Podcasts Voice Over Experts Being Conversational in Narration and eLearning
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Being Conversational in Narration and eLearning

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Stephanie Ciccarelli
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Does voice-over for eLearning and narration need to be boring? Voice-over coach and talent, Julie Williams, shares how you can make reads for applications such as medical narration conversational by doing two things: coloring your words and paying special attention to phrasing. Hear samples from a variety of Julie’s students to see how they go about coloring their words and delivering copy in an engaging and meaningful way. Stay tuned for a couple bonus tips at the end of Julie’s episode!

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Julie Williams
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Your instructor this week:

Voice Over Expert Julie Williams
Julie brings almost four decades of voice-over excellence to the table, (yes, she did start very young!) From showing travelers how to change their tickets at Orbitz.com, to instructing employees how to make the perfect Pizza Hut Pizza, to feature stories on HGTV, to teaching virtual high school Biology and Geometry eLearning course, a Savvy Woman Homebuyers series for Women’s Entertainment Television and helping lawyers with a Bar Exam study course, Julie has voiced hundreds of eLearning projects.
She has also voiced hundreds of commercials over the past decades for such notable clients as Coca-Cola, Pampers, Imperial Sugar, Disney World, Foley*s, Dillards, and more. Most of her clients are repeat clients who return time after time. Julie Williams communicates your script by offering a transparency in which the focus is never on the speaker, but on the message.
An audiobook narrator with many titles to her credit, Julie earned the honor of Audie Finalist in 2010 for her performance of Lord of the Ringless, by Dee Aspin. She is also an acclaimed coach who teaches other professional VO talent how to refine their craft. She has taught at the top VO conferences in the world.

Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else. Now for our special guest.
Julie Williams: Hi, this is Julie Williams a Voice Over Talent and Coach with well over three decades of experience in voice over. Let’s just say I started young, okay? I want to talk a little about e-learning and narration today. So many people have the perception that commercials and audio book narrations are story telling. But narration and e-learning is about announcing which is why those of us who aren’t announcers are getting most of the work. I’ve got a couple of tips that’ll help you be more conversational in your narration reads. They are, #1 adding colour to your presentation and #2 phrasing which encompasses a whole lot of things. Let’s start by the simplest adding colour to your reads.
To add colour to your reads means to make the reads sound like what it is saying. It’s one of the simplest concepts in voice over and believe it or not most talent don’t do it. It involves making say the word long sound long. For example, it was a long day. It was a long day. Which one do you believe? Do you think because it’s a narration that you should do the first one because it’s, I don’t know, serious or something? Wrong. It’s not about sounding serious or [announcery]. It’s about story-telling, communicating a message to the audience. Not talking at them. I recently gave advice to someone who was on one of our webinars as a reader. I gave it to him privately after the fact, of course. I asked if it was okay if I gave him a little advice regarding his demo and he said yes.
So I mentioned him sounding a little bit too more announcery on the narration demo. And he said, “That’s my brand.” And I just thought well at least they’ll know ahead of time not to hire you because it’s not a brand, it’s a defect. Okay? Nobody is going to hire people who sound like announcers. It’s just not that way anymore. Here are a couple of samples that you’ll hear in demos that I did for some of my students where you can hear how they colour their words well in narration and even medical narration demos. [Gene] is a successful New York talent. We’ve got a great colouring words example in his medical demo here. Listen to how he says absurd. I mean you really feel it.
Gene: Of all the paradoxes in the world, surely one of the most absurd is that the very same genome that gives us life inevitably also takes it away.
Julie Williams: There is no question that Gene is a fabulous talent. You can see why he gets so much work. And he’s anything but an announcer. And it’s not about his voice either even though he does have a great voice. Sandra is a medical doctor in Canada and this is her medical demo. She had no experience at all when we got together. In fact we had fewer than five sessions when I produced this demo for her. That’s very unusual because I always wait until somebody is ready for a demo before I’m willing to produce one. But she’s just a natural. I mean that’s all I can say. Notice the way she says the word deep.
Sandra: Reaching into the deep dermis and finally into the sub-dermal microvasculature.
Julie Williams: Another US voice over talent, I won’t have to tell you what words he’s colouring in his narration demo.
Tim: Glorious sunshine on your shoulders. Blissfully warm water.
Julie Williams: All of these are examples of colouring words in narration demos. It’s about telling the story. Okay now let’s move on to phrasing. One of the biggest mistakes I ever see in talent is their phrasing. They start with the capital letter and end at the period is how I like to say it. But that’s not how we talk. We tend to phrase things. And think about your presentation. Think about this. Think of a special occasion meal at a five star restaurant, okay? After all you want to give your clients five star service, right? Okay, do you gobble it up, wolf it down with a purpose of clearing the plate and filling the stomach? Or do you savour it? It’s not always about the end result. It’s also about the experience of learning which is what you want the audience to do on narrations and e-learning work.
Think of a mystery novel. If they describe the murder and then tell you the butler did it, they deprive you of the entire story. And that’s the whole point, the story. Don’t rush from the capital letter to the period. Let them enjoy and learn from the story. Your phrasing enables the listener’s brain to catch up with the information that can be quite technical or detailed. Okay, here’s another thing. Punctuation that’s put in a script can tell us a lot particularly in lists. It can tell us, you know, what’s associated with what, what’s one entity and what’s a couple of different entities, you know? But we’re not locked into their punctuation. They are the writers but we’re the story tellers.
I want to play the complete demos of Gene, Sandra and Tim. And I want you to hear how they don’t start at the capital letter and end at the period. And notice that it works. Just listen to Gene’s medical demo and notice the phrasing. Notice how many pauses he has at places where they wouldn’t have put a comma. And note that on every single segment he has got the phrasing down. He is just telling the story.
Gene: Progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus is characterised by rigidity, hyperekplexia and brain stem signs. Glycine receptor alpha one antibodies have been described in patients with progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus. Here’s an example. A 14-month old child developed startle induced episodes with generalized rigidity and myoclonus, [unintelligible 00:06:32] hyper-extension and trismus. Of all the paradoxes in the world, surely one of the most absurd is that the very same genome that gives us life inevitably also takes it away. Even when they aren’t killing us, our genes are generally making existence more difficult than seems absolutely necessary. [Unintelligible 00:06:51] antibodies have been detected in a proportion of patients with previously zero negative generalized [unintelligible 00:06:58]. But their presence in patients with ocular [unintelligible 00:07:02] and their pathogenicity in vivo are unknown.
As faculty, we become experts at intervening with residents who have difficulty with clinical competence. One-on-one methods such as immediate feedback, modelling correct behaviour, role playing or even video review can be highly effective and quickly help the doctors’ with clinical competence issues. The purpose of our study outcomes after treatment of advanced [unintelligible 00:07:27] with radiation or chemo radiation was to report survival and longitudinal functional outcomes in advanced stage cancers of the [unintelligible 00:07:37]. The standard clinical functional outcomes protocol followed Karnofsky performance status and eastern co-operative oncology group procedures. Linda has many options from this page. She can elect to enrol in health insurance, add a dependent or search for additional resources in her area.
