Recently I attended a conference that had the usual fare of keynote speakers, break-out sessions, lectures and PowerPoint presentations. One of the presenters, in addition to providing a live, spoken commentary for his PowerPoint visuals, included a pre-recorded narrative (also in his voice) that accompanied each slide. The experience caused me to question - Why do people record their own narrations?
I’m not sure if lack of a budget, scarce resources or just poor judgment were the reasons for the home grown approach to the soundtrack. Regardless of the rationale, it is the result that counts, and in this case the poor quality of the narration diffused the impact of the finished product. Though the topic at hand (Virtual Tour photography) was appealing, as were the professionally produced visuals, the unprofessional soundtrack quickly distracted me from the virtues of the content. And though the presenter’s voice and delivery were serviceable, it was the quality of the recording that was most disconcerting.
Common reasons people attempt to record their own narrations include:
- They think professional recordings are too expensive - Calculate the value of the time you spent creating the presentation, the number of potential viewers, potential ROI the presentation may have on your product and service, and the effect it will have on your brand image. Often you will find you can't afford NOT to do it professionally. Plus, professionally recorded and edited content might be more affordable than you think.
- They don’t know where to get a professional voicewhere to get a professional voice - Sure, you hear big brands use voice overs in high budget commercials, but contracting a professional can rage greatly from local live talent to hiring a company that specializes in creating recordings. It can help your business sound bigger than you can imagine.
- They think their voice is “good enough” - Find an honest friend to give you feedback on your recording or ask them to have someone else listen to it and give you feedback. You might be surprised what you hear. Check out "What's Wrong with DIY Voice Over Work", below.
- They don’t think the end user will notice a difference in quality - Get a sample recording from a professional voice and record the same thing in your voice and do an A/B test - send a portion of your clients one version and the rest the second, then ask them for feedback.
What’s wrong with Do It Yourself Voice Over work?
When people narrate their own projects, several problems with the production value of the audio track occur:
- The Signal to Noise Ratio is off. The signal to noise level - the relationship of what is meant to be heard to that which is not meant to be heard – is frequently bad due to poor recording conditions. In this case, the “signal” is the voice, and the “noise” is the ambient background sound. Background noises include things like a radio playing or dog barking; but also the incessant electrical “hum” generated from either a cheap microphone, poorly grounded recording system, air conditioner or other appliance.
- Lack of Editing. Frequently, DIY recording is completely unedited. Breaths, awkward pauses, stumbles, and mouth noises are painfully evident. Unfortunately compromised audio detracts from the positive aspects of visual content, ruining what can otherwise have be an engaging and impressive multimedia experience.
- Abundance of regionalisms and accents. We all talk a little funny. Whether we say “Caw-fee” instead of the unaccented “coffee” or call it waiting “in queue” instead of “on line” or “on hold”, even a slight difference in dialect can be off-putting to people who speak differently. Most professional voice talents are trained to perform with a neutral accent, so they’ll sound appealing to a wide audience, which is especially important for companies that serve customers from different backgrounds.
The Affects of Poor Narration
After watching this presentation, my takeaway should have been revelations about optimizing photography for Virtual Tours. Instead, I could only focus on the poor-quality audio and these points about how not to narrate.