The right voiceover can make a learning module come alive. More than a mere narration, it infuses the content with character and makes it easy to consume. In eLearning, voiceover is essential to make the material relatable and dramatically increases comprehension and retention. But just because you have a computer, the necessary software, a microphone, and a willing colleague doesn’t mean that you have all the pieces required to create good voiceovers. You also need to understand the modalities of voiceovers before you hit the record button.
To begin with, it’s good to realize that voiceover is a separate domain that requires a lot more than ‘having a good voice.’ Subject matter expertise also doesn’t guarantee a good result. The right voiceover is the result of an interplay of experience, a well-crafted script, and engaging delivery, among several other factors. Here’s a 6-point checklist for producing the perfect voiceover.
1. Make the eLearning script voice-friendly
While writing the script, remember that you are not creating just a written training asset. Rather, you are creating a voice. The script should be judged not by the depth of its content but by the ease of delivery, and comprehension. The content should be divided into sections and it should flow from one to the next effortlessly. Remember, ease of listening is the key here, and therefore, take care to avoid long sentences.
The listeners should be able to appreciate the expertise in the content, while still being able to relate to how it’s delivered. You also need to choose whether it will be a first, second, or third-person voice. Once you are clear on that, remember to be consistent throughout the content.
2. Get the right voice
We are all social primates ingrained with a love for stories. If the stories are well-told, our interest levels naturally go up. As stated earlier, merely having a good voice will not make one a good voiceover artist. The individual needs to know how to make it engaging, and be natural at voice modulation. The tone should be conversational, and certainly not pedantic or robotic (looking at you text-to-speech users). Most of the eLearning content we produce is not academic but a friendly explanation, with empathy, and openness to deliver corporate training that resonates.
Going with an amateur for the voiceover may sound easy but will only add to your efforts, and expenses. We recommend to go with a professional voiceover artist who would bring value-addition to the process or a text-to-speech provider that can meet the requirements of the brief. They will also be able to point out parts of the content that may hinder the flow. As each artist brings a unique character, it’s important to keep the same professional for all modules, particularly if it’s an eLearning voiceover.
3. Time the delivery
It’s a rule of thumb that around 100 words translate to a minute’s worth of audio. While writing the script, this will give you a fair idea of the duration of the recording. Of course, the speed may vary, depending on the content. The voiceover artist shouldn’t be under pressure to go at an unnatural speed just because you have a time limit. It’s the duty of the content creator to ensure that the text is concise and readable.
When you time the content, keep in mind that for the viewer (or listener), the voice will work in conjunction with the text and graphics on the screen. What’s spoken shouldn’t be laid out on the screen in its entirety, to avoid repetition. There should also be adequate relief between topics for the viewer to make the transition.
4. Spend time on rehearsal and retakes
Even with the right content and the perfect voiceover talent, you should rehearse a couple of times and welcome flexibility to do multiple takes. Retakes allow you to notice any discrepancies, lack of flow, heavy-sounding words, and uneven pace of delivery. With the first cut, you will be able to gather relevant reactions and feedback to improve the production. A rehearsal will also give you an opportunity to discern the character of the voice. Should it be more solemn? Does it need to sound playful? All these will become clearer only when you actually hear the voice recording.
If you are producing voiceover in the traditional way, remember that unlike text-to-speech software, it’s not easy to edit voiceovers once the recording is complete. If you have new information or need to update certain sections, you will have to get the same voiceover artist back to the recording studio. Aim to thoroughly check your material and do the necessary retakes that you can do on the spot.
5. Don’t make it all about the voice
Voice is only a component of your corporate training content. There is the written text on the screen, accompanying graphics, music, highlighted parts, and animation, if required. Don’t give undue emphasis on the voice. They should all come together to make the content appear comprehensible and memorable.
Think from the learners’ point of view and decide which part needs more emphasis depending on the topic. If the voice needs to be silent because the text on the screen is doing its job, allow it to be paused. It shouldn’t independently outperform with unwanted intonation or over-the-top playfulness.
6. Watch out for ambient noise
By now it should be clear that not anyone with a microphone and a laptop can become a voiceover artist. It should also be noted that just because that corner room of your office floor seems quiet doesn’t mean it’s the perfect place for recording an eLearning voiceover. What you perceive to be silent could be a noisy atmosphere, with the ambient sound of everything from office printers to air conditioners to elevators opening in the distance. Therefore, it makes sense to either go with a professional studio, which could prove to be expensive, or use an appropriate software to get rid of all the background noise.