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Nailing the Conversational Read

The "conversational" voice is everywhere! Although it sounds simple to master, sometimes being yourself is the most difficult part of voice acting.

Here are some tips to become an expert on the conversational read.

  • Choose your setting. One of the best ways to sound conversational is to feel conversational by puting yourself in the shoes of whoever is talking. Remember the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. For example, suppose you're reading an ad for Budweiser to unveil their fancy new cans. Close your eyes and envision yourself at a tailgate, cold beer in hand. There's a buzz of excitement in the air as you tell your buddies, Tom and Eric, your thoughts on the new coach and how excited you are to be at the first game of the season. You take a sip of your beer and damn! this thing beer is even colder and more refreshing than you remembered. Let those feelings, thoughts, and emotions of being at that tailgate come through with your voice. Have an actual person in mind that you are speaking to. The more you feel the emotions behind the script, the more sincere you sound.

  • Get out of your head and be yourself. The best tip I have ever received was, "forget everything you ever learned about voiceover." Stop focusing on where you're putting an emphasis, how you're saying this or that, or how bad you messed up that last line. Focus on reading the text that's in front of you and sounding like yourself. Maybe when you're excited, there's a touch of vocal fry, or when you're angry, you purse your lips which causes the words to sound differently. Be yourself and stop overthinking it.

  • Memorize the script. At some point in your voiceover career you have probably received feedback that you sound like you're reading off a sheet of paper. And as much as we hate to admit it, it's usually true; when we're simply reading words in front of us, we lack the emotion behind the words. However, if we memorize the script, we'll focus on how we say them, not what we're saying. If you can't memorize the full script, try memorizing the first few lines so you can sound natural.

  • Add on on-ramp. One of the best ways to make something sound conversational is by leading into the script with things you'd actually say. For example, if your script starts with "Stop by Honda of Lacey for the deal of a lifetime!", add a sentence before it to get yourself into the mindset. In this case, I would think of my real-life friend Sarah who is notorious for driving around cars that seemingly always break at the most inconvenient times, and I'd say, "Look, Sarah, I know it's incredibly stressful not having a reliable car to get to work in. But you don't have to do that any more! You can sell your hoopty and... stop by Honda of Lacey for the deal of a lifetime!" See what I did there? I added some of my own personality to the front of the script, which made the rest of the script sound more conversational, and talked to a real person about a solution that would help her de-stress.

  • Adjust your positioning. Our body language comes through in our words. If you were tucked into a ball on the ground, your voice would probably sound like it, too! Apply this logic to your scripts. If you're reading a commencement message, you may want to stand up straight, wear a proud smile, and clasp your hands in front of you on a podium. Alternatively, if you're reading a conversational script for a bowling alley, consider putting your hands in your pockets and relaxing your shoulders.

Conversational scripts can sound anxiety-inducing, but they don't have to be! Learning to let go and be yourself is one of the best things you can do to sound natural and give a great performance.

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