Working as a Voiceover Artist and a Radio Presenter
No, you can't be a voiceover artist if you're a radio presenter.
This would have been a very short article if I had believed that. These two vocal art forms actually complement each other well. Here's how.
Yes, I can sound like a BBC newsreader when a VO client requests that. Interestingly though, I tend to find that they want someone who sounds like a BBC newsreader either off duty or who has had a little too much coffee.
Sounding natural on the radio is a real skill and the trend today is for a conversational presenter but one who makes an impact on the listener. Sounding natural is not about getting behind a mic and broadcasting for the first time - that's a bit too natural. It's about training your voice, listening to your off air recordings and working out what you were doing that made that bit sound really good. It is about exaggerating speech a little bit, playing with the mic - VOs know the power of dropping our volume and getting in close to the mic. Mmmm, cosy. Then, stripping it down and being natural and YOU - but with the benefit of consciousness about your sound.
Essentially, as a VO, I can work out in an instant what voice style is required at any given moment and use it on the radio. It's still me, I'm not doing an impersonation, it's just dipping into my tool bag. Radio texture comes from the tone we use to communicate content and tell stories - nothing fake. You can't get away with it unless it's deliberately OTT. With VO, as many of our projects are very short, I can sustain a voice that isn't quite the real me for that time. I can't do that with a four hour radio show!
In radio we focus on an "audience of 1", thinking about them, what they are doing and telling them the story as an individual. This is something I use in VO, it's great for selecting the right tone and pace and provokes you to think about the brief a bit more deeply. Radio teaches the lesson we all know about really understanding the script and what we are selling. It pays to be across the story - if you aren't then you need to ask the right questions. Radio guru Valerie Geller recommends that you know your script so well that if it were to blow away in a gust of wind, you'd be able to deliver the cue and conduct the interview. It's a good thought and would certainly make for telling the story in a personal style.
It's a happy relationship between presenting and VO. I'm delighted I can do both (and that my employers are happy with my double life). The benefits for me are that I can draw on tools from both sides of my work and my aim is that when I'm in the hot seat or booth I don't have to think about it too much, it just happens. Hence an article longer than one line after all.
Clare Reeves is a voice artist, presenter, trainer and journalist. For more of her light-heated insights into the wonderful world of voiceover work, make sure you take a look at her Twitter feed, @clareonairlive.