5th August 2022

Getting the Tone Right: How to Select a Voice Over Artist

Choosing the right voice to represent your visitor attraction, museum or heritage site is a big decision. If your guide is going to be in place for a few years, you want to get it right.

It can also be a rather fun task. Clients tell us they enjoy listening to a selection of professional voice over artists and selecting which voices to use.

We walk all our clients through the voice selection process, but here are few things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing a voice:

Do you want the voice to represent something of your location or region? While scriptwriters can include local phrases and some hints of dialect, choosing someone with a regional accent can help to add a sense of personality. The UK are Ireland have a huge range of accents and some of the strongest ones might not be accessible to everyone – especially to overseas visitors – but it’s often possible to find someone with plenty of character and a clear voice.

How formal or informal is your site? Visitor attractions that are comparatively grand or stately may opt for a voice that speaks of the establishment. Others seek to get away from RP (received pronunciation – how many news readers used to speak) and prefer a voice that’s more casual or informal. For some clients, there’s a nervousness that if the narrator has an everyday sounding voice, their visitors won’t take them seriously. But we find a well-written script, delivered into the microphone by a professional with conviction, can help to make your audio guide content land with visitors while also being an easy listen.

ATS’s Senior Producer notes this trend in other sectors. “Airlines have changed the way they speak to passengers in recent years. Gone are the posh-sounding recorded voices for safety demonstrations, in favour of personable, sometimes regional, accents. People still feel secure hearing the essential information, but less like they’re being lectured by an airline official.”

Have you thought about voice gender and balance? For example, if your guide is going to feature lots of quotations from a female voice or character, you may want to counter that with a male voice. Likewise, your site might work better with all-female or all-male voices. You don’t even need to consider gender, if don’t want to – some clients prefer to just listen to samples of a range of different voices and choose the one that feels right to your site, irrespective of who the person in the recording studio is. Often it’s the tone, a particular inflection or some intangible quality that makes a voice just feel right for your site.

How many voices would you like to feature? An audio guide can be delivered by just one person, but including a second voice in the edit can bring variety and flavour to a tour. Characters might appear almost in conversation with one another, or different voices might be used to talk about different subjects, creating balance but also, if you like, dramatic tension – there could be different voices for upstairs/downstairs, inside/outside, main narrative/unofficial secrets. The creative scriptwriters and producers at ATS enjoy playing the with near endless possibilities of combining voices and sounds.

What about commissioning a celebrity or well-known voice? If audio guides aren’t included in the main entry ticket price and you’re asking visitors to pay (maybe just a little extra) for the guide, then a known name may well help to convert them into paying customers. More established voices will often add to a project budget, but we can walk you through potential costs while you make a decision.

Finally, it’s worth remembering you don’t need to make a decision on who’s going to record the content at the start of the process. Sometimes, it takes a first draft of a script to get a sense of where a guide is headed and at that point it’s easier to decide. Either way, ATS is ready to help you make an informed decision about who’s going to sound best.

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