Why A Conversational Read?
In today’s fast paced world, people are busier than ever. We multitask while listening to commercials, and our attention is not usually focused on listening to the content, or really even caring about it. As a listener, you can hear a noise but you don’t have to concentrate or even focus on the noise, unless it grabs your attention in some way. Obviously this makes it very difficult for advertisers to sell their products! Our job as voice talent is to get their attention, make them aware of their “pain point”, and ultimately, convince them to buy the product. That said, in the commercial market, there are many reasons why a conversational, real read works better to “sell” a product rather than the older, hard sell “announcer” style:
- We are an educated consumer – we do not like being told what to do or what to buy
- We research products to educate ourselves on what to buy, where to buy, and who to buy from
- We ask for the advice of our friends on what to buy – both in person and online
- We look at real testimonials from our peers for validation
- Peer based Marketing calls for a Peer based conversational “sell”
- Advertisers typically hire a voice talent in the same target market that they are selling to (Peer based Marketing)
Therefore, when a director, casting agent or producer asks you for a “Conversational” or “Natural” read, what they are really asking for is a believable read, one that sounds authentic and genuine.
12 Tips to Help you Sound Conversational
A lot of times when a student tries to be more conversational, they drop their energy too much, which in turn makes their pacing too slow. The melody and passion become flat. Remember, as voiceover artists, our goal is to engage our audience in a personal conversation so that they will actually listen to us rather than just hear us. This type of read is not about how pretty or well executed you sound – its about how well you connect, engage and communicate with the listener. Communication comes from a deeper place within human relations, which is more emotional – and less technically diction focused.
Concentrate on developing your conversational ear. Start by really listening to yourself when you are in conversation with others. Listen to your pitch, your inflection patterns, and pay close attention to the phrasing and pacing of your words. Record yourself having different conversations with people and listen back frequently to get a feel for different emotions and context. (You can do this easily using your mobile phone!)
Try these tips:
- Clearly define your target audience: Know who you are talking to – gender, age range, economics, locale and predicaments
- Visualize who you are talking to: Make it an audience of ONE – pick an actual person that has a name, and is someone you know.
- Become the character: If your role is that of a mother talking about the best paper towels to clean up her family’s messes, you don’t pretend to be a mother, you actually become the mother in the script.
- Play the Paper: Imagine the face of the person you just pictured in the actual copy and talk to them.
- Pre-Roll: Preface the copy with words such as “ You know…” or “ Let me tell you something….” before you start. This will help you get into the flow of the conversation easier.
- Speak from your Diaphragm and Chest, not your throat: This typically means you start in a lower register, which helps you to sound more connected and authentic.
- Phrasing Phrasing Phrasing: Focus on smoothing out the delivery and tumbling the speech more so it feels a bit more like a stream of ideas. Imagine each word touching the next with as little space in between as possible. Example: I – want – to – go – to – the – grocery – store – today – and – buy – some – ice – cream – sandwiches. When spoken naturally, that sentence may sound more like: I (wantogo) to the (grocerystoretoday) and (buysome) (icecreamsandwiches). This does not mean to slur the words, but to phrase them together as you would in normal speech.
- Emphasize Key Words: Determine which words are important to the story – emphasis words may be “lengthened” (adjust the pacing) or inflected differently
- Improv: A creative choice that you make with your delivery that may not be indicated on the script, but one that makes sense and helps to make your delivery sound realistic. Some examples of creative decisions are adding a chuckle, a sigh, pausing for impact or smiling as you speak.
- Physicality: Hold an object in your hands and point to it as if you are having a real conversation.
- Avoid Repetition and Predictable Patterns: This will “lull” your listener to sleep! Make sure you have cohesive variety (between phrases) – Be aware of your pitch and pace from sentence to sentence. Watch out for similar beginnings/endings from sentence to sentence.
- Three times a charm: Read the copy through once. Then Read the copy a 2nd time WAY over the top. Then re-read the copy again in your normal voice you will notice that now, it will then be a more natural read.
Anne is a full time Voice Talent, Coach and Producer located in Orange County, CA, and offers private coaching and mentoring to students in person, as well as via Skype and ipDTL. For more information, please visit https://anneganguzza.com/coaching