9 tips to improve your speaking abilities

Voice training is far more than just getting on a mic and talking — to enable yourself to have a successful career in the business, you need to get down and dirty and make sure the most important element is in tip-top shape: your voice.

Remember that cliche: “it’s now what you say, it’s how you say it?” That truism extends to the voice acting world, too. Take the time to improve your voice, your ability to convince people, and your commitment to the script. But instead of spending thousands of dollars on voice over training or voice over courses, take your speaking abilities to a higher level with nine of the best tips we’ve learned from our experts. Over time, that means more business, more testimonials, and more happy customers.

Voice over training tip 1: Speak clearly

This is one of the no duh’s of voice acting. With any voiceover — no matter how fast — clarity is key. Every word needs to be heard by the listener; thus, any muddled phrase could destroy that.

Practice speaking with correct pronunciation and enunciation. It might feel a little over the top at first, but on the recording, it’ll sound just right.

Here’s how it sounds when the speaker is clear, despite the background music:

Voice over training tip 2: Speak with confidence

Um… hi there… my name is, uh, Bob…

Sorry, Bob. No one will hear the rest of your speech.

Is this is a corny example? Perhaps. But it solidifies the point that a lack of confidence hurts everything, especially your voice over.

Own what you say. Speak it with all the confidence in the world. Imagine that you’re trying to karate chop through a cinderblock — any bit of doubt will lead to a broken hand, not a broken block. The same goes for odd voiceovers where you have to make a weird sound or voice.

HIYAH!

Here’s an example of an artist who speaks with confidence:

Voice over training tip 3: Mean what you say

The last tip was about speaking with confidence; this tip is about speaking with connection to your material: you have to believe what you’re talking about.

When you speak with enthusiasm, people can hear the difference. It’s subtle, but truly resonating with your script makes your voice more believable and convincing.

Here’s an example of a voice over that connects with their message:

Voice over training tip 4: Kill your ego

You have to be humble in life, and if you are not humble, life will make you humble.

— Mike Tyson

To improve, surround yourself with people better than you. You’ll learn dozens of lessons you couldn’t have learned otherwise and take your craft to the next level.

Go to classes and workshops where everyone is more advanced in their career than you are. Listen to their feedback; it could be brutal, but it WILL make you better.

Voice over training tip 5: Treat your voice with kindness

Unlike a guitarist, pianist, or drummer, with voice over acting, your body is your instrument.

Watch how professional musicians take care of their instruments: they obsessively clean it, maintain it, fix any broken parts, and store it in a nice, comfortable place. How do you handle your instrument? What do you do to take care of it, maintain it, and keep it in pristine condition?

Here are some great tips:

  • Build the foundation with good breathing patterns — from your diaphragm, not your chest — so you prevent any unnecessary strain on your vocal cords.
  • Keep hydrated throughout the day. Drinking water with every meal and fill up a liter bottle and sip it periodically. It might seem like a lot of water, but most people are chronically dehydrated.
  • Avoid places where you have to shout over noise to be heard.
  • Sleep at least seven hours a night. A tired voice sounds bad. A tired body is also bad for your voice.
  • Avoid whispering. It’s hard on your voice and strains on your vocal cords.

Voice over training tip 6: Warm up!

Before an Olympic sprinter tries to set the world record, you better believe he or she has spent the past three hours (or more) warming up every inch of their body. And truth be told, I’m at the point in my life where I need to warm up before a jog, otherwise my hamstring will explode in a fiery blaze. Yeah, the warm up is THAT essential.

Start each morning with your warmups. Stretch your facial muscles. Go through your progressions. Do your lip rolls. Hum. Relax your neck muscles. Do your breathing exercises.

Even if you’re never spent time to warm up, just take five minutes in the morning to prep your voice. It’ll do wonders for your sound and the health of your instrument.

Still think it’s silly? Watch this interview with Celine Dion; she’s been in the business for decades, sold millions of records, and she still starts every morning with the basics:

Voice over training tip 7: Start “sight reading”

In music, sight reading is the ability to read a sheet of music — something that you’ve never seen before — and play it on your instrument.

For major projects that could take hours and hours — like performing the voice over for an audiobook, or a voiceover for an educational video — it could become needlessly time-consuming to read, reread, and reread the script again before starting your voiceover. Instead, practice speaking well during the first read through: it might take a while before your mouth and eyes start working in sync, but that blends nicely with our next tip:

Voice over training tip 8: Practice

“We talkin’ about practice?”

— Allen Iverson

Yes. We talkin’ about practice.

The best voice over artists can say thousands and thousands of words before they make a mistake. But it takes years to cultivate that skill. Practice makes perfect and the same goes with voice overs. Stick with your voice training, and soon you’ll get into the rhythm where your reading and speaking is connected and flawless — you’ll save time, get more gigs, and reap the benefits for your career.

Voice over training tip 9: Relax

This final tip could be the most important. Why? Because if you’re new in the business, it might seem like every audition or gig could be your last. Suddenly, everything is riding on these 20 or so seconds and that makes you super tense.

Take a deep breath from your belly and exhale. Smile. (You can actually hear it through the mic.). Trust your voice training, feel confident your abilities and know that, no matter what, you’ve tried your hardest.

For more ideas on how to create the perfect voice over, get into the minds of the buyer and learn exactly what they’re looking for.

  • Mickey

    I was wondering, for voice acting jobs, the way you speak matters. What about just the general sound of your voice? Does that impact you greatly when auditioning?

  • Adesh Orie

    I am from the Caribbean. I have a Trinidadian accent. Any chance I can land a gig to do voice for an animated film? I have voice over experience locally.

  • wordstimer

    Nice information!

    We just published a free web app to calculate the duration of a voice over script. If you need to estimate the duration of a narration, ebook, speech, or other monologue, you can use this tool: http://wordstimer.com/
    Other than measuring, it also allows you to collaborate by sharing a link and comments. It’s like Google Docs, but it allows you to measure how long the script would take when it’s voiced.

    • Thanks. Sounds super handy. We’ll check it out!