Pregnant pause. Dramatic pause. Whatever you call it a pause is never just a pause, is it? It’s never just a bit of silence when nobody’s speaking.
When narrating a voice over script, pauses are golden. They can even be edited-in afterwards; but finding the right place for them within the narration is where the magic really happens.
Need to let that information sink in? Pause.
Need authority? Pause.
Need to draw in your listener? Pause.
Need to seem caring and compassionate? Pause.
This may sound simple or obvious, but the novice voiceover artist or speaker can easily skip this consideration in their haste to ‘get through the read’. It can also be a particular (acting) challenge to maintain the energy of a read – and the interest of the listener - whilst also finding and honouring the pauses, the gaps…
Pausing is not a popular pastime in our modern world. We’re not set up for it. Busyness and ‘doing’ is valued above all else.
'Being', just well, being–with no agenda and no list - is not the obvious way to frame a response to So what did you get up to at the weekend?
-Well, I stared into space, picked some fluff off my jumper, pottered around the garden and dozed with the cat.
-What?! You under-achiever-you, go get a life, get a hobby!
Simplicity is seriously under-rated. We see it as non-constructive, literally a waste of time.
Perhaps we're a bit scared of it, and of its close relation - Silence.
We mostly want to fill it, don't we?
But the absence of words/sound doesn't mean the absence of meaning. Quite the opposite. Every pause holds the truth and an opportunity for understanding. Try it. Relish it.
In the words of Rumi..... 'Listen to silence. It has so much to say.'
To listen to my work with words (and silence) click HERE To discuss your voiceover requirements - Get in Touch
This summer was audiobook season in my booth! From light and fun (a children's storybook) to dark and rather sinister...The Sicilian Woman's Daughter was a wonderful chance to both use a little of my Italian language skills and to do some challenging voice-acting, conveying the brutal reality of Mafia life.
Here's an overview:
As the daughter of Sicilian immigrants, in her teens Maria turns her back on her origins and fully embraces the English way of life. Notwithstanding her troubled and humble childhood in London, and backed up by her intelligence, beauty and sheer determination, she triumphantly works her way up to join the upper middle-class of British society.
There she becomes a bastion of civility.
But a minor incident wakes up feelings of revenge in her, like those lurking in Maria’s Sicilian origins. As she delves deeper into her mother’s family history a murky past unravels, drawing Maria more and more into a mire of vendetta.
After my first take of the Prologue to the Sicilian Woman's Daughter, the author asked that I give the the voiceover more lingering 'menace'. Even the description of the making of traditional Sicilian biscuits 'cuddureddi' needed emotional depth - the listener needed to sense that those same, aged-but-agile female hands had committed murder...
Described as a 'must-read for mystery lovers' - you can read more about this gripping story here and order a copy.
Here's a short extract where Maria is describing the legendary and terrifying Great Aunt Ziuzza...
Need a versatile voice-actor to tell your story? Get in touch
What’s in a smile? - Compassion, trust, warmth, friendship, understanding…the list goes on. But why is a smile so important in voiceovers? Maybe you’re narrating something obviously smiley – a cute children’s storybook, say, meant for this little fella and his mates, above.
But maybe not – that 10,000 word e-learning course on health&safety in the workplace isn’t exactly joyful.
What could there possibly be to smile about?
Smiling gives you presence. And that’s something you can hear. It says I am fully in this moment (not thinking about my holiday plans). Does the narrator/speaker care about what he/she is saying? With a smile, the answer will almost always be Yes. Smiling brings warmth to your tone of voice, and when you sound warm you are more likeable – and more listenable. People want to tune in and hang around for longer.
The Dalai Lama says:
‘A simple smile. That’s the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to others.’
Compassion is an important quality to cultivate as a Voiceover, a Speaker or a Presenter. Compassion for your listener, what do they need to hear; how will you ensure they hear it? Compassion for your script – what is it really saying? What are the key messages? Compassion for any characters you are playing – why do they matter?
Now, I'm not suggesting every voiceover-narration or presentation be performed with an enormous grin! It's more subtle than that. Indeed, I think of it as the 'subtle-smile'. Pick up a newspaper and try reading an article with a gentle smile ie. your mouth turned up at the corners, allowing your cheeks to lift. How does it sound? How does it feel? Try reading the same piece with your mouth flat - those corners turned down - and feel the difference. Next, record yourself reading in these two ways (use your phone's recorder if you don't have a microphone).
Listen back, can you hear the difference?
This subtle-smile technique can be used in any scenario to bring warmth, presence and 'listenability' to all manner of spoken content: presentations, lectures, formal speeches, and demonstrations.
I recently gave a talk on voiceover and presentation techniques at a women's networking lunch, and I met a lady who works as a funeral Celebrant. With an emphasis on honouring and celebrating the life of the deceased, she was keen to convey a sense of warmth and humanity to the gathering of loved-ones. She wanted to avoid sounding like she'd read the words a hundred times before - perhaps an easy trap for someone in the ceremonial-leading business. Her voice being her instrument, we discussed how the subtle-smile could be a very simple means of engaging - with both the words of the ceremony and, hopefully, with the hearts and minds of her listeners.
Why not try the subtle-smile next time you're narrating or presenting?