8 Common Voiceover Mistakes and How to Avoid Making Them

The quality of execution and content during voiceover are both extremely important factors for achieving conversion and information retention in animation. Here at Fudge, our end-to-end service means that we frequently provide advanced voice work and script writing, so we know what to look out for to make the audio of your project compliment and enhance your visual material! So this week we’re running through some tips you may find useful if you’re planning on getting some voiceover work done, whether paired with animation or alone.

1. The written word can cope with being more formal.

Formal language tends to be the mode of choice when it comes to animation for business, which is often perfectly fine for regular communication. When you’ve written a business, corporate or industrial script for your video, just try reading it to yourself out loud in a natural way – it’s really quite hard isn’t it? Our voiceover professionals are very skilled at reading copy and making it sound conversational, but sometimes the source material is too rigid and it ends up sounding a little unnatural no matter how you twist it – like it’s a letter being read aloud.

By cutting out some of the wordy professional embellishments you can trim down a lot of time (and often that means money) whilst making your voiceover sound more conversational and less jarring. After all, even in a corporate environment, this level of formality in the written word is rarely replicated in speech, so it seems out of place during voiceover.

2. Use contractions

Sometimes, you’re able to make your script more conversational and natural just by making changes that can be as simple as using contractions:

  • ‘We’re’ instead of ‘we are’
  • ‘Haven’t’ instead of ‘have not’
  • ‘It’s’ instead of ‘it is’
  • You get the point

Using contractions takes the focus off those longer words and allows you to redirect it towards keywords relevant to your brand, campaign or message. I know it sounds like an inconsequential change but contractions allow your voiceover to flow more effortlessly, easing comprehension and holding the attention of the audience longer.

3. Emphasis on the wrong word

To pick up from that last point, guiding your audience’s attention towards the key terms of your voiceover in a natural way is a job for both the writers of the script and the vocal directors of the voiceover. To make an example of my reasoning, there is a little exercise that you might have seen floating around. The following statement has 7 different meanings solely based upon which word the emphasis is placed:

“I never said she stole my money”

Give it a try! This just goes to show that there are numerous potential meanings in your script which you can change without editing a single word. In order to communicate exactly which are the most important meanings to you, try stressing different words and examining the result.

4. Leave out the jargon and cliche

For those of you looking to advertise or write a script for an explainer video, you know that every word counts. Don’t waste these precious seconds by reminding your audience that you are the ‘best-in-class’ in your industry or the extent to which you ‘leverage experience and relationships’ or how you are ‘pioneering’ and ‘streamlined.’ I got bored typing that last sentence for good reason – these terms are overused and their meaning has been thoroughly diluted, leading people to simply switch off then they hear them.

5. Go easy on the acronyms

Okay, we’re all a little guilty of this one from time to time. We can get caught up in our industry and forget that some of the acronyms and abbreviations that we use are quite specialist. By steering clear of them in our voiceover, we avoid alienating some of our potentially less informed audience. Sometimes an acronym works great on the page or on screen but when verbalised, it sounds pretentious, elitist, or worse: just silly. Say B2B or B2C to yourself now, doesn’t it sound odd? ‘Business to business’ has a much better natural cadence.

Now it would be easy take this the wrong way and replace your industry-specific explanations with acronyms to save time, but please resist this option too – as soon as an acronym comes up that someone doesn’t understand, they may well decide that the video isn’t for them or that they don’t share the values of the company whose voiceover they are hearing.

6. Shorten your words

Going hand in hand with the acronym issue, sometimes a thesaurus can be your worst enemy as well. This is so common in voiceover script – writers wants to ensure their brand seems educated or specialist and so they throw in a load of lengthy words seemingly just for the sake of wanting to sound clever.

We’ve all heard that cheesy ‘KISS Keep it simple, stupid’ advice before, well it does have a solid point when it comes to voiceover and you’d do well to keep it in mind. You want to preserve the flow of your audio, you want to make your message clear and you want to place emphasis on the right places, so don’t be throwing out huge words like it’s Countdown. Make your script as simple as possible and you’d be surprised at just how much better it reads once the focus is taken away from the big words and onto the company and the real topic.

7. Third person references

Imagine that we had a voiceover for an explainer video on our landing page that started:

  • “Here at Fudge Animation Studios, we provide scriptwriting, producing, directing and animating services.” or,
  • “Fudge Animation Studios provide scriptwriting, producing, directing and animating services.”

Which one represents us better? Of course it’s the first one – you want to sound a little more personable and a little less faceless. Honestly, this 3rd person style is somewhat dated nowadays, it just isn’t how people talk so it comes off as unnatural and can become a subconscious barrier to trust between you and your audience.

8. Your voice is important but your message is more so

Now we’re talking about the way that your company represents itself verbally, not just vocally. Think about some brands with especially distinctive voices, you wouldn’t use the same words or style for Pepperami as you would M&S would you?

The voice of your brand is incredibly precious, its preservation and development should be in the forefront of your mind. This could be very simple words, regional dialect or an accent coming through, it could even be slang thrown in here and there. By all means keep these key identity traits present, but don’t let them detract from the actual focus of your video – the message.
Obviously this is quite a general list and please take our advice as and when appropriate, if you’re providing voiceover for an advanced employee training video then, of course, you need to dig in with the acronyms and get technical. Nevertheless, if what to do when preparing and performing voiceover seems like a less daunting task to you now, we can sleep easy!

We hope you’ve learned something and if you have any campaigns which you think could benefit from a video with some tight voiceover work, drop us a line! We’d love to have a chat and see how we could fit in.