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"The Most Common Voiceover War Story!" or How I learned to love Conflicting Directions in

Most commercial and corporate voiceover war stories from seasoned voiceovers go something like this:

"I was in the booth, ready for the booked session. Had the copy prepared, knew the options I was going to give and couldn't wait to get going. In the other room were the three client representatives, the creative head, campaign producer and motion graphics designer from the agency, the engineer, studio manager and teaboy. The engineer gives the go ahead and I do a practice take followed by a 2nd take. We then spend the next 20 minutes talking about the conflicting direction to take from all the voices in the room, especially the clients. The lead client comes in and says: 'can you do it more like the colour yellow…”

Decision by committee can be familiar in the voiceover booth. And a direction like “yellow” isn’t helpful to the voiceover artist. But it is the client trying to steer the project in the direction that they need it to go. It’s understandable, they have to answer to the Chief Marketing Officer, who in turn has to answer to the CEO and CFO. Ultimately, everyone involved in the process wants this to be something that adds value to people’s lives.

So how to help a client speak in a more effective language?

A direction like “Yellow” is in the realm of feeling and sensation. It’s likely this direction is what the client wants the after experience of the project to feel like for the audience as that will create the perfect environment in which the audience will take action. To do something positive by adding this product or service to their life.

So, words, directions, thoughts and comments to the voiceover artist about reads are best framed in the following question: How do I want to make the audience feel?

Rather than “yellow” we can say “uplifted”. A direction like that to a voiceover in the booth with 9 others on the other side of the window is far more helpful and effective than “yellow.” We go from vague and general to specific and immediately actionable.

Next time the client comes in, this question is a way to help them give input that can be immediately employed, while still having their voice heard. They are after all the one’s paying for everything.

To finish the story from above: "Yellow, I think. What in the world does he mean by that?” I feel tense in my body, as I am running around in my head, trying to work out what it means and what he wants. I take a deep breath and I start to relax, my training and experience kicking in. I nod, smile and do it like I did it first time. Client: 'Perfect. We got it.'

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Paul Mclaughlin © Versatile Voiceovers

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