- Effective Communication
“Don’t talk at me; speak to me.”
This simple statement really says it all. Many voice artists can read the words, but very few can actually communicate to the listener, imparting the knowledge in a personal manner. I hear the same request constantly:
“I don’t want you to sound like an announcer…”
Voice over for eLearning is one-on-one, not a radio announcer giving you a traffic report or weather forecast. E-learning is intimate, personal and in-depth. A single person sits in front of a computer screen and learns from the images, text and audio presented to them.
It’s not someone listening to a newscast, but rather someone absorbing a great deal of information because they have to. It has to be easy and as comfortable as possible for the student to truly absorb your message/course.
Interestingly, companies get so focused about saving money with e-learning that they go too far in cost-cutting and hire the cheapest narrator to communicate their most important messages: their Corporate Image, HR Policy, protocols, methodology, structure and vision. I’ve heard some really, really bad stuff…..!
I have, because I’m quite often the guy they call in to fix a bad narration.
Most of the time, it’s the ex-broadcaster that’s the culprit. Guys and Gals who, by nature of the fact they were “On Air”, consider themselves professional elearning narrators. They also think that because they operated a console in a broadcast outlet that they can run a home studio.
This, couldn’t be further from the truth.
I can’t tell you how many ex-broadcasters I’ve come across that boast of their studio gear, which is 9 times out of 10 the wrong equipment. I know this, because many radio announcers have approached me on how to improve their studio sound.
I’ve also scouted out hundreds of home studios via Voice123 and Voices.com. There’s a ton of garbage out there…..almost all of it is sub-standard.
- Audio Quality
Please…..PLEASE…..don’t settle for less. Take the time to inspect what you’re paying for. The amount of garbage audio being delivered these days is staggering.
I’m saying this, because in 5 very short years, people offering “Voice Talent” services on the Internet have grown from a scant 500…..to 125,000….!
I can tell you honestly, that 90% of the voice talent out there hasn’t a clue how to properly record audio, much less edit it and provide all the other services that go along with running a professional recording studio.
Do you know what else is shocking? Even some of the best VO talent on the Internet are delivering a sub-standard product. I know this, because I’ve hired experienced talent, only to discover that their audio sounds like it was recorded on a cassette tape.
Audio quality is your first sign as to whether or not you’re hiring a real pro for the job.
The problem is, it’s difficult to tell how good the quality is because most people listen to audio on a cheapo set of computer speakers (even the most expensive computer speakers can’t do the job).
The most important thing to look for is something we call a “noise floor.” Simply put, it’s the “noise” behind (underneath) a recording.
Usually, it’s a CPU fan, or a furnace….or air conditioning. I’ve even heard a toilet flush in the background…..(which seemed oddly appropriate given the circumstance).
Bottom line, if audio has a lot of noise behind it, this affects the final product which is either radically compressed for use on the web, heard by the learner through headphones, or both.
Bad quality audio has the same effect as a cheesy graphic or a spelling mistake. It distracts the learner and therefore compromises your message.
On the subject of quality audio, our studio has a sound-proof booth (many VO artists don’t have this) and all that expensive equipment with tons of knobs and LED’s that make the audio nice and clean.
Our noise floor is at -78 db, which is very, very low. The mic is superb, the mastering excellent.
- Additional Talent
An E-learning project often involves more than 1 voice. Whether it’s a back-and-forth male/female combination or scenario-based role-playing, clients often ask for different voices to compliment their project.
In addition to a large network of pro voice talent that I have access to, I also have the benefit of knowing several fine actors – very handy for smaller roles that require voice “acting” as opposed to narration.
Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about.: (Note: you do need to be listening to the audio on this page).
I’m pretty active in the acting community here in Toronto (the Hollywood of Canada) and I’ve got a select group of thespians who work for me on a regular basis.
This is a service that is very hard to find in the world of VO. Oh, you’ll get the “we’ve got a roster of talent for you to listen and hire” – but these are freelance voice people…not “actors.” There’s a big difference. Quite often, voice talent don’t have acting skills, just broadcasting experience.
Regardless of your vocal needs, I can offer up a fine, talented selection of vocal talent…and I’m pretty picky about who I work with – so you know you’re getting the best… 😉
We’ve been providing this unique service for hundreds of companies since 1998. There is no other comapny on the internet that has more experience in voice over for eLearning, than Todd Schick Productions Inc. Oh, you’ll see websites claiming “the world’s most trusted brands use us” or “The #1 source for voice talent” blah, blah, blah.
The fact is, these companies are very young; they haven’t been in the business half as long as we have. This can be said for their knowledge of the service in general and their talent offerings..
Hiring voice over talent today is a lot like searching for a web developer. There are thousands to choose from, 10% which are worthy of hiring and the rest amateurs claiming to be professional and experienced.
While the internet has made the search easier, it has also created a cesspool of mediocrity.
Regardless of the discipline, someone can put up a flashy website, buy a subscription to a P2P (Pay to Play) website and call themselves a pro. Keep this in mind when shopping for voice talent.
I’ve recorded a lot of voice over for eLearning modules, at time of publication I’m guessing somewhere around 500 hours of finished audio. That’s five million words.
After tackling the first few huge, long and involved voice over for eLearning projects, the experience led me to hire someone to help with Project Management so I could concentrate on voice over and editing audio.
In my experience, I’ve found that almost all voice over for eLearning projects need some level of project management. So, we handle all the work regarding the audio and talent elements of your project. My staff will answer all your questions, respond to e-mails promptly, work closely with your developers and make sure things run smoothly.
Hiring professional voice talent is not something people do everyday. We have the experience and know-how to help navigate you through the process and point you in the right direction, the first time.
- The Professional Voice over for eLearning Narrator
The Professional Voice over for eLearning Narrator
So, what sets the professional narrator apart from the others?
Well, first of all, a professional elearning narrator can make a bad script sound good and a horrible script sound “OK”. The script really is everything – that is to say, it has the single most important impact on any e-learning project.
The professional narrator doesn’t ask you ask you how to edit your files, he/she already knows.
They know about compression ratios, how your audio is affected by radical compression and the importance of “clean” audio.
They also can provide you with a variety of voicing styles for you to choose from. By that I mean, not merely reads that are faster or slower, but different in age, style and energy.
Listen to this sentence read four different ways:
“If you are looking to hire a professional voice over talent, you need to do your home work.”
In short, the professional e-learning narrator inherently justifies your reason for hiring them: to deliver your message and quality audio in a prompt, personal and professional manner.
Somewhat of a surprise.
There’s very, very few of us out there who do this work well. I mean “true” professionals who deliver 100% of the time on all the aforementioned aspects of your project. After many years in the business and hearing many, many voices….I personally know about 10 people who can do e-learning narration very well.
Why so few? Well, it’s one thing to simply voice dry material (many people can do that), it’s quite another to make the dry material sound interesting and engaging. And, it’s very rare to find good quality audio produced in a home-based recording studio.
As always, I back up what I say with my talent and product. Ask me for an audition and then by all means shop around….I’m not afraid of some friendly competition!
To check out my references, please visit my Testimonial page.