getting what you want from the tone of your videoIf you were reading some of my previous posts about voice over carefully, you might have picked up on a theme. And that theme was “how not to describe the voiceover needs for your video.”

“Look, Kendra,” you may be saying at this point, “If referencing celebrities, famous commercials, and buzzwords have been ruled out, what the Dickens is left?”

OK…so maybe you didn’t say “Dickens.” But the question stands. How do you talk with your video professional about what you need and want: that elusive, perfect tone that gets synced between the visuals, voiceover (VO), and music to create a masterpiece?

You go with the gut. Specifically, your customer’s gut.

Time and again I see voiceover specifications that reference how a video should look or sound. But is that really the goal? No.

The goal is to get the viewer to feel.

You don’t want an “upbeat, conversational” video – you want a video that makes the customer feel happy, feel that your company is friendly and approachable, feel like they can trust you.

Or you need, not a “somber, authoritative” video, but a video that makes investors feel that the company is serious, feel that this information is critically important, feel that the decision-makers know what they’re doing.

And rather than an “energetic, fast-paced” video, you’re looking for a video that will make viewers feel energized, feel excited; feel like jumping out of their seats, tossing down their ear buds, and taking action.

So that’s what you want to keep in mind: the reactions you want from the viewer.

Four cool things happen when you shift your perspective away from technical specifics and toward your viewer’s emotions:

  1. Discussions and planning get easier. While the project manager from your video production company may not know exactly which version of Scarlett Johansson you’re hearing in your head, he or she does know what it feels like to be elated, comfortable, or concerned. The terminology of emotion is common ground. It crosses age, gender, and culture.
  2. Building your video production team gets easier. Using the terminology of emotion carries beautifully into the search for the right voiceover talent and music bed. It provides a way to bring your message to life by finding and combining all the right talent that will round out your team and be able to evoke the right emotions.
  3. Your team is creative. Whether it’s the animators or voice talent, they’ll be able to browse through their entire repertoire of resources, and tap into their skills to make choices and find options that might surprise you. (Bonus: You’re released from the stress of micromanaging.)
  4. Fine tuning gets easier. Decisions about what to keep and what to cut are clearer – your gut, and the team’s, will zero in on the parts that aren’t playing emotions correctly (or at all).

So the next time you get the urge to ask for “that one Scott Joplin rag” as the music bed of your next video or “someone who sounds like Dennis Leary” for the tag line – stop and think about why those are the specifics that jump to mind. Bet it’s because of how they make you feel. And I bet there are other options out there that can do the same thing, maybe even better, if you know how to ask for them.



Kendra Hoffman renounced her engineering ways to become a voice actor specializing in making copy sound smart. Her studio is based in Minneapolis, though she’s been heard around the world. Her geek cred is substantial. Read Kendra’s other blog posts.