on some of the biggest myths about narration voice over and set the record straight.
1. Narrations Are Boring
Narration isn’t boring. But it can be if you’re bored, then it will sound boring. Even the most intriguing subject matter can be made into something dull and dry by an uninspired orator. And you’ve probably heard some fine actors that you’d be happy to hear reading the phone book!
As voiceover artists, it’s our job to find the fun and the joy in the topic, even if we have to manufacture it. We have to approach the script from a different angle, and we need to be clear and convey the right message. All while also engaging the listener from a peers’ point of view, even though we aren’t. That’s where the VO buzzword ‘conversational’ comes in. The conversational and casual sound isn’t just for commercials. Corporations and medical professionals want it too.
Conversational and casual doesn’t mean boring. And it doesn’t always mean a casual chat between friends over a cup of coffee. It can be an intelligent, engaging narration from someone as interested in the topic as the listener or even more interested. No one wants to be lectured to so get down from the podium, but we all want to be engaged and inspired.
An SME’s challenge is taking all that subject matter expertise and conveying it in a natural, relatable way. As professional voiceover artists, we might not have all that knowledge, but we understand that we need to sound like we do. All while utilizing our voiceover artist skillset to convey it and keep it interesting.
2. Narration Voice Overs Don’t Sell Anything
Not sure where this one got started, but of course, narration is selling. From the more obvious kinds of sales, like narrations for fundraiser videos and infomercials to more subtle sales for MOA (Mechanism of Actions) videos and travel guides. It’s all sales.
Some of the most important yet challenging sales pitches out there come in the guise of narration. A narrator isn’t always selling a clear-cut product. Sometimes, we are selling a story like in a movie or an audiobook. And sometimes, we are selling something as vague as stakeholder buy-in for a medical eLearning module. Maybe our client doesn’t need their audience of medical professionals to physically buy a product, but they do need them to believe in it. It can also show how to use a new pharmaceutical or medical device, and the benefits of following guidelines and procedures.
3. Narrations Are Long and Slow
Narrations can be long or short, slow or fast, or a mixture in-between. It’s always going to depend on your audience and your message. It will rely on the writing, the subject, and any accompanying visuals. Wordy and technical narrations can be used to explain concepts to children and professionals alike. And a voiceover artist changes their delivery based on the audience and the content they are narrating.
Narration can be used in movies and tv shows, medical eLearning, and explainers. It has unlimited potential. It can be anything; it’s what makes it such an exciting form of voiceover. With so many different styles and types of narrated content, they should all be approached differently, tailored based on the content and the audience. Here are just a few of the types of narration:
- Travel guides
- Motivational Sales Videos
- Real Estate Tours
- Thriller Audiobooks
- ESL (English as a Second Language)
- Geriatric Population
- Children’s Literacy & Science Resources
- Religious Content
- Netflix Audio description for the visually impaired
4. Narration Voice Over is the Star of the Show
As much as we would like to think otherwise, narration does not stand alone, and it is not the star. When everything goes right, narration is one voice in the orchestra. Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows how much I love working with illustrators, animators, and the rest of the ensemble of creatives. Working in tandem with the support visuals, sound effects, and writing, the goal is harmony, and for everything to blend into a unique and compelling product.
5. Narration Voice Over and Commercials are Like Oil and Water
Commercials are diverse, innovative, and often brilliant, so taking any creative methodology off the table doesn’t make sense. One of the critical challenges commercials face in an oversaturated market is sticking out from the crowd. Narration can be used to tell a story, provide extra information or set a mood. High-end brands use narration to paint stories and provide clarity in Hollywood-level movies. Local brands move in step with their customers through a conversational narration that connects. So maybe narration is the oil, golden and viscous, helping a commercial shine through in an ocean of other advertisement noise.
6. There’s Safety in Numbers
There’s only safety in numbers if you want to compete with the masses. There are a lot of voiceover artists competing for similar jobs. To stand out from the crowd and establish a career with legs, you need to find what makes you unique. Not what makes you the same as everyone else.
I was a stockbroker in my past life; as a voiceover artist, I still use those skills all the time. As a contrarian investor, I learned to market myself differently from my peers rather than try to do the same thing as everyone else. And it worked. It’s one of the things that sets me apart, separates me from the pack, and informs my decision-making. Every style and type of voiceover requires a different set of skills; being the same as everyone else doesn’t keep a voiceover talent safe it just makes you replaceable.
7. Narrator Voice Over Must Have an Agent
Getting an agent is just one (potential) step on the ladder to success. Whether or not you have an agent, you are going to have to market yourself, which is challenging for most of us. In the recipe for VO success, an agent is just one ingredient in a long list of many.
8. You Must Know the Topic You are Narrating
That’s why it’s called acting because you need to act like you’re an SME (subject matter expert), but you don’t need to be one. That doesn’t clear a narrator of all responsibility. You will still need to do your research. Google, Wikipedia, your client’s website, and the information they send you are your friends. The more complicated the subject, the more legwork you will need to put in.
Thankfully it does become easier with time. The more narration we do in any field, the more we bump into the familiar. Jargon, acronyms, definitions, and concepts eventually trip off the tongue with a lightness and ease. So much so that we might start to feel like a medical professional or the foremost authority on pharmaceuticals if we aren’t careful!
Myths can be persistent, much like fake news, they permeate and create problems wherever they go. Question everything. If you hear something, then check the facts, and even then, what is true for one person might not be true for you. What bores one voice over artist might intrigue and thrill another. What works for you might not work for someone else. You’ll never know until you try.