28 Jan 2014

Don’t Scare Them With Your Voice: Entice and Engage Them!

The user experience, even in video and audio content is important. Would you agree? I have seen some strides in video enhancements, especially with the use of screen capture tools (including freebie tools on the web), but it seems that audio is still lacking, in many cases. I’m here to say that you CAN improve the audio on your video content and provide a more enjoyable experience for your users (and not scare them away!). Let’s see where we can improve.

I created some examples, for the purpose of this article. All of them were the same text (shown in the video) and in all cases, I “read” the text, as a script, to keep all of the examples fair. I wanted to demonstrate that the script, itself, does not have to be the limiting factor (especially if you practice the script before recording).

First, let’s look at some examples of what “not to do.” The two examples that I put together were almost painful to record, but more painful than that was the experience I had listening to the audio files that inspired these examples. You see, the first one (monotone), was a training video that accompanied a tool that I purchased, and had it not been for the fact that I really wanted the tool, I would have returned it based on the discomfort of listening to the videos. Yes, the video was that bad, to a point where it depressed me to listen to the monotone. All I could think of was wondering if the person making the video was that depressed about his own product. Certainly that training video would never make the sale. Fortunately, the product made the sale, in that case.

The second example, over-emphasized, was from an audible book. Sadly, the person is an experienced voiceover talent and has done several of these books. To ensure that it was not me that was crazy, I checked the reviews and found out that my opinion was consistent with other users’ experiences with this particular technique used by this voiceover talent (what I call “over-emphasizing”). All of them said the same thing, that they were only listening because the content from the author (not the voiceover talent) was that incredible that they were going to “grin and bear it” when it came to the audio version. Why the company that hired this gentleman doesn’t read the reviews and either hire another voiceover talent or simply re-train this gentleman, is beyond me. He was obviously talented, but his over-emphasis, in the audio, was like finger nails on a chalkboard.

So, while I would love to share the original audio on both of these, so that you can see what I mean, I respect people too much and did not want to affect their credibility, and so I have not “named them.” Instead, I tried to illustrate it by repeating what I heard, as examples below.

Examples of What “Not To Do”

Monotone (Boring!)

This particular style of audio presentation gives the impression that the speaker is depressed and doesn’t like his or her own product or service. For those of us inclined to empathize, we are distracted AWAY from the content and trying to figure out why the presenter is so depressed and what is wrong with the product or service that may be making the presenter that depressed. For those of us just listening to the content, we become unenthused and uninterested in what we hear. We are easily distracted by something more engaging, discarding this audio or video product by the wayside. At the least, a monotone presentation is not helping the sales process or the return visit. In my particular situation, I will not be buying another software product from this particular vendor, as it affects my view of the overall product, thinking that if the person is that depressed, that maybe they are too depressed to ensure the quality of the product. This is more of a subconscious response. Let me ask you, are any of these responses the responses that you want to give your users, site visitors, or consumers of your product or service?

Over-Emphasized (Please Stop!)

This one had me attempting to crawl out of my skin. The voiceover talent was indeed talented, but the emphasis on the last couple of words at the end of the sentence about had me reaching for the ear plugs. The reason that I had purchased the audio file (audible.com) was because I wanted to listen to the content of the book while working, but the audio was so painful (not just distracting, but painful), that I was wondering about re-considering my schedule to make time to do the old-fashioned thing and read the book instead. Any time you have an audio file (book, video, podcast, etc.), where the listener is spending more time asking themselves if you are going to over-emphasize the last few words in the next sentence, rather than listening to the content of the sentence, you have a problem. Sadly, this is a case of working “too hard” versus the monotone example above, and we really need to find a balance.

A Winning Balance (Engaging Example)

There are several variations of a successful audio (as well as other components necessary in the creation of that successful audio), but the key is to avoid the extremes that are illustrated above, which range from “not enough” to “too much.” The real balance here, in engaging your audience, is to use the same skills you would use at a cocktail party. If you speak monotone, are people going to stay listening? If you are in their face, over-enunciating the end of each sentence, how long will they be standing there? Whatever works for you while you converse with people at the dinner table, you can merge into your audio recordings. Treat the audience like they are real people listening and create the warmth that you would create in the conversation.

That is a good place to start. Obviously, professional voiceover talent takes it further, but this is a good start for anyone wanting to add their own audio to a video or audio product.

Steps To Improve Your Voiceover Quality

  • Be Conversational.
  • Picture people (or just one person, if that is easier) as you are recording.
  • Practice the script several times to get the hang of it, before recording.
  • Realize that unless you are paying by the minute, there are do-overs.
Hire A Professional

If it is too difficult or the audio portion is outside your skill set (or time availability), consider hiring someone to do it for you. There are many professional organizations that do a wonderful job. Maybe you even know someone who would do it for free or barter for services. Another option is to use Fiverr.com. There are many gigs on Fiverr that you could purchase, to cover your voiceover needs, for a reasonable price.

So, now that you have figured out what doesn’t work (and how that may be impacting your brand and sales), let’s take steps to improve our audio and improve our users’ experience, shall we?


  1. Travis Garner February 3, 2014 at 2:56 AM

    I wish I could agree more, but I can’t. I’m at my maximum level of agreement.

    Entirely too many companies try to hard to push a certain voice. So often if falls flat and is just embarrassing.

    Excellent post!

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