I’ve been getting paid (well) to tell other people’s stories for over 25 years. As a voiceover artist, I’ve narrated just about everything, including IMAX films, audiobooks, award show ceremonies, commercials, corporate narrations, e-learning presentations, and the list goes on and on. Over the past few years as an expert voiceover coach, I’ve helped hundreds speak more effectively and deliver more powerful voice over presentations.
This is not the 5 P’s of Effective presentations you may have studied in business school. These are acting skills that anyone can apply to presentations to drive home your message more effectively. Here are my five keys you can begin using today to create more effective presentations.
#1 Stand Firmly in the Center of Your Message
Know exactly what it is that you want to say. Get at the heart of your message, know why it’s important, how it can change someone’s life, cure a pain point or inspire change. If you focus strongly on the message, everything else will fall into place. Because you know why you’re speaking, you can impart the information you believe in. You don’t need to try to be confident if the message you’re delivering is one you support. The conviction in that message will engender confidence.
#2 Connect with the Audience
Even if your presentation is to 1000 people and they’re all looking at you at once, concentrate on connecting with just one person. This is a trick from my television and radio days. It relieves pressure and also solidifies connection. It’s kind of like performance in sales.
If all you really have to do is have an impact or be persuasive with one person at a time, that’s manageable. The beauty is that while you were busy connecting with just one person in an audience of 1000, every single person in the room will feel like you are talking to them.
#3 Use a Strategic Pause… to Your Advantage
Pacing in voice over is key to grabbing and holding a listener’s attention. Great storytellers master pacing. They know when to slow down and when to speed up, when to let the listener have a moment to absorb a complicated thought and when to speed up over a dry (or as I call it a “helper”) bit. I tell my acting students to study pacing in the wild, and I encourage you to do the same. Listen to other orators, to your friends and your family.
What makes them engaging, and just as important, what makes you zone out? Watch recordings of a comedian performing the same show to different crowds. Long meaningful pauses that seem entirely off the cuff are often pre-planned, rehearsed, and honed. Often they will practice their set in smaller clubs to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Bob Newhart is a master of this. Nothing is accidental.
#4 Choose When and Where to Apply the Heat in Your Voice Over Presentations
I always coach my voice over students to study their own natural speech. When they do this they invariably notice that in every sentence or thought or phrase, there’s usually just one or maybe two words that are what I call hot. When people read (a speech, a pitch, etc), they don’t do this. Instead, they give every word the same heat and the result sounds measured and robotic.
Unless you’ve gone to acting school and have studied what to do with other people’s words, memorizing or overly preparing and planning a speech risks losing some of your natural charisma and realism. It’s your job, as a budding storyteller and great orator, to find that realism, what I call the alchemy of the moment, and infuse it into the message. Become aware of how you and those around you talk naturally. Watch movies with famously moving monologues (or dialogues) and listen for when and where they apply the heat, then try it in your voice over presentations.
#5 Speak From the Heart. Be Vulnerable
Don’t you love those moments in movies when the hero or heroine drops the prepared speech and just speaks the truth from the heart? They take a risk. They show their vulnerability and their passion. Revealing your vulnerability allows people to see themselves in you. It warms them up to you. It says we’re all just humans after all. And passion? Passion inspires listeners. It captivates a crowd and holds their attention.
So many times as a voice over artist I’ve been given material that the writer thinks is very dry or boring and says “Please do the best you can to make it interesting.” I actually find this easy. This is my cue to step into the shoes of the subject matter expert on the topic. They’ve studied widgets (or whatever we’re talking about) for years. They know its ins and outs, its utility, and its pain points. And they are passionate about how and why it makes a difference.
Try some of these methods for effective voice over presentations and let me know how they work for you!