Training Your Employees To Provide Audio And Voice-Over In-House Like A Pro


Having In-House Employee Voice-Over For eLearning Content

Many eLearning content creators are turning to internal staff for traditionally outsourced eLearning resources. Nothing is more daunting for your employees than doing voice-overs. Budgetary restrictions, time restraints, or challenges in hiring outside vendors due to security clearances can all factor into this decision. You may also be considering AI, but you have likely found that the technology simply hasn’t come far enough to offer a truly human-sounding experience, affordably. I have had the pleasure of improving employee voice-over efforts of many companies, so I compiled this handy article to help if you, your employer, and your employees have decided to forgo the use of a professional voice actor/narrator.

As you probably know, voice-over or voice acting is about far more than having a pleasant speaking voice. However, you are probably approaching staff members based partly on who is articulate, well-read, and has an overall pleasing vocal quality. And while your employee may initially be flattered that you thought of them, they are also likely a little terrified.

On the surface, it’s a very easy job, right? Read the script, record your voice, edit any mistakes, and possibly even sync it to video. It sounds simple enough. But voice actors are a highly skilled, technologically advanced group of actors who possess some pretty impressive knowledge. So, if you want the finished project to be professionally competitive and pleasurable for its audience, it’s much harder than it sounds (pun intended.) There are four main components to deliver the best quality for both the audio and the employee voice-over in question.

1. Equipment

Audience feedback from various multimedia encounters is making one thing very clear to content creators–bad audio is intolerable. Viewers will forgive several video infractions but they demand good quality audio, free from hiss, background noise, and volume jumps. The reason why is very simple, too. Most working professionals consume workplace audio via earbuds or headphones. So when the audio is literally in someone’s ear, you can’t afford for it to be painful (literally and figuratively.)

At a minimum, your recording team is going to need an audio interface, a high-quality XLR or USB microphone, and studio headphones. You will likely also need to invest in microphone cables and a desk mounting microphone arm. Unless you are using proprietary recording software, you will also need DAW software that allows for recording as well as post-production, EQ, and other corrective measure. This is the bare minimum necessary to ensure your employee can record decent audio from their workspace. These tools ensure the best recording experience possible for the smallest investment. The majority are easy to set up with minimal effort and the watching of a few YouTube videos for guidance.

2. An Understanding Of Basic Audio Errors

These are the skills and expertise you may be taking for granted when you hire an experienced eLearning voice-over narrator. They are mistakes that a recording novice, like an employee recording voice-over, is likely to be unaware of.

Plosives Or Pops

Plosives are caused by a harsh rush of air into the diaphragm of a microphone. They are most common in words that begin with a “p” or “b” but they can occur when these letters are pronounced anywhere in a recorded word. Plosives or pops are avoidable with slightly off-axis microphone placement, a pop filter, and the speaker practicing how to soften “p” and “b” sounds. Practice doing this: place your palm in front of your mouth, no more than a few inches, and say the following: “notice the proportions and position needed to best pour from the beaker.” Do you feel the air of your breath hitting your palm when you pronounce the underlined letters? These are the plosives that will show up in a recording. To reduce them soften or relax the way your lips form each underlined letter, to avoid the rush of air that causes the pop.

Mouth Noise Or Clicks

Mouth noise can be a bit more challenging to reduce. These clicking and smacking sounds are caused by: a lack of hydration, the speaker failing to open their mouth wide enough to avoid excess contact points while speaking, certain medications like antihistamines, and, lastly, age. Mouth noise increases as we get older. There are many remedies that voice actors use to avoid mouth noise, but the most effective is a combination of hydration, opening your mouth more and relaxing your jaw while speaking, and taking small bites of green (sour) apple during recording sessions. However, there are postproduction tools that can reduce or eliminate clicks throughout the whole of an audio file.

Sibilance

Simply put, sibilance is an overpronounced “s.” It’s how we envision a snake would speak if they could. This is not a lisp, mind you. It’s typically caused when a speaker places their tongue almost directly behind their teeth to pronounce “s” sounds while holding the note longer than is necessary. Sibilance can be corrected with vocal practice or specific editing techniques in postproduction. Some software even offer a “de-essing” feature.

Up Speak

Up speak is when a statement is made to sound like a question. It is a habit that a speaker must be trained out of. It is only with awareness, practice, and patience that up speak can be curbed. There is no postproduction cure for it.

Best Recording Practices

Much of the quality of your audio begins at the beginning. If the microphone levels, interface input settings, sample, and bit rates of recording are incorrect or poor, the resulting audio will be very subpar. It takes most new users a bit of guidance to learn proper settings and best recording practices. This is best achieved with sample audio recordings that can be evaluated by an expert, who can then advise on the necessary corrections.

3. Audio Editing

Unless you have an editor or producer who will be finalizing the audio, it is likely you will also need your employee to clean up and edit the audio for its final use. Please know that audio production is an art form that takes years to master. You will likely need to hire a consultant to teach your staff how to fast-track this process and create a set of shortcuts based on the material they are recording. An EQ “stack” can be created for your recording software, resulting in a single keystroke command that fixes a multitude of different problems like background noise, clicks, breath removal, and more.

Knowing how to properly edit, remove errors, mix, and master audio is complex. An audio beginner will waste hundreds of hours learning how to navigate the recording software, make proper cuts, edits, and pickups, and struggle with trial and error for EQ and mastering settings. Understanding how to correct a recorded mistake in real time with a proper edit point is also a huge time saver. They will need help. It may even be both time and money-saving to farm all the audio out to an editor and relieve your employees of this task.

4. Perfecting The Performance

Your employee will soon learn that focusing on the written word while maintaining the right pace, tone, clarity, volume, and pitch may be daunting. All of that along with focusing on how to sound pleasant and best represent the company brand is a lot to think about all at once. Of course, the more familiar your employees are with the material they are recording, the easier a time they will have of it. However, there are still some very practical techniques that will help them feel more comfortable, relaxed, and confident in the process. A confident speaker is a listenable speaker!

It may take your employee many months to find their stride and that depends on just how often they are recording. Hiring a voice-over consultant to aid them in the early stages of learning is likely going to be a critical cost- and time-saver in the long run. If you are proactive and provide your employees with the right tools and resources, your end product will not suffer. Also, if you are committed to retaining a human sound these efforts will yield the best results. Ongoing, periodic employee voice-over training will help your company to stay current, on-trend, and aware of new technology and other assets that can aid your self-recording employees.

It would be my pleasure to discuss your audio needs with you and be a consultant to your team. As a voice actress and coach, I have helped many presenters, speakers, and corporations with their in-house employee voice-over efforts.

Editor’s Note: Check out our directory to find, choose, and compare eLearning Industry’s Top eLearning Voice Actors.

eBook Release: Voiceover Actress & Teaching Specialist

Voiceover Actress & Teaching Specialist

Voiceover actress and teacher with 25 years of experience. I make educational material for corporate, internal, compliance, safety, consumer, software, and more come to life in an engaging, human, and conversational way.

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