Creating Engaging and Effective eLearning Voice Overs


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Creating eLearning voice-overs may seem like a simple and straightforward task. After all, how hard could it surely be to narrate your eLearning course, given that you’re practically a professional in the subject right now? But developing eLearning audio can often end up being a time-intensive and stressful challenge for even the most experienced eLearning professionals. Listed below are just a couple of top tips that could help you create eLearning voice-overs that engage, entertain, and enlighten your learners in a fraction of a second.

Pro Tips for eLearning and Long Form Narration Voice Over

How Do You Create An eLearning voice-over?

1. Map out your eLearning voice over.

Even before you sit down to publish your script or hit that “record” button, it is vital to create a detailed outline of what should be included in your eLearning voice over. This is very useful if you haven’t already written text on-hand. Develop a listing of eLearning goals and objectives or key ideas you must incorporate in the voice-over. Also, map out the flow of the script, such as what ideas you must cover first and the overall tone, and keep the images and videos you’ll be using in mind.

2. Keep the script natural and conversational.

While you will always maintain a sense of professionalism, your eLearning voice over ought to be natural and conversational. You need the learners to feel like they are playing someone who’s personable, friendly, and compassionate, rather than a narrator who’s cold and business-like. So, when writing your script, create content that reflects what you would normally say. Keep sentences concise and use one voice all throughout. Be informative and authentic, so that your learners get the sense that you know about the topic, while still maintaining a sense of reliability to build that essential connection with your audience. Ideally, you’ll want to decide on the tone, and the narrative voice, whether you will use first, second, or third person narrative before you sit down to write the script so you stay consistent all throughout.

3. Watch the clock.

When creating your eLearning voice-over script, remember that 100 words usually equates to 1 minute of recording time. This will help you help keep your lessons brief and engaging, as opposed to drawn out and boring. It will also permit you to time your screen transitions. For example, in the event that you include 100 words of text on a display, then you definitely know that you should have to leave the screen up for around one minute allowing the learners to learn about the topic that is being discussed in your eLearning voice-over.

4. Always do a test round.

Although you may have devoted countless hours to fine-tuning your script and pare it down to a manageable length, you will still want to do a test round to ensure that everything flows effectively before you record; even if you hire a voice-over artist to read the script for you. It will give you a chance to rework any content that may be off-topic, irrelevant, or not in-line with the overall tone of your eLearning voice over.

5. Silence is golden.

Don’t be afraid of silence when you’re creating your eLearning voice-over. It’s best to give your learners audio breaks, in order that they can absorb and process the information, rather than rushing them into another topic by filling every second with a narrative. You can use silence to let your listeners know when it’s time to go onto another idea or lesson and for emphasis when they need to examine a chart or graph that is being shown on the screen.

6. Don’t let the audio steal the show.

It’s important to keep in mind that the eLearning voice over you are creating should not be the center of your learners’ attention. Instead, it should merely be a learning aid that allows them to more absorb the content.  Ideally, they will begin gaining the information by reading the text, and the voiceover will help to boost knowledge retention. As a result, avoid distracting sound effects, and voice-overs that could be too dramatic or over-the-top, such as for example narrations with heavy accents or character portrayals. Use the voice over to draw their awareness of key points are on screen, to provide them real-life examples that involve the subject, or to ask them thought-provoking questions that make them pause and reflect upon the topic.

7. Ambient noise is not your friend.

Your recording space should really be free from any noisy objects, such as fans, air conditioners, or even computers that may restrict the grade of your eLearning voice-over. However, even though you record in an area that’s quiet, you’re probably still going to edit out the white noise that can distract learners. There are many free audio editing tools that you can use to fine-tune your eLearning voice over, such as Audacity.

Types of narration.

Narration has four subtypes:

  1. Elaborate
    • Where what the voice is saying is summarized by the on-screen text.
  2. Paraphrasing
    • Where the reverse happens, i.e. the voice summarizes the text.
  3. Verbatim
  4. Descriptive
    • Where the audio describes the images seen on the screen.

The work of the voice-over artist should be to give key information that will provide an explanatory summary.
A less obvious example of utilization of descriptive voice-over narration is the typical airline preflight safety video that you watch before takeoff.

The voice-over in a preflight safety video offers several things.

The actor will have obviously been picked because of their crystal clarity, but their sunny, reassuring tones will probably have helped in their selection too.

The right tone has to be a consideration when you need to convey safety information in a palatable way to a bunch of captives about to ride in a compressed cylinder flying on four controlled explosions 5 miles up in the sky!

Factors to Be Cautious About, When Creating An eLearning Voice-Over.

1. Tone of Voice.

Always think about what type of tone you want to adopt for a voice-over, as it’s part of the identity of the piece.

A specialist voice-over artist will maintain exactly the same tone throughout a whole group of e-learning modules. This consistency is important to steadfastly keep up authority and authenticity and will seem jarring if it drifts.

An e-learning script should usually be natural and conversational.

A voice-over artist will try to help learners feel as if they are listening to someone who is pleasant and approachable, rather than someone just announcing train times.

2. Use Sparingly.

A phrase of caution here: although you will find great benefits to including voice-over narration, don’t use it because it’s there.

It’s always tempting to use everything you know, but it’s best to use only as needed.

3. Using Professionals.

When cost is a problem (and when it isn’t?) you may well be tempted to cut corners.

On the face of it, creating an e-learning voice-over might look like a fairly straightforward task. You might wonder how hard it can be when you’re virtually an expert on the subject itself, and you are a human capable of speech!

