eLearning is a major game changer in corporate and educational markets and is hot stuff in the voiceover industry too. People don’t have time for the old classroom, top‐down regime of learning when our wealth of information is exploding exponentially. Spending years in college learning information that may be dated or obsolete by the time you graduate is counter intuitive. The power of eLearning is in its affordability and capacity to increase learner retention, decrease class time, and pack in more material than old‐school methods. (yes, I meant to do that)
I happened to dive into this pool of voiceover work when it first went into production (in the mid 90s) and have been narrating at least one eLearning module or program a week ever since. With the industry exploding (expected global value by 2025 is $325B from its current 2017 value of $35B) more voiceover colleagues have been asking me to coach them on how to make the adjustment to narration for this market. Below is a list of my Top 10 things to keep in mind when recording for this genre of voiceover work. Enjoy!
(i.e. before hitting record), go over your text and break it break down. Perform a little analysis beyond the introduction, main body and conclusion. Most programs are broken into modules which are further broken down into pages, annotations or files. Beyond checking for pronunciation and writing out unfamiliar words phonetically, look for power words. These are words that anchor each sentence or idea. Often it will be verbs, but not always. Like a stage actor marking beats and shifts in a scene, pay attention to beats and shifts in the way your lesson unfolds. Every paragraph has an objective. Find it. Hint: it’s often at end, but not always.
2. The music of the genre.
Beyond knowing how to sustain long form narration by speaking from your diaphragm and understand how to “play your instrument”, one way to slide into great eLearning narration mode is to listen to others. Take a few eLearning courses. Good quality ones. Award winning ones. For the purposes of voiceover, don’t focus on the words, just listen to the music of the narrator and emulate it. This is a great technique for switching from any kind of voiceover genre to genre.
3. Identify your target learner.
It could be kids, college students, doctors, new employees. Maybe your eLearning program will help radiologists learn to give the proper dose of radiation to cancer patients, or teach construction workers how cut down on workplace accidents. Maybe it demonstrates how to apply highlights for hair colorists or helps someone properly fill out a form to get a government grant for a research project. Identifying your audience helps you know who you’re talking to and so, better target how you deliver your material.
4. Identify your role.
eLearning is (thankfully) going beyond the ubiquitous general narrator and is exploring new root characters. Along with the narrator role, you may be asked to be the peer, the kindergarten teacher, the pool or office manager, the gal or guy next door. Humor and quirk are often used to lighten up dense material. Very importantly, be conversational, authentic, and genuine in your role as a presenter.
5. Keep your technical stuff solid.
Your mic, preamp, ambient sound (booth), EQ/effects, editing and computer should be the best you can afford. I continually reinvest in better equipment, and hire my fav local sound man to help me get the best out of it. I also hire out editing and sweetening as often as I can afford. If tech stuff is not your arena, learn from the experts. Vobs.tv is a great source for anything technical.
Whether I booked work or not, I read out loud for an hour or more every day for several years in my first decade as a voiceover artist. Being able to lift words off a page and sound like you’re not reading takes time to master. This style of delivery is more and more what everyone in any kind of media production wants. Content may be king in the social media world, but conversation is king in the voiceover world.
People who aren’t used to reading aloud often stiffen or tense up. This tightens your vocal chords and neck muscles which pitches your voice up and isn’t sustainable for very long. Consequently, you’ll have different pitches in your read. Not good. Roll your shoulders. Breathe deep. Get comfortable and relax. You’ll sound better, appeal more to your listener and sustain it longer.
8. Connect with your material.
It makes sense that you need to understand what you’re talking about, right? If you don’t understand it, you have a difficult time convincingly teaching it. Unless you’re a seasoned veteran, read your text ahead of time for comprehension. Research what you don’t know. I have been doing medical narrations weekly for 20 years and can read them cold, however for a series of primers on options on the stock market, I had to marinate in the material for a while before I felt confident
presenting it as the expert.
9. Be present.
I love this Hollywoodism. It applies to so much in life. Including how to make you a better eLearning narrator. This involves staying in the moment, being aware of your words, your listener, and your role all at once with sustainable energy. Being present helps lead you forward in the text, like a good story teller. You pull the listener along like a magnet.
I know, I know. This is supposed to be tips about eLearning and water just applies to all voiceover, right? Even more so with eLearning, because it is long form narration. Mouth clicks and other annoying/embarrassing noises will populate your tracks if you don’t drink enough water. I drink a liter of water before beginning my work and then go through another 2‐4 liters in sips over the rest of day. This controls mouth clicks and keeps my instrument humming.
I narrate eLearning around the world virtually out of my home studio in Montreal. If you’d like one‐on‐one coaching for eLearning, give me a call. If you’re looking for a seasoned pro at an affordable rate, give me a call. If you’d like me to talk or make a presentation on any aspect of voiceover at your next eLearning workshop, give me a call.
Thirty years a voice over actor and coach, Kim narrates a high volume of eLearning projects and has the Grey’s Anatomy vocabulary to prove it. Connect with her here.
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