Julie Williams: And in Sandra’s demo listen to all of her phrasing, of course, but pay particular attention to the spot about the song birds. I love this how she puts hesitations in at just the right time to make you feel like she’s thinking as she goes along. Like she’s not reading a script but telling you what she’s thinking. I do this a lot even in standard e-learning projects. And my clients not only keep coming back, they refer me to others.
Sandra: The novel el select en ligand isolated from [unintelligible 00:08:23] has complex biological activities in vitro that could explain the increase in circulating stem cells observed after consumption of the [unintelligible 00:08:34] stem enhance in [unintelligible 00:08:38].
Child: Like skin?
Sandra: That’s right. The skin is the largest organ of our body. The conversion of electron motive force into proton motive force is carried out by three electron driven proton pumps. Any DHQ [unintelligible 00:08:52]. When the young finch is learning to sing he almost babbles like a human baby would. During this time nuclei in the song control center change in size and organization. This tiny songbird has shown us how a behaviour such as learning a song can actually change a genome. In contrast, if large numbers of liver cells are lost, perhaps by surgical removal of part of the liver, the remaining liver cells are stimulated to proliferate. Click the green arrow to watch an animation. When applied to the skin, [unintelligible 00:09:31] is able to penetrate various levels like so reaching into the deep dermis and finally into the sub-dermal microvasculature.
Julie Williams: Thinking as you go. Okay, now let’s hear Tim’s demo and how he does his phrasing to sound conversational on all of his reads even though they are all a little bit different.
Tim: Watch the way he swings. Did you see how he followed through? Here those ganglia are shown much farther from the spinal cord. From each of those ganglia post-ganglionic axons extend to the various organs. Take just a moment to think about it. Glorious sunshine on your shoulders. Blissfully warm water. A sunset sailboat cruise with cocktails and appetizers. But if you’re trying to catch up a little after a particularly sleep deprived night with the baby a 90 minute nap is better because it will get you through an entire sleep cycle.
Today new light has been shed on the breast cancer battlefield illuminating the exact biological path that leads to tumours. It’s a cancer stopping breakthrough discovered at the University of Michigan with tremendous promise for millions of men and women everywhere. For patients requiring dialysis anemia is a ubiquitous problem a consequence of the inability to stimulate endogenous [unintelligible 00:10:53] which principally occurs in the kidneys. Every space has a presence, a distinct voice that comes from within that sets it apart and makes it wholly memorable. It’s a single element that lends a classic timelessness that never quite seems to age it.
Julie Williams: And as we wrap up there are a few other tips I want to pass along to you. One is about phrasing just what we’ve been talking about. Okay let’s say we have a list. And sometimes it’ll be written as A, B, C, you know? It’ll be written in bullet points. Okay, let’s say the list says in this module you will learn to (a) blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, (b) whoopee do, (c) yada, yada, yada, yada. I would say 99 out of like 100 talent would pause after the word to saying in this module you’ll learn to (a) blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well what I would say is phrase before the to and be more conversational. In this module you’ll learn to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada, etc. Another tip in being conversational, very simple, is to add an an or an or, whatever is appropriate for the script, before that last bullet point.
Most of the time they won’t say anything. They’ll want it conversational and it may have been written more for a PowerPoint than reading. If they want it changed, you can change it. But I have no hesitation in changing this script just a little bit to make it sound more conversational. And finally, this will be contrary to what many people have told you about changing the script, it is okay to add contractions in the script. Where it says it is, you can make it it’s, if it feels right to you. Now if their contrasting isn’t with it is and they want to stress the word is, well obviously you wouldn’t do that. But you’d feel that, right? You can make contractions anytime you want to to make it more conversational. And the worst that’ll happen is they ask you to change it which frankly they never ever ever have asked me to do. And hopefully you’ll really feel when it’s more conversational to do that because in the final analysis narration and e-learning are all about feeling what you are saying.
I’d like to thank voices.com for the privilege of inviting me to do this podcast and to invite you to subscribe to the free Voice Over Insider magazine for talent and our podcast as well. We’ve been around for nine years now. And you can sign up at voiceoverinsider.com. And also like Voice Over Insider on Facebook because we post more there than we even post on the magazine site. And finally, if you have any questions about any of this stuff please feel free to email me at [email protected]
Thank-you for joining us. To learn more about this special guest featured in this voices.com podcast visit the Voice Over experts show notes at podcast.voices.com/voice-over-experts. Remember to stay subscribed. If you’re a first time listener you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple ITunes podcast directory or by visiting podcasts.voices.com. To start your voice over career on-line go to voices.com and register for voice talent membership today

Stephanie Ciccarelli
Stephanie Ciccarelli is a Co-Founder of Voices. Classically trained in voice as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. For over 25 years, Stephanie has used her voice to communicate what is most important to her through the spoken and written word. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, Stephanie has been a contributor to The Huffington Post, Backstage magazine, Stage 32 and the Voices.com blog. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.
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  • Brian Haymond
    January 13, 2015, 5:38 pm

    Julie knows what she’s talking about here – great information and reminders!

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