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How to do voiceovers - 10 tips to improve your reads

I’ll start off by saying this blog isn’t about how to record voiceovers, rather how to do the actual speaking bit. Or at least some prep work that will make the speaking bit sound better by default.

Also, I’m aware that this may seem odd, having a post telling people how to do voice overs while trying to promote my own voiceover business! Well, it came about during an online networking event when somebody asked for some tips for doing a voiceover for their own social media videos.

A condenser microphone in its cradle, in a dark room.

I was happy to give some ideas and pointers, so I’m going to do the same here. I figured that if you’re reading this and are working as a voiceover artist, then we’re competing already! And if you’re simply looking for some info on how to make your own videos sound better, or you’re just starting out and want some voiceover tips for beginners, we’re not competing anyway (yet!).

The following points aren’t an exhaustive list of how to do voice over – it’s a very in-depth topic, but they should spruce up your recordings a bit.

1. Water

Or as it’s pronounced in my neck of the woods, waw’aah. Drinking lots of water is an absolute must if you’re planning on recording your voice. If you have a half decent mic, it will pick up every noise that comes out of your mouth – your voice AND popping spit bubbles.

Keeping hydrated means less mouth noise. Your recording will sound nice and clean and it will save you having to edit out any saliva, which sounds gross.

I recently grabbed myself a 2.2 litre bottle from Amazon (it looks like one of those things you drink cider from while sitting in a field) so that I'm not having to fill up a glass all day.

2. Read the script

This might sound obvious, but I mean read it before you start recording. You don’t have to learn it off by heart, but get those words floating around your brain. Familiarize yourself with it. Have a think about how you’re going to speak it out loud. First give it a read in your head, then give it a quick run through using your voice to see how it might sound.

3. Mark up the script

Make any notes on the script that will help you during the read. Underline words or sentences you want to emphasise. Mark down where you want to

pause for effect. You don’t want the listener to get bored so try varying the pace too. I tend to mark slower bits with a long wavy line above the words.

4. Think about who it’s for

Who’s the target audience? If you can narrow it down, it will give you an idea of how to speak. For example, if I’m voicing a commercial about life insurance for the over 70s, I won’t voice it in a fresh, cool style. Be appropriate. There’s some pointers in a piece I wrote about choosing a voiceover artist that apply well to doing voiceovers.

An excited audience reacting to a band on stage

5. Don’t listen

I prefer to record without headphones (although I do edit with them). I find I can connect with the script better as I’m not paying any attention to my voice pouring directly into my ear holes. It's worth noting that many voice over artists DO wear headphones as they can hear exactly what they're doing. It's all down to preference.

6. Visualise an audience of one

Once you have your target audience – narrow it down to one person. When you start the recording, this is who you’re going to imagine you’re speaking to. This makes it more personal and more real and gives life to the script. You don’t want to sound like you did during GCSE English when the teacher would go round the class making everyone read out loud in turn - monotone and bored.

7. Take a deep breath

Once you’ve hit record and you’re about to start speaking, take a deep breath. Then let it all out. Then take another, hold it and make your lips into the shape of the first word. Wait a few seconds and start talking – this gives a clean, smooth start to the audio.

8. Read ahead

While you’re voicing, be sure to try and read ahead of where you actually are in the script. This gets your brain ready for the upcoming words and will hopefully minimize the number of mistakes you make. It also helps it sound less like you’re reading from a page.

9. Get involved

Don’t just sit or stand there motionless while you’re recording. “Speak” with your face, shoulders, hands – a voice by itself doesn’t have the added bonus of an actor’s expressions that help a viewer understand emotions. Try adding a smile to bring the words to life.

Give it a go - it really works!

10. Make it real

Try adding in some very human sounds. When we speak in normal conversations, we don’t sound perfect and if the script allows (remember to be appropriate), the voice over shouldn’t either. We umm and ahh, we pause, we stutter, we add in filler words without even realizing.

So, there you have it. 10 voiceover tips for beginners, content producers and anyone else who wants to have a butchers. I hope you find them useful. They’re so hard wired into my routine now that they’re all second nature. The more you do something, the easier it becomes. Practice makes perfect (or not. See point 10).

If you found any of these helpful, I’d be delighted to hear about it!


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Martin Whiskin voiceover artist talking into a Rode NT1-a microphone
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