Nailing That Narrative Hook
Deep in the confines of a cramped sound isolation booth sits the voiceover artist, arduously tapping away at the keys, churning out yet another blog post. As is his way, the voiceover artist writes and pauses, writes and pauses, laboring over each line, each word as he carefully crafts the story he wishes to share with the world. What is he writing about this time? Let’s take a look over his shoulder and see. Ah, of course! He’s working on the latest entry in his series on voiceover genres. Which genre are we exploring this time? Hmm, narration. Wow, this just got really meta.
Hello there, fellow VO-explorers, and welcome to this week’s blog post! I’m glad you made it back for this installment. Cheesy examples aside, we’re tackling a behemoth of voiceover genre this time. Narration (not to be confused with audiobook narration) is really an umbrella-term for several different VO categories. As you can probably guess at this point, each narrative category has its own unique distinction and flavor, setting it apart from the others.
So, what are these categories that make up the narration genre? Buckle up, friends, because we’re about to cover a lot of ground pretty quickly.
Have you noticed an increase in the availability of online courses in the past few years? I’m not just talking about universities offering online versions of their programs. A simple Google search of almost any topic you could possibly be interested in will undoubtedly bring up a handful of options to learn more about that topic through an online course. Want to learn more about photography? There are courses for that. Need to brush up on some trade skills so you can tackle all of those DIY projects around the house? Take an online course on plumbing or carpentry. Could you benefit from learning some better business practices? Oh boy, are there opportunities to learn about business online.
As the world continues to become more digitally based, the eLearning genre is booming. From individual freelancers producing courses in their area(s) of expertise to programs like Masterclass and websites like Skillshare to Fortune 500 companies utilizing online learning for training purposes, eLearning is an incredibly popular way to grow and learn nowadays. And it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. Since 2000, the eLearning industry has grown by over 900% and is projected to grow globally to over $240 billion by 2022.
While not every eLearning course incorporates voiceover, a lot of them do, creating lots of work opportunity for the VO industry. A lot of full-time voiceover artists are able to make the bulk of their income solely from eLearning gigs.
It probably goes without saying (but I’m in voiceovers, so saying stuff is my thing), but businesses inevitably put a lot of resources into marketing and advertising. I mean, they’re trying to make a profit, so it makes sense they’d put some investment in getting the word out about what they have to offer. Enter explainer videos. Generally short-form videos, explainers typically highlight a company’s product, service, or idea in a compelling and efficient manner. These are the videos you often see on the landing or home page of a company’s website.
Good explainer videos all tend to have five things in common:
1. Short in length—the best ones are between 1 and 2 minutes
2. Convincing call to action— they have a clear statement of what the audience ought to do after watching
3. Solve a problem—they need to show how a product or service is the answer to a real problem the intended audience has
4. Consistent with brand and audience—the tone and style match both the product’s brand and that of the intended customer
5. High quality—both production and content need to be top notch
The best explainer videos all follow the What, How, Why structure: what is the audience’s problem? How does the product or service provide a solution to that problem? And why is this product or service the best choice for the customer?
All of the elements above are things voiceover artists need to keep in mind when lending their voices to explainer videos. As with all forms of VO, the voice is telling a story. In this case, the story needs to convince a prospective buyer or client to choose this company over that one.
Every corporate company in the world has messaging that it both wants and needs to share with various people, whether they be employees, customers, or other businesses. Corporate narration is one of the most effective methods of communicating these messages to the intended recipients. These kinds of videos can range in content from publicizing new policies or procedures to sharing financial or product information to acknowledging reaching a goal.
In corporate narration, a voiceover artist acts as the voice of the company. The artist essentially represents who that company is and what it stands for and must relate this to the intended audience. When done well, this provides a huge benefit to large-scale businesses. As voice talent J. Michael Collins says on his website, a good voiceover produces a beneficial ROI by “ensuring clarity and authenticity of [the] message. A top-tier voice talent is able to…add a professional touch on [the] message.”
People love learning. Don’t believe me? Just look back to those statistics about the eLearning industry above. They speak for themselves. People also visuals. They love to see how things work, particularly in a natural or organic way. For nearly a century (the first official documentary or “non-fiction narrative film” was Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North in 1922!), documentaries have provided a method of visual storytelling that allows viewers to see “behind the curtain” of innumerable topics. Just as you can likely find an eLearning course on anything you may be interested in, you can also probably find a documentary on that same topic.
While it may not be immediately apparent, the voiceover for a documentary can make or break the film. Poor narration can significantly detract from an audience’s viewing experience. To produce a quality documentary narration, a voiceover artist needs to speak smoothly, clearly, and have impeccable enunciation. The voice needs to be engaging, without becoming the main focus of the documentary. The key to producing a solid documentary narration is to balance an appealing voice that truly captures the viewers’ imagination, while also keeping them focused on the content of the documentary itself.
A voiceover artist also needs to make sure they match their voice with the tone of the documentary. A documentary about the mysterious depths of the farthest reaches of outer space will probably utilize a more powerful, resonant voice that can convey wonder and respect for the unknown. A documentary about Legos, on the other hand, might employ a more friendly, even playful voice. A huge part of a voiceover artist’s job (in any genre) is really knowing the content of a project and delivering a read that is consistent with what that project is trying to accomplish.
Whew! That was a LOT! We covered good ground in our journey, but, even so, we really only scratched the surface of the various facets nested within the narration genre. We could spend a lot more time unpacking these four categories and teasing out others, as well. We can keep the conversation going in the comments below. What information struck you as fascinating? Did anything surprise you? Let me know so we can continue learning together.
I’m so grateful to be on this adventure with you. Until next time, friends, keep telling stories.
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