How to Prepare your Script for a Voiceover Narrator

How to Prepare your Script for a Voiceover Narrator

You spent hours, days, weeks designing the perfect course. You slaved over content, sources, visuals and how the course will flow until you have it perfected in storyboard form and now need to take all that meticulous work and turn it into the script your narrator will use to deliver your course to awaiting ears. Or you have a video that perfectly captures your corporate mission for your company’s town hall and all that is left is to find just the right words for the narrator to inspire your employees. Or your explainer video is exactly the right combination of light-hearted and conversational and now you need your script to match. You have all the right tools in place, have found the perfect voice to represent your brand, now you just need to know how to prepare your script for your voice over narrator.

Keep in Mind Your Script Will Be Read Out Loud

It is easy when crafting copy and finding the perfect turns of phrase or clever visual pun, to forget that your script will be read out loud. Writing for reading silently is different that writing that is destined to be read out loud, so it is important to keep the desired performance in mind as you create your script. When I worked in radio and TV, in the newsroom and the DJ lounge, there was often a general low murmur of voices as people read their scripts out loud to make sure they flowed for speech.

My friend and colleague, Connie Malamed, a learning experience design consultant interviewed me recently for her blog and created a list of 8 Tips For Preparing Audio Scripts for Recording from that conversation. During our chat, I gave some advice on how to impact the performance of the script as it is read out loud including:

  • Indicate Emphasized Words – the voice actor won’t always be able to intuit your desired tonation or know instinctively what text to emphasize
  • Provide Pronunciation for Little Known Words – pointing out terms or phrases unique to your field and their proper pronunciation will help your recording sessions move along smoother
  • Indicate Where You Need Pauses – letting your narrator know where you want pauses, for transitional moments between visuals or to allow for animation can help streamline production

Pay Attention To Visuals – Both For Your Narrator and Your Production

Paying attention to visuals, both in how you format your script for your narrator and in how you plan the flow of images to script in your production, will save you mountains of time and help streamline your workflow. Separate the words you want narrated from the other material of the script – i.e. Power points – take the script off of the notes section and don’t include any visual or slide information that can confuse your narrator. You can indicate where you want pauses by dropping in a bracketed (pause). And even better if you have it timed out already and have indicated that (0.5 second pause or 2 second pause, etc.).

Keep notes about visuals to a minimum, i.e. if you want to indicate something simple like “animation”, indicate where your animation begins and ends (often creators want the lines spoken that illustrate the animation to be separate so they can drag and drop each narrated sentence to match the animation). To that end, plan your narration out before your visuals or at least at the same time. This avoids costly edits. When I worked as a TV producer, we always wrote the storyboard, then fleshed out the actual narration before we shot the footage.

Concentrate on Keeping Your Narration Script Approachable and Conversational

Another client-colleague of mine, who I gave advice to on how to prep a script, put together a great primer on how to concentrate on keeping your script approachable and conversational for other employees at her company, Knowledge One, from our work together. Along with performance aspects, we also focused in on the writing of the script itself. Some great tips to keep in mind are:

  • Use smaller words and simpler sentences.  In general, keeping your writing at or under an 11th grade reading level helps your listeners’ comprehension as they encounter material for the first time.
  • Use the active voice when writing as it more closely mimics speech and is expressive and easy to understand.
  • Don’t be afraid to use contractions.  Written communication is often more formal than speech and avoids common contracts that are used in everyday conversation.  So feel free to contract “we are” to “we’re”, “you are” to “you’re”, “it is” to “it’s”, etc.
  • A preposition is a great thing to end a sentence with.  Keep in mind that in speech, we break grammar rules regularly, so don’t be afraid of fragments or broken rules if it makes your script clear.

Some other great advice from my colleague Chris Pappas in his article for the eLearning Industry Newsletter is as you’re mapping it all out in advance, decide if you’re going to be using characters or real world experiences. If so, be sure to write in the character’s voice. He writes, “If you’re using the role of a fictional character or even a historical figure, you’ll have to step inside their shoes. This allows you to see things from their perspective and adopt their verbal mannerisms. For example, would these eLearning characters really use that vocabulary? What are their primary motivations? And how can they connect with your online learners on a personal level?”

For narrators, it can sometimes be challenging to explain what elements of script writing will assist in making the narration process go smoothly, so I put together an infographic with some simple, practical tips that you can download from my website and share with producers to aid in that process. Click here to find it.


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