If you’ve been in the voiceover business for a little while now, you’re probably familiar with the conversational voiceover. Whether it’s in your audition directions, your client’s instructions, or you’re hearing it from your coach, more voice artists are being asked to read scripts in a conversational style. It’s a departure from the days when a big booming delivery was the preferred style businesses desired from voice artists. Here’s what you need to know about the conversational voiceover trend.
What does it mean to read in a conversational style?
When you’ve read through a lot of different scripts throughout your voiceover career, you realize many of them aren’t written in a way people normally talk. Nonetheless, you’ve probably been directed to read it in a conversational style. A good way to describe the style is it’s talking like a person would talk with their friends. When you talk with your friends, it comes naturally to you. You speak more freely without thinking about what to say and how you sound. You probably use contractions like “I’ve” instead of “I have,” or colloquialisms like “gonna” instead of “going to.” In addition, our communication often tends to use regional expressions depending on where we’re from, less stiff language, slang, and sometimes fillers like “um.” While the concept of the conversational voiceover is easy to understand, the practice can be a challenge when reading a script.
Why have conversational voiceovers become popular?
More people expect realness, honesty, and transparency out of their companies. The big booming voices of the past that were used for ads don’t come off as believable anymore. Instead, people are more likely to believe in a voice that’s casual and sounds like how a real person would talk. The big booming voiceover isn’t completely extinct, as the style is still used often in local car commercials and furniture ads. Nonetheless, people feel more connected to an ad when they hear someone speaking in a casual tone and everyday speech that can easily explain complex ideas to them.
It’s especially true if the sound of the person speaking in a conversational style is of a similar background to them. Casual conversational voiceovers can also make brands appear more youthful and forward-thinking. It also humanizes the brand, and makes it feel like a business that’s actually human built, rather than built by a bunch of investors in a boardroom. There are a few common ways you might see a conversational style be incorporated in an ad script. It could be a positive upbeat voice directly telling people the benefits of a product, a script that asks the audience questions that help to build rapport, or showing solidarity in times of distress with language like “We feel your pain…” spoken in an empathetic tone.
How can I read in a conversational style?
While the practice of reading a script in a conversational style can be challenging, a few tips can be helpful in doing it well. The first thing you should remember is not to think so much about what you’re doing. After reviewing a script long enough, you can get a good sense of what the story is about and act it out the way you interpret it to sound. Then you can just focus on telling the story or reading the dialogue as if you’re really talking to someone. A technique that some find helpful is using a person’s photo. It’ll give you a sense of eye contact with another person and make you feel more able to talk out the script naturally.
Make yourself relaxed as well. Unless the script you’re reading requires a very emotional tone to it, relaxing will allow you to feel less like your trying to perform something, more like you’re just having a conversation. A common characteristic of normal conversation with friends or family is that it tends to be quick and not have much inflection. When being directed to read a script in a conversational tone, try to speak it with a little quickness and keep the tone of your voice flat. Additionally, we tend to speak louder than we normally do when we’re reading. Try to speak a little softer than you normally do, as if you were talking to someone that was sitting right in front of you. You should also not focus too much on articulating your words correctly, as this can sound rigid and forced. Lastly, when you use gestures and facial expressions when delivering your text, don’t overdo them, as they may cause your delivery to become “over-the-top.”
The conversational voiceover trend isn’t going away anytime soon. With the young generation of millennials and members of Gen Z desiring authenticity in businesses, more businesses are going to ask for voice artists to communicate in a conversational style. The tips that were outlined will help you keep up with this trend, and hopefully have many clients calling you for voiceover work.