Instructional Design

Discover the Right Way to Choose A Voiceover for Your Digital Learning

Voiceovers are a lot like design: you only really notice it when it’s bad. That’s because a good voiceover is so seamless that it becomes an integral part of your digital learning, instead of sticking out like a sore thumb. Voiceovers that are condescending, boring, or even a little too homemade can turn learners off and make them focus on anything but the subject matter. Hiring a pro might sound pricey, but in the right circumstances, it’s an investment you’ll need to make. Consider these factors before you start recording:

1. Empathy

A good voiceover helps learners put themselves in the same scenarios portrayed in the video. Creating empathy is the culmination of a number of different factors, like the tone of voice, language, and inflection. If learners feel like the voiceover is talking down to them or someone that they can’t relate to, it’s difficult to get users to empathize and learn from the scenario.

2. Authenticity

If you’re teaching a course to a roomful of uptight banker types, you don’t hire a California-style surfer to do the voiceover. It sounds silly and obvious, but it’s something that happens all the time in producing digital learning videos. The voiceover should sound authentic to the subject matter, but more importantly, authentic to the learners themselves. Choose an actor that portrays the most authentic tone so learners perceive the information as relevant and vital.

3. Tone

Corporate doesn’t automatically mean formal; that is unless you want it to be formal. Typically in training settings, a more casual and friendly voiceover works best. It helps the learner feel a connection with the material and they’re less likely to feel as though the actor is being condescending. Keep it light and play with different tones to choose the one most effective and appropriate.

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4. Credibility

Learners don’t want to waste their time, so credibility is a huge factor at play when choosing a voiceover actor. That’s why, in some cases, homespun or DIY voiceovers totally work. If the module or video is meant to be a quick, one-off update or walkthrough, hiring an actor can seem inauthentic and lack credibility. Instead, grabbing one of the SMEs to answer questions and record the voiceover makes more sense for these in-the-moment, must-know videos that don’t always get a lot of lead time.

5. Culturally Appropriate

If your organization has offices in more than one country, the question of cultural appropriateness comes into play. Tone and inflection are different depending on both the language and the culture, and if learners hear a voiceover that has an obviously cultural gap, they might be turned off from the training altogether. Since you probably can’t please everyone (especially on a tight budget) you can use culturally ambiguous voiceovers that don’t pigeonhole the training to just one area.

Hiring pros used to be an expensive part of producing training videos, but today’s actors are used to freelancing and using their own equipment so it might not be as pricey as you think. And, when it comes to bang for your buck, having good voiceover talent is worth it. In the end, you want to be sure that learners are listening to the words and not getting distracted by the voice.