So You Think You Can Talk?

singing birdNearly thirty years ago, the great avant-garde art rock composer Brian Eno told a small group of college students: “Hundreds of people send me tapes of their compositions. One thing nearly everyone does is apologize for the poor production values of the recordings. Often the poor production values are the only thing that make the recordings at all interesting.”

Nowadays, fairly sophisticated recording equipment is available at the consumer level. If you are producing an online tutorial or demo, you might be tempted to simply record your own voice. After all, we hear podcasts, webinars, and audio from Flipcams online every day. Here are a few reasons why you should think twice before taking a D.I.Y. approach to voiceovers and consider hiring a professional voice-over artist.

  1. Talent. They call it “voiceover talent” for a reason. I once recorded a scratch track for a Flash demo I was working on so I could get the timing of the actions right. I thought it sounded pretty good. When I heard the final recordings by voiceover artist Jill Goldman of Goldivox, I was stunned. Her warm, earthy tones made the material — a tutorial about how to use a nonprofit research organization’s website — come alive. Her tracks sounded so much better than my speaking voice that she will always be my first call if I need to record voiceovers again.
  2. Convenience. You might think it won’t take you all that long to record a quick voiceover, but you might be surprised at how long it takes you to set up equipment, arrange the time to do the work, and perform the voice tracks many times until you get it right. When you consider the costs of your time to do this kind of work, it usually makes sense to outsource it.
  3. Quality. A voiceover artist usually has several choices of places to record, whether it’s a basic decent home sound recording setup or a professional recording studio. Don’t be like the young lady who had to include a credit for “Dad on lawnmower” on her first recording.
  4. Experience. Whether you need help with audio formats or finding background music, a professional voiceover artist has dealt with a lot of the issues around adding voice tracks to projects before. This expert advice comes with the territory when you’re working with a pro.
  5. The Leaky Pipe Rule. As my plumber once told me while repairing a catastrophic situation that I had caused, “Do what you do best, and pay for the rest.” Why not do things right the first time?

2 thoughts on “So You Think You Can Talk?

  1. Well said! Thanks for supporting professional voice talent!

    I believe the key is creating a vocal character that helps the listener/viewer connect and understand — whatever the topic or production. But this is especially true with online learning.

    When I record for e-learning, I think about the ONE person who is listening/viewing and how my delivery of the text can best help them learn the material and help them feel as though I am supporting and encouraging them — bringing the tone of a supportive, human teacher to their online experience.

    And in some e-learning scenarios, the learner is not there by choice (required training at work, ambivalent students at school, etc.) so keeping a tone that is supportive — and if the script allows, humorous — can make all the difference in the level of learning that takes place.

    • Great thoughts, Eric. I hadn’t considered the scenario where the learner is not there by choice. If you like, reply to this comment and tell our small but growing audience more about your work!

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