When selecting a voice-over talent, your first instinct might be to go with the most experienced ones. This is a good call since it reduces the chances of getting a bad voice-over, but a voice talent’s experience is not the only factor to consider.
Selecting voice-over talent is about finding a voice that fits the tone, goals, and personality of your brand. It takes a lot of skill to be a professional voice talent. Even when they don’t understand the subject, great voice talents can still sound like knowledgeable experts.
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Whether it’s for commercial or non-commercial use, finding the right voice talent can be a challenging task.
Here are five solid tips to help you through the process:
This post was updated in May 2021
Selecting Voice-over Talent: Rule #1
The most important rule of selecting voice-over talent isn’t even about the talents – it’s about the client.
Always define exactly what you what to achieve before selecting voice talent.
The keyword there is ‘exactly.’ Be as specific as you can be as you define the following criteria:
The type of information you want to present to your audience determines your project type. Do you want to hire a voice talent for an explainer video, a narration, or a sales commercial?
Voice talents have different specialties. Some have voices that are expressive and just perfect for storytelling. Others have years of experience with e-learning voice-overs. Some talents could voice radio commercials in their sleep.
To make it easier, we summarized the different types of voice talents you can select depending on how you want to deliver your information:
If you are creating a character for your voice-over, you need a voice that packs emotion and personality. Voice actors have flexible voices that can transform to fit multiple roles.
This is the classic voice-over sound you hear on the radio. This talent is perfect if you want to deliver a medium or a hard sell in an advertisement or movie trailer.
Now if you want a soft sell, go for a voice talent that can sound like the cool kid next door. These voice talents have a casual and friendly tone.
This voice-over talent can draw in an audience and remain authoritative while sounding approachable.
To find the right voice talent, you also need to specify what industry you are under. Voice-over talents in automotive commercials sound different from talents in children’s commercials.
Your chosen voice talent will need a lot of direction if they are to deliver your script perfectly. They will need to stick to a specific tone that reflects your brand guidelines.
And there are no restrictions here.
Banks used to be serious and authoritative, but it’s not uncommon today for a bank commercial to use a conversational (even upbeat) tone that makes them sound approachable. Your tone should influence the listener and help you achieve your goals. If you want to educate, go for a tone that sounds instructional and not commanding.
You can then select voice-over talent based on the way they deliver your chosen tone.
What Does Your Audience Want?
You may have found a voice talent that represents your brand, but do your listeners feel the same way? Conduct demographic testing to find out. It doesn’t have to be a big study (especially if your audience is small), but always strive for a comprehensive survey that answers all your questions.
Questions like these:
Male or Female Voice Talent?
Your campaign may be geared towards men, women, or it may be gender-neutral. Select voice-over talent based on what your audience can relate to.
People find male voices forceful while female voices are soothing and nurturing. Take all this into account when selecting voice-over talent.
You can learn more about how to choose between male and female voice-over here.
Selecting voice talent with the right accent will make your voice-over relatable. Whether you’re a local or foreign business owner, you can always appeal to local audiences by selecting a voice that best represents their country. This seems obvious: go with an American talent when addressing an American audience and so on. But it’s not that straightforward.
Sometimes, a foreign accent might be the way to go if your audience is open to it.
And don’t forget about the regional accents.
For instance, people in the UK trust the Scottish accent, while the US prefers their Southern accent because it sounds friendly. It’s easier to select voice-over talent when you know the type of language that appeals to your audience.
The age bracket of your audience will determine the type of voice talent you choose. Young people might relate to an expressive and upbeat voice while older demographics may be more inclined to a deeper and more mature voice. Again, it’s about eliciting specific emotions from your audience.
Selecting the wrong voice talent could mean alienating your listeners.
After you have all this information down, you can start to narrow down on the voice talent you want to select. Will it be a female voice-over talent for fashion products or a male narrator with a British accent.
Sample Different Voices Before Selecting a Voice-over Talent
You can’t select good voice-over talent unless you know what it sounds like. Listen to some voice-overs you like and identify what you like about them.
If you hear something you like, you can contact the voice-over talent right away and get the ball rolling. Rather than building a voice persona from the ground up, sampling allows you to hear different voices and better understand what you want.
You can even ask for a recommendation from a voice production agency with a variety of artists in their portfolio.
Before you settle for voice talent, listen to their previous samples (if available). This will give you an idea of what their voice can achieve in terms of adaptability and flexibility. You will also get to compare their previous work to your project so you can determine if the voice talent is the perfect fit.
Voice-over seems so easy, but it’s more than just reading words from a script.
You want to select voice-over talent that knows what they are doing. Professional voice talents go through a lot of training, and the more they take on different jobs, the more flexible and refined their voices become. It takes time to grow the skill of a voice talent, so if you have to choose, go for those who have been in the industry for a while.
Good At Recording
Chances are that your voice talent will work remotely unless it’s a big project that requires them to go into the studio with you. Before accepting a talent as part of your team, make sure they can provide audio in the format and quality you want.
Do they have the right recording equipment?
You can judge the quality of an actor’s voice based on their demo, but you need reassurance that the voice talent can deliver the same quality of audio if hired. Maybe their demo is good because they used a better recording studio. Ask about the studio equipment and specs they will use to record your voice-over. How is the microphone quality, and is their home studio sound-proofed? These questions seem a little obvious, but they are necessary.
There’s nothing worse than hiring a voice talent only to discover that they don’t have what it takes to elevate your project.
When selecting voice-over talent, ask if they have a phone patch that allows you to listen in on their recording sessions. This way, you can offer direction in real-time instead of sending files back and forth.
Ask for a Custom Audition
Now that you know what you want your voice-over to sound like, and you are sure your voice-talent can deliver quality, it’s time to ask for a custom audition.
Simple request your prospective hire to record a few sentences of the script and send it over. Don’t ask them to record the entire script (unless it’s really short). A custom audition gives you a chance to gauge the versatility of the voice talent. It also allows you to critic their delivery before they voice the final script.
You should also ask one more thing when selecting voice-over talent:
Will they be available when needed?
A good number of voice talents have full-time jobs and only do voice-overs for some extra cash. Maybe your hired talent can only work on the weekends or after business hours. Double-check and make sure you are on the same schedule.
Something for Voice-over Talents
Everybody and their mother is a voice-over talent these days. The competition for voice-over jobs is stiff. Today, automated software, unexperienced talents, and even celebrities are trying to snag the best voice-over jobs for themselves. This means that to stand out as a voice talent, you need to truly perfect your craft.
What separates the pros from all the rest is their experience and even more, their skill. It takes hard work and persistence to make it as a voice-over talent.
Don’t Rely on Demos Alone
Clients know that demos are not all they seem. There are no deadlines or guidelines involved when recording voice samples, so they cant truly represent a talent’s ability to work with a brand. As a voice talent, you need to have access to a good recording studio that allows you to record good quality audio every time, even on short notice.
Even if they don’t ask it, you can offer to do a custom audition for your client.
And one final tip; always strive to do the job right the first time.
When it comes to voice-over, it’s about what you say and how you say it. If you select the perfect voice-over talent but your script is bad, your voice-over will sound horrible. Not even a good voice talent can bring a bad script to life.
To make it easier on yourself, define your goals and your persona before starting the search for voice talent.
And always keep your audience in mind when selecting voice-over talent because they are the bridge between your brand and anyone who listens to the voice-over. The talent you choose will be a physical representation of who you are. The audience has to relate to this voice. And once your voice-over project is complete, don’t throw away your talent’s contact: you might need them in the future.