Focus on the Listener: Improving your VO Reads

customer-563967_1920One thing that is universal about voice over artists is that we want to do great work. We want to ‘sound great’. But sometimes it is exactly that desire to sound awesome that can get in the way of the message, and get in the way of a great sounding read.

You may know what I mean. Sometimes we can hear a spot that overall seems to sound good, but for some reason it’s just missing the mark. There’s something about it that doesn’t feel authentic. You can hear the voice over artist listening to themselves. You can hear that they’re not quite ‘comfortable in their skin’.

It can be a delicate balance to strike. Having the right amount of desire and passion to succeed and the right amount of confidence, relaxation, and focus to deliver the read.

So much of it is a mind game really.

One issue, of course, is confidence, which is why we really need to watch our self talk. If we are caught up doubting ourselves while we’re talking, it will get in the way of our connection, get in the way of our flow. It will distract us from our message while we are caught up in wondering if it’s good enough, doubting our instincts, and above all, paying attention to ourselves instead of paying attention to our message.

One of the things I find very helpful when approaching reads is to make sure that you aren’t making the read about you. This can help quiet the mind, eliminate overly self conscious reads, and also connect us to the tone and feeling of the piece.

Make it about someone else. Make it about that person that you’re talking to, and how you want to make them feel, what you want them to understand, or the message you have for them. What do you want them to do? How do you want them to feel? How can you help THEM?

Also, you can make it about the product, and how that product makes you feel. Really imagine whatever it is that you like about the product. Activate your senses when talking about visuals, sounds, feelings, taste – give yourself up to it.

The important thing is to try to get outside of yourself. Make sure that it’s not just about how wonderful your voice is, but about how your voice can convey a message, how your voice can move someone, or how your voice can be translated into action! This is about communication. Communicating a message. Connecting to people. Or, as I’d like to say: Connecting to one person at a time.

For instance, what action can you take (with your voice) to be most effective with that person you’re talking to? Do you need to convince them that this would be the car of their dreams? Or perhaps cajole them into trying something new? Seduce them, soothe them, comfort them, reason with them, teach them, inform them … The list can go on and on with ways we can translate our read (or the tone of the read) into actions that connect us with our listener, and frees us up to truly engage with them in a more authentic manner.

Remember, that microphone is incredibly sensitive. It picks up on everything as far as I’m concerned. So if our overriding thought is, ‘I hope I sound good’, that will usually come across in the read, distracting from the message, and distracting from the authentic connection that truly reaches the heart of an audience.

The point is that when we are focused on something other than ourselves, we are allowing ourselves to more completely connect with the heart of the message. And this also allows us to more completely connect with our audience, helping to abolish self conscious reads, and turn them into those truly awesome reads we wanted to begin with.

 Aria McKenna is an award-winning actress who has worked in films, TV, and the stage. She’s also a sought-after voice talent who has worked for major brands like Disney, Chevy, Fiat, Chanel, Yokohama, and more. You can find her work at

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