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?
British Voice Over Artist
Helen Langford is a professional voiceover and actor. She records voice overs for eLearning, on-hold messaging, whiteboard animations and more, from her home studio in Devizes, Wiltshire. Contact Helen today for a free custom demo and no obligation quote.
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