How to get the most out of a voice actor

4 min read

While Voice123 has a global roster of superlative talent, how to get the most out of a voice actor is a question that our Customer Success team gets asked surprisingly frequently. Because there are so many variables in the recording equation, it’s not a simple question to answer either.

Consider this…

Have you ever had a new coworker step into your workplace, and work uncomfortably close to you? 

The most out of a voice actor: image of two colleagues in front of a screen in an office
Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

It’s not that you mind people in general, but they’re new, they’re shy, and maybe even inexperienced. It’s a bit of teeth-pulling, hand-holding, and maybe something of a pain bringing them up to speed.

True story, right?

But you bite the bullet, chug down your coffee and take the lead, hoping they’re one of the keeners that learns quickly. But as you work through the process – heck, you realize it’s a ton of work onboarding someone!

The business of onboarding

If you’re familiar with such an experience (or can at least imagine it), remember to take the insights you’ve gained from it into the recording studio. Working with a voice actor for the first time is little different.

Luckily, if they’re truly professional, they will show their enthusiasm, keen attitude, and provide value. Chances are they won’t be shy, and they’ll probably be experienced. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done! It can be a bit of a process, but with the right setup, most of the work can be taken care of. Then, it’s all about creativity in the studio.

Despite the fact that so many of us have adapted to working from our own space of over the past couple of years, and voice actors working from their own studios has become the rule rather than the exception, the process of ‘onboarding’ your voice actor hasn’t really changed. Instead of a live in-studio prep, it’s virtual. The same rules of engagement apply. Let’s take a closer look.

Choose your actor wisely

Most out of a voice actor: image of a man sitting with a mic in front of his laptop
Photo by Sandra Tenschert on Unsplash

Pick the right voice actor. No – we’re not kidding. First and foremost, you have to find the right voice. So, what’s right for you and your project? Only you can answer that. But if you know your project well — maybe it’s an ad, a promo, or an eLearning video — you’ll know what you’re looking for in your voice actor.

Say for example, an ad read for something exciting like the Super Soaker collection. Naturally you’ll gravitate towards a voice actor who has an energetic and dramatic voice, rather than a friendly and engaging kind of voice for suitable for more conversational eLearning videos.

If you’re looking at voice actors, their profiles or bios will highlight what they’re good at and what their voice is generally suited for. They may even say what they prefer. Voice123 offers an array of handy filters that can bring you as near as dammit to the voice you need – instantly! Give it a try and you’ll instantly see what we mean. While many clients tend to shoot from the hip in the sense that they will ask for anything up to fifty auditions, it’s sometimes better – especially if you’re pressed for time – to do the legwork yourself and find that perfect voice you need.

Be sure to listen to a variety of a voice actor’s samples, as well as the versatility and flexibility of their voice. The precise vocal tone you want may not be showcased in first sample you listen to. Listening to several samples will also better inform you of what they actually sound like by providing you with a sound portrait. It’s the best way to choose the right voice actor.

The brief

An essential part of a voice actor’s work is the brief. Get this right, and you’re prepping your voice actor to fly!

Getting the best out of them means preparing them to the best of your ability. And that means answering these questions:

  • Who is the voice actor speaking to?
  • What is the role the voice actor is playing?
  • What’s the mood and intention of the voiceover?
  • How does the voice actor want to feel, and make the audience to feel?

That, and other questions, of course. Try to answer as many as you can, and be open to other questions. Having a well-prepared professional behind the mic is the best way to ensure they shine!

You’ll also want to highlight the details and intricacies of your voice over, such as keywords, or punctuated phrases. That helps the voice actor home in on what’s most important in your voice over, make it stand out, and make what’s not important sound genuine and contextual.

If you’ve both done your preparation well, and the voice is a good fit, the voiceover will sound oh-so-natural. That’s the best you can ask for from a voice actor.

Most out of a voice actor: image of a Neuman U87 mic
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Be creative

So you’ve found the right voice, you’ve got all the details prepared for your voice actor, and you’re ready to go. The good news is, you’ve already sown the seeds, and it’s time to harvest!

Keep creativity in mind as you direct or work with your voice actor. Allow at least one full script read, and give the voice actor some time to acclimatize to the tone and pacing you’ve asked for. The idea is not to stifle the process, but to support it.

You may even want to ask for their own interpretation of the script. Voice actors are creative people! Their interpretation just might be the one you’re looking for.

And if you hit a road bump getting the right read, you can think about being creative with direction. Here’s an example:

Is your voice actor having a hard time saying something enthusiastic about something they don’t particularly relate to — maybe skiing? Ask them about what their favourite sport is, and ask them to imagine that sport when they’re talking about skiing.

Sounds cheesy, but it’s a nifty trick that’s often employed by directors. What’s more, it seems to work well! This kind of creative thinking and direction will help the voice actor really zone in on what you’re looking for.

Final thoughts

It’s helpful to look at how to direct a voice actor to help you in the actual recording process, but that only comes after the prep.

Just remember, it’s a team effort, and it’s not about taking from your voice actor, but allowing them to flourish. You’ll be amazed at how great they can then be. 

And that’s how to get the most out of a voice actor.

May all your future voice over projects be a fantastic success!


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