Explainer videos trying to sell a product, service or idea typically rely on voiceover narration to deliver a big share of the message. The better the narration in your marketing video, the better the viewer experience. Here are some questions you should ask early in the video production process.
1. Deciding on a male or female narrator
A recent study at ConversionXL found that female voices were considered a little more “trustworthy” by viewers of a promotional explainer video. The video itself was pretty matter-of-fact.
A 2006 UNC study of "speaker persuasiveness" found that male participants were more persuaded when the speaker was female than when the speaker was male. However, female participants were more persuaded when the speaker was male than when the speaker was female (Zanbaka, et. al.)
This makes sense and might be worth considering if your customers are mostly men or mostly women, though neither of these studies could be considered definitive. I’ve never encountered any that could be.
In the end, the question comes down to gender stereotypes in the decision maker's head — not an especially reliable source of guidance. The best way to decide is to audition both male and female narrators and pick the one who seems best for your script.
2. Voice actor or narrator?
If your video features talking characters, you will need at least one voice actor. These professionals usually do many TV and radio commercials.
Even though a voice may sound great in a commercial, it does not mean that voice will work in your marketing video, especially if you are using straight (not a character) narration. Commercials interrupt other content and get in your face.
The B2B buyer, on the other hand, chooses to watch your video, in order to gain some insight. The last thing she wants is your pitch man in her face. Make sure you audition people who are good at narrating in a relaxed, conversational tone.
3. Should the script be written for the spoken word?
You have probably heard someone say they could listen all day to [insert favorite actor here] reading the dullest text imaginable, like the Manhattan phone directory.
This might be true. But even if you could afford Colin Firth or Scarlett Johansson, the script matters a lot, especially in a short video. Sentences need rhythm. Viewers need time to absorb what is being spoken along with the visual storytelling.
You should take into consideration that people normally speak in incomplete sentences full of interjections, afterthoughts, and parentheticals. A sentence that looks impossibly awkward on the page may come across clear and delightful when spoken aloud. With video, you also need to consider what the viewer is seeing on the screen. For example, when an important subject appears on the screen for the first time, it probably needs to be identified at the beginning of a sentence — even though it might be better prose style to place the important word at the end of the sentence.
4. How many words should the narrator say?
It’s easy to overlook the fact that every single spoken word adds to the length of the video; 125 words per minute is a good rule of thumb. Beyond that, you are heading toward an irritating rat-a-tat delivery. If you want to keep your message short and understandable, you need to be an implacable word counter — from the first draft to last.
5. Who is the director?
Every word counts, but some count more than others. There may be industry terms with counterintuitive pronunciations. There may be unspoken ideas you want the viewer to infer. Narrators will make that happen, but only if you tell them your hidden agenda. I’ve always found that narrators, who are also musicians, are quickest to grasp the pronunciations and message nuances I want viewers to hear.
Someone who knows how the script is supposed to sound needs to direct the voiceover recording.
Very good professional narrators work at competitive rates (we usually pay about $200-$400 for about two minutes). You can be sure of getting a good performance for your money if you know the answers to the questions above.
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