By Stephanie Ciccarelli
June 20, 2011
Are you interested in narrating for businesses, organizations and educational institutions?
Voice Over London, a Voices.com sponsored networking and meetup group, met last weekend and delved into many facets of narration for businesses and have some takeaways and tips to share!
Find out what we learned and discussed in today's VOX Daily.
This month, our meetup group discussed corporate narration, the work that is available in this field as well as the seemingly endless opportunities to be an audio ambassador for businesses, institutions and organizations around the world.
If you're new to the concept of Voice Over London, most of our monthly workshops follow this framework:
à¹ Active listening
à¹ Voicing with peer to peer feedback
Each month has a different focus. In the past, we've covered topics such as audio recording technology, the voice as instrument and how to care for the voice, the business of voice over, audiobooks, vocal agility as related to the works of Dr. Seuss, and most recently, corporate narration.
Corporate narration is voice over work done for businesses, institutions and organizations that is used to promote, educate and inform customers or those being served, both prospective and present. Corporate narration can also be referred to as business narration or industrial narration.
à¹ Informational videos
à¹ Web tutorials
à¹ Employee training
à¹ PowerPoint presentations
à¹ Flash presentations
à¹ Marketing pieces
Voiceovers for this application are generally authoritative, didactic, strong and intelligent (yes, intelligent!). Talent are expected to represent the business they are speaking for to engage the listener, and through their interpretation of the script, achieve the goal of an organization.
During our workshop, we listened to some select samples of demos found in the Business category of our Directory at Voices.com. I did my best to present contrasting voice types, ages and styles and was able to curate five demos for the active listening portion of our workshop. The following demos were heard and appreciated:
Mike Cooper - Corporate Video - London Oncology Clinic (UK)
Shelley Baldiga - French Tourism Marketing video
Skip Orem - Business Mashup
Maureen Cavanaugh - Business/Podcast narration
Alain Cadieux - French Canadian Business
The mix of voice types, reads, gender, accents, languages spoken and production elements proved exemplary of just how much work is out there for people who are narrating for business. According to our in-house job statistics, 65% of all voice over jobs posted at Voices.com are business related with another 25% of them falling under education.
When we were listening to the demos listed above, I took the time to not only play Shelley Baldiga's business demo on her profile but to also show her voicing a corporate read in a real-world application for Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare's website as "Shelley" leading visitors through Information Therapy Conversations. Many were impressed that she could go from one kind of read to something completely different.
The primary reason for the differentiation? The audience was different as was the reason why they were being spoken to.
When you narrate for surveys or conversations such as what Shelley has done, and even for extensive telephony work for that matter, you get to present a number of scenarios and paths that the user can explore or make use of. You can liken this to a "choose your own adventure" book and also equate the increased number of prompts or lines to be read with more work and greater pay.
If you'd like the straight-to-the-point version of our takeaways, I've included my points upfront. For a more detailed analysis, read beyond the bullet points.
Many corporate narration pieces are:
à¹ Out of date
à¹ Use amateur talent
à¹ Use in-house talent
à¹ Have poorer production value
à¹ Lack professionalism
à¹ Aren't as effective as they could be
During our discussions about corporate narration, particularly narration that has been heard locally, it was noted that many corporate presentations and training materials are outdated in terms of the video and voice over that accompanies it.
I'm sure you can relate to this where you are if you've ever sat through a training video or the like where the information itself was fine but the way it was presented was either dating itself or the caliber of talent and or production was not on par with what you'd expect from a large corporation or governing body.
Along this theme, Voice Over London member Leslie Pidlubny concurred that some training materials are out of date and also noted that these pieces were produced using individuals at companies internally to do the voice overs and acting.
Some of the programming discussed appeared to have not been updated since the 1980s or 1990s.
On a more encouraging note, if you notice training materials or communications pieces that could stand to be updated, you could be well on your way to being the next voice of that company by providing them with a more professional performance. Finding the right way to communicate that information is key so as not to offend.
That being said, there are many companies who are using different strategies and techniques when crafting their corporate communications pieces.
Scott Thomson asserted that companies who find unique ways to connect with their target audience and present information in an innovative and relevant way, tend to enjoy more success and greater user adoption. One example that he cited was how the Starwood Customer Contact Centre produced a rap video using the information they wanted to communicate to their audience.
Additionally, the point was made that exhibiting a more "national" sound (i.e. not regionalisms) was beneficial to booking corporate narration gigs where voice over is concerned. Many companies want to have a broader appeal and tend to pick talent who have neutral accents so far as their national standard. For instance, this neutral voice could be what you hear in the American Midwest or that "NPR" sound. In Canada, it would be the "CBC" voice or in the UK you could be looking at the "BBC" voice or RP English.
One question that came up was how one decides which way to take a read in an audition situation. After some discussion, the consensus was that in order to give a focused and meaningful read, you need to first determine who the audience is before you can approach the read with a relevant interpretation where the listener is concerned.
Knowing what a client wants is more than half the battle when it comes to submitting the winning read. Bob Purssglove offered some insight on the topic and recommended when delivering a read, that you as the voice actor always be "At your best and most convincing," so that you can confidently provide the casting director with your best effort.
Bob also suggested that if you don't know how to read a script, take some time to think of 5 ways not to read it and then see what you're left with. Sometimes the process of elimination can help you to identify where you should go (and shouldn't go!) with a read.
That being said, coaching can help immensely for developing interpretation skills and building a framework for.
Doug Jeffery, a student of Terry Daniel of the VoiceOverClub.com, acknowledged that you can't just teach yourself interpretation, relating that "You have to go through the scripts one by one and tear them apart with your teacher. Playbacks are helpful. Sessions with your coach help you to increase your level of confidence with direction and interpretation."
As you may have inferred from Doug's contribution, talent are equipped to apply more intuition, once developed through coaching, to interpret a read.
Whether you have some tips to share or you'd like to comment on what you read, I'd love to hear from you!
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