There is one vocal area that plagues both broadcasters and voiceover artists alike, and that’s rate. Determining the correct rate when recording or doing a live shot can be difficult, and the wrong choice can cost you your job.
Let me give you an example. I was working with a reporter who had covered a disaster. She felt she needed to portray the chaos around her by speaking rapidly. But with this rapid delivery she was doing something I often speak out against: She was adding to the crisis with the way she was reporting it. I call this the “Chicken Little” delivery. A slower, more thoughtful delivery would have gotten her points across with a sense of gravity, which would have worked much better.
Another example came when I was talking to a prominent voice over artist. He said he was voicing an ad for a security company who wanted him to portray the dangers that can arise without a security system. They wanted this to be a rapid-fire delivery. He finally convinