Plan Your Voice-Over Demo

Planning Your Demo Content

The first thing that you'll need is a marketable voice-over demo. Your demo will present your voice to clients. They can listen to it and evaluate your services first hand. Creating a variety of voice-over demos rounds out your portfolio showcasing the styles of voice-over that you can perform.

Since nearly everyone has heard a radio program, you should expect that your listeners have grown accustomed to hearing material produced in a certain way. Here is a suggested framework for mapping out your production.

5 Voice-Over Roles - Which one are you?

Over the centuries, the art of communicating with other people about a given purpose and the transmission of the spoken word, the most powerful, persuasive, and distinctly human tool in any marketers arsenal, has evolved to the degree that you don't have to be in the same room to get a message across, even the same country for that matter.

With all of the advantages this new world and new media bestows, it is very important that a message received is a message that is understood, believed and acted upon. Much of this depends on the copy writing and voice-over skills of the messengers, which brings us to five different character roles you can perform as a voice talent to get the message of your client across in a direct and effective way. Let's explore these types of character roles in detail.

  1. Instructor

    When teaching someone on what to do, for example, a corporate training video or children's game, the voice-over best suited for this kind of project is a straightforward, didactic and educated voice. The role of this particular voice talent is to instruct or provide information to fulfill a specific goal or purpose.

  2. Real Person

    Projects requiring a more casual approach often benefit from relatable, genuine voice-overs. These voice-overs are referred to as "real person" voice-overs, commonly known as the "regular guy" or the "girl next door". The character is homegrown, sensible, and friendly with a touch of familiarity and provides a more intimate interpretation that instills trust.

  3. Spokesperson

    A Spokesperson can be on camera or off camera depending on the medium you are using. The role of a spokesperson is generally played by a confident, charismatic person able to promote a cause, product, or service with ease and authority. A voice-over of this nature needs to be driven, optimistic and assured.

  4. Narrator

    Storytelling is where the narrator is most at home. Omniscient, courteous and honest, a narrator's job is to provide an audio landscape for a listener, briefing them on background information, posing questions, and providing solutions as they guide their audience through a program or documentary. Narrators can be male or female, and the most important factors are that they can communicate clearly and engagingly.

  5. Announcer

    The announcer, often heard live at events, on commercials, promos or introducing segments for podcasts, is a product of the broadcast age, most celebrated at its height in the Golden Age of Radio and early television broadcasts. Announcers can introduce an idea and assertively make a call for action at the conclusion of a commercial advertisement or short video. One common misconception is that an announcer has to sound like an announcer from decades ago, however modern announcers act more like Narrators, and in many cases, adopt the Real Person approach.

Sample Demo Recipe

Here's a blueprint for your voice-over demo.

Shoot for a demo length of 60 - 90 seconds. Keep voice-overs moving, and limit topic coverage to 5 or 6 segments. Try to use different vocal tones or ranges to break up the content, pace, and tone of your demos. Use musical backgrounds (known as jingles or music beds) or other non-music interludes (referred to as stagers, sweeps and ID's) to transition between topics. These topic breaks are typically described as bumpers to digest the content you just presented.

Ideal Duration of a Voice-Over Demo

The voice-over demo can range between 30 seconds to 2 minutes and 30 seconds. For distribution on the Internet, it is best to keep your demo to 1 MB in size or approximately 1 minute in duration. A 1MB file delivers optimum download speeds while maintaining the highest quality of digital audio.

Demo Outline

Here's an example of a demo outline:

  • Demo intro monologue (who you are and the subject of your voice-over demo): 5 seconds
  • Segment 1: 15 seconds
  • Segment 2: 15 seconds
  • Segment 3: 10 seconds
  • Segment 4: 10 seconds
  • Segment 5: 5 seconds
  • Closing remarks (contact information / website plug): 5 seconds
  • Closing music jingle (optional): 5-8 seconds

Types of Voice-Over Demos

  • Television Commercials
  • Television Imaging and Station Identification
  • Radio Announcers
  • Radio Commercials
  • Radio Imaging and Station Identification
  • Business Demonstrations
  • Business Presentations and Corporate Videos
  • Voicemail, On-Hold Messaging, IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
  • Entertainment and Celebrity Impersonations
  • Character Voices and Cartoon Voice Actors
  • Video Game Voices, Mobile Game Voices
  • Audiobooks, Books on Tape
  • Educational Videos, CD-rom, e-Learning
  • Podcasting
  • Government Public Service Announcements
  • Medical Narration
  • Foreign Language Voice-Overs
  • Translation Services
  • Jingles
  • Music Composition, Music Production

Performance Styles

Once you understand the type of demo and the roles that you'll play in each spot of your demo, you'll want to consider the delivery style.  While this relates mostly to commercial demo production, your performance style is relevant anytime your script is a message that you need to read in a persuasive manner.  Here are the main performance syles.

Soft Sell

•   Approach: Suggestive and persuasive without asking for the business directly.
•   Music: Pleasant, ambient, ethereal.
•   Genres: Adult Contemporary, Jazz, Blues, Classical.
•   Instrumentation: String instruments, piano, violin, soft vocals, acoustic guitar.
•   Sound Effects: Ambient, gentle, blended.
•   Words You Might Hear:  Smooth, Relax, Learn, For You, You’re worth it...
•   Why:  Boost self esteem and awareness of product.
•   Market: Women, teenage girls, single women, married women, mothers, grandmothers.
•   Anticipated Reaction: Trustworthy authority creating a positive first impression.
•   Examples: Dove Commercials, Pampers, Danone yogurt commercials, and so on.

Medium Sell

•   Approach: Asking for the business, but not in abrupt way.
•   Music: Lively, entertaining, memorable...
•   Genres: Pop, Broadway show tunes, classical
•   Instrumentation: Synthesizers, percussive instruments, brass, voices.
•   Words You Might Hear:  Exciting, discover, new, adventure, family, fascinating...
•   Why:  Get you to try something new, create awareness, renew interest, promising a better life, presenting options...
•   Market: Families, Mothers, fathers, children, couples, grandparents and so on.
•   Anticipated Reaction: Desire to try the product or service or to establish brand loyalty.
•   Examples: Restaurants promoting a special or new item or hotels inviting your to book your vacation with them.
•   Family & Kids ~ Trip to Disney World

Hard Sell

•   Approach: Demanding the business, sense of urgency to close the deal, up tempo, vigorous...
•   Music: Rock, Rap, Hip Hop, R&B, Electronic, Techno.
•   Instrumentation: Guitars, drums, synthesizers, electronic music and more.
•   Sound Effects: Hard hitting, punchy, loud...
•   Words You Might Hear:  Buy now, Save, Don’t pay until… Everything must go, Limited time offer, Sale ending… Come on down,  Money back guarantee!
•   Why:  Get immediate results, generate sales quickly, promising a better life, presenting options that must sell.
•   Market: Men, boys, teenagers, young adults and so on.
•   Hard sells are frequently employed in television infomercials, pitches by Big Box Stores, in beer commercials, for or at sporting events, and marketing for car or automotive dealerships.

Writing Your Demo Script

Your writing style should be conversational with friendly language, selecting a variety of topics in order to accommodate your listeners. If you are compiling a theme demo, for example, commercials, you'll want to make sure that there is a variety of commercials targeted to a diverse audience.

Research all components of your chosen application in order to deliver the most relevant material to your audience.  Your writing style should be conversational with friendly language, selecting a variety of topics in order to accommodate your listeners.  If you are compiling a theme demo, for example, commercials, you’ll want to make sure that there is a variety of commercials targeted to a diverse audience.

You can include very specific markets in each segment, but make sure that you have something for everyone throughout your demo.  For example, you could have one segment devoted to adventure travel, one segment directed toward parents for their children’s education, and another that focuses on automotive sales.  As you write, be sure to pace yourself.  You will have to read each segment clearly and at a speed that is comfortable for both your voice and your listeners.  In other words, make sure that your script can be recorded easily and flawlessly in the time that you have alloted to the particular segment.

Let’s say that you have 3 very good but longer scripts that you would like to record for your commercial demo with the goal of meeting a 1 minute timeframe.  Try timing yourself and experiment with different tempos (speeds).  The same goes if you would like to fit several shorter segments into a definite period of time.  When you’ve achieved your goals for timing, record the scripts and then parse them together to hear what 1 minute of audio truly sounds like.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly it goes by and how much information you can include.

Working From Royalty Free Scripts

If you prefer to record from royalty-free scripts instead of writing your own copy, there are a few samples in the bonuses from The Voice-Over Scripts for you to incorporate into your demo. Each of these samples has a description of the character, artistic direction for your voice acting, suggested background music, and sound effects.

Key Points About Planning Your Voice Over Demo

In this section, we talked about the importance of planning your voice-over demo and gave you some ideas about how to organize your demo including a sample recipe. Now that you know what is required in the pre-production phase of developing your demo, we can move ahead to the actual recording of your demo. In the next chapter, we'll discuss recording equipment, software, basic recording techniques, and how to add music, sound effects, and most importantly, your voice-over.


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