Why pay somebody to speak when you’re able to speak, right?

Time is money, and you will undoubtedly encounter all the roadblocks to progress for the first time if you do it yourself.

4. Map it out

A detailed outline of what you’ll include in your e-learning voice-over is essential. Create a list of key ideas and objectives, map out the flow of the script, note the tone, and keep in mind the images, graphics, and videos you’ll be using.

Even a rough guide will help to solidify the shape of the piece in your mind.

5. Let the script sound natural and conversational

Even if you won’t be reading it yourself, write a script in such a way that the learners will feel as although the person behind the voice is an agreeable and approachable expert.

They need to be respectful, personable, and professional.

The script shouldn’t condescend to your learners and try to keep the voice in the present tense and active.

6. Manage time

100 to 150 words takes about a minute to read aloud and about the same for your audience to read on-screen, so with this in mind, you will work out how many words you need to produce.

7. Always Do a Test Run

You may have spent many hours crafting your script to be airtight and erudite, but the written word can deceive you.

You need to actually hear your script being voiced before you can really tell whether it works and what needs to be improved.

If hiring a professional, ask for auditions to make sure your narrator of choice reads in a manner synergetic with the subject.

There is no shame in rehearsing, just consider it a necessary part of the process that lies halfway between quality control and fine-tuning the end product.

8. The sound of silence

Just like your script may be, the gaps between your nuggets of wisdom are as important while the nuggets themselves.

Learners also benefit from a break, in exactly the same way that diners do between courses. Learners need time to digest information and assimilate before they move on.

Don’t feel compelled to cram every available second with narrative, since you risk overburdening the senses (and patience) of your audience.

Silence can also be used as punctuation, signaling to listeners it’s time to move on to the next piece of information, or else letting them know that you are giving them time to examine something on-screen.

9. The audio is there to aid learning

Remember, your e-learning voice-over is composed of elements that need to come together with none of them dominant.

When learners read information, the voice over will assist you to increase knowledge retention. It should work in partnership with text and visual elements rather than trying to dominate them.

Use the voice over to post questions, give examples, or offer anecdotes that illustrate a point.

10. Keep your soundscape clean.

Yet another reason to use a skilled voice talent with professional recording gear: background noise will stick out like a polka-dot bowtie in a military parade and will distract your audience.

Anything you can do to reduce the amount of audio clutter in your recording will help the final product no end, so dampen white noise from things like computer fans and air conditioners.

11. The Script

A learning video needs a script, just like a meal needs a recipe. The script is the map of what will occur; it charts the territory that the learner will probably explore and it presents it in a succession of discrete segments that build upon each other to take them from not knowing to knowing.

Even if the subject matter is bland, the script is there to spice it up as much as possible, to make it palatable, and to finally send the learner on their way with new information.

Getting the script right is very important, so below are a few pointers for doing just that.

Pointers To Making The Right Script

  1. Make the script a conversation
    • Dictating facts will have all the interest of drying paint.
    • Learners like to engage with a personality that they find appealing, that’s just human nature.
    • So, your script should sound casual and include words like “we”, “you”, and “us” as it leads learners on a shared journey through all the information that you’re asking them to absorb.
    • Check the flow as you go by reading aloud to yourself as you write it. If it feels warm and engaging to you, then it will to your audience.
  2. Say it with less
    • Your eLearning scripts should only contain as many words as necessary.
    • It’s a fact that people absorb visuals much more quickly and with greater recall than audio.
    • A picture really is worth 1000 words, so your few words need to give an overview or summary of the images on the screen (remember the modality principle?) rather than the other way around.
  3. Make a plan before you write
    • Consider your e-learning script from every angle using mind maps, brainstorming and storyboarding. Start with the ‘macro,’ the wide-angle overview of everything where you draw your plan on a big piece of paper with scruffy notes in connected bubbles; then work your way down to the ‘micro’ level, which is the close-up view.
    • If you throw it all down at the start, you can then hack away the extraneous bits and then assemble your timeline.
    • Having a final shape in mind for the script before you write it means that it’s much less likely to wander off and get lost.
  4. Simplify language
    • Every industry has its own jargon.
    • It’s a kind of shorthand that people learn to make their lives easier in the jobs they do, but don’t make the mistake of throwing jargon at learners who won’t be familiar with it.
    • If you must use jargon, then use terms they are familiar with only if it truly aids the learning experience.
    • If it’s possible to research your audience ahead of time, then do so.
    • If you know your course is aimed at beginners, then perhaps jargon is something that you will need to teach.
  5. Paint word pictures
    • As noted earlier, the brain takes in images much more quickly than words.
    • But if those words are used to create images in the mind, they can tap into that visual learning mechanism and be far more memorable.
  6. Edit, edit, rinse and repeat
    • It would be nice if your e-learning script was right the first time, but usually, they’re not.
    • Chances are you will need to proofread, edit, and revise your script, although not necessarily on your own. Having someone else looks over what you’ve written often means that they will pick up on the mistakes you’ve missed through just being over-familiar with it. In the same way, you might find that putting it to one side and then coming back to it later throws up a few errors that you didn’t see before.
    • Probably the best way to ensure that it’s perfect though is to hire a professional editor to comb it for errors and improve the flow.
    • And error checking itself is important, as a professional voice-over artist will probably stumble over bad grammar and spelling.
    • Format your script in a manner that is easily understood by the voice artist you work with and leaves no room for any doubt about pronunciation or style direction issues.

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