The Right Voice & E-Learning

June 20, 2023 08:30 AM By Paul Boucher

As I enter my 26th year narrating eLearning full time

...with plenty of commercials, documentaries, promos, and other types of voiceover thrown in, I still occasionally ponder what compels clients to select my voice. Some voice actors tell me that the amount of work I do in a week (5 full days of narration recorded, edited, and sent out into the world) must be an exaggeration. It's not. I'm a multi-lingually curious generalist and consider myself an excellent example of hard work and good fortune.

One thing I've always done is find a way to connect with the material honestly. Being present personalizes the learning experience: A genuinely engaged, well-suited voice can personalize the digital learning experience by fostering a connection between the learner and the material. The learners feel directly addressed, increasing their motivation and investment in learning.

I feel this connection plays a significant role in engaging learners and ensuring information retention. When learners are engaged and attentive, they are more likely to understand and retain the information presented. Here's an explanation of some of the traits brought to the table by the right voice:

1. Clarity: A clear voice is essential in e-learning to ensure learners can understand the content without confusion. Pronunciation should be precise, and words should be articulated clearly to avoid misunderstandings.

2. Proper pacing: A good e-learning voice knows how to maintain an appropriate pace throughout the content. Speaking too quickly can overwhelm while speaking too slowly can lead to boredom. The right pacing allows learners to absorb information at a comfortable rate.

3. Enunciation: Pronouncing words accurately and distinctly is crucial. Proper enunciation helps learners grasp the meaning of words and phrases, preventing any misinterpretations or confusion. Clarity becomes especially important in a multi-lingual workplace where English or French may not be the first language spoken but the chosen language of instruction.

4. Conveying complex concepts: If your narrator gets it, your learner has a higher chance of getting it. Seems simple enough.

5. Vocal inflections, tone, and emphasis: By varying pitch, tone, and emphasis on specific words or phrases, the voice actor can add meaning, convey emotions, and maintain learner attention throughout the content.

Tips for aspiring e-learning voice actors:

1. Develop vocal versatility: E-learning projects can cover various subjects and target audiences. As a voice actor, it's essential to develop the ability to adapt your voice to suit different styles, tones, and subjects. Be a curious and voracious reader.

2. Understand the subject matter: Before recording, take the time to understand the content you'll be voicing. YouTube doesn't exist only for DIY projects. Ha! Familiarize yourself with the material's terminology, concepts, and overall purpose. This understanding will help you deliver the content in a way that resonates with learners.

3. Practice proper pacing: Experiment with different pacing techniques to find the right balance. Record yourself and listen back to identify areas where you need to adjust your speed. Aim for a pace that allows learners to follow along comfortably without feeling rushed or bored.

4. Focus on clarity and enunciation: Practice articulating words clearly and precisely. Pay attention to common pronunciation challenges and work on improving your diction. Reading aloud, tongue twisters, and vocal warm-up exercises can help refine clarity and enunciation skills.

5. Use vocal variety: Experiment with vocal inflections, tone, and emphasis to bring life to the content. Practice conveying emotions, creating different character voices, and using appropriate intonation. This variety helps maintain learner interest and engagement.

6. NEVER STOP LEARNING: Find qualified coaches, not the voice-actor-wannabes-who exemplify "if you can't work, teach." Look for experienced coaches with a track record of success in the discipline you seek to improve. It's a pretty tight community of pros. Take at least one workshop every year. 

7. Get to know your community: Make it local to suit your budget; workout groups can be great. Make it regional or national by attending a conference in your area that is voice actor specific. Voiceover Atlanta and the One Voice conference are both excellent examples.

By focusing on clarity, proper pacing, diction, conveying complex concepts, utilizing vocal inflections, personalizing the learning experience, and being continuous learners, aspiring e-learning voice actors can enhance their skills and contribute to successful e-learning experiences for learners.