Voice-Over Preparedness Drill

Remember that Big Bang Theory episode with Sheldon Cooper and his Emergency Preparedness Drill? It may not be necessary to take your preparedness to such an extreme level, although with voice-overs, you should definitely be ready for whatever comes up, especially if you’ve never done them before. I’d like to share with you my experience and some stumbling blocks on the way as well as tips on how to step them over.

There’s a wide variety of voice-over types: commercial voice-overs, audio book voice-overs, narrative voice-overs, cartoon voice-overs, or voice-over translations. That’s why you should have a clear-cut view of the goal you want to pursue – know whether you’re selling, entertaining, or educating. Having set the goal clearly, you can choose the tone of your voice that would be most suitable to reach it.

I would like to pay special attention to eLearning voice-overs which can make your eLearning course more appealing. Here is my story. I was asked to produce two eLearning courses with voice-overs. When I first entered a voice-over recording room, I was thrilled and fascinated with how it looked! It was all covered in acoustic foam that served as a noise-absorbing and soundproofing tool. An enormous amount of soft four-sided pyramids wrapped the space all around. I put the headphones over my ears and realized that I had never heard my voice as clearly as then.

Fortunately, I was preparing the eLearning course under my mentor’s constant supervision, which prevented me from lots of mistakes. But if you’re the voice actor, eLearning content manager, and “camera operator” all-in-one, my pieces of advice might come in handy.

labor-man Drill #1

Map out your script, plan out the sequence of actions users have to do. And after the script is finished, pinpoint your key phrases and concepts. Before setting off with voice recording you should not only have a complete and coherent script, but also know which chunks of text you need to stress. Here is what I did, I printed out my script, read it out loud, and marked critical points with a pencil. Then I put upwards arrows across the sections of script where your intonation should rise and downwards arrows across the ones where your voice should fall.

labor-man Drill #2

Make your voice show emotion. In eLearnings, it’s nice to make an emphasis each time the user completes a series of actions. Give users a sense of accomplishment whenever they achieve a result.

labor-man Drill #3

Make your voice rise and fall naturally so that there’s no strain the users can hear. This is why a good piece of advice would be not to do your voice recordings early in the morning. Your voice may sound rough and unclear, so a mental picture of a tired and bored with himself narrator comes into mind. Although there are days when your voice sounds breathy and raspy, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t change it. In this case, try to reschedule your voice recording sessions.

labor-man Drill #4

Be ready to re-record your voice even if your audio engineer doesn’t tell you to. It’s no secret that if you try to avoid things like sudden cough or hoarseness, the sound of your voice in recordings will be much better. Whenever you have some doubts about the quality of your voice, don’t hesitate and tell your audio engineer you want to re-record some part of the script. It might sound better!

labor-man Drill #5

Keep in mind that you’ll have to add your voice-over to the course, therefore, the recordings should be broken down into digestible and stand-alone chunks. Make it as fragmentary as possible. The reason is that you might have to cut them later to fit the screencast. And although you can easily cut your recordings with modern eLearning authoring tools, be careful not to end up with torn up audio chunks. For instance, if you need to cut the recording in the middle of which you were inhaling, it would sound as if you were holding your breath for a moment, which would make users feel confused and waiting for some action to be performed.

And, talking about cutting your voice recordings, be careful. If your eLearning software contains the audio editor that enables you to cut your recordings, make sure that the divisions on the scale are set to the smallest. This way, you can cut recordings very accurately and they won’t sound distorted.

Last, but not least – have fun! The more relaxed and confident you sound, the higher the chances are that users will love your eLearning course!

As much fun as it is, it’s still a great challenge you should prepare yourself to. Don’t take the drills I prepared for you as seriously as Sheldon, but do spend your time preparing to record your voice-overs. Good luck in your voice-over endeavors and feel free to share your own experience!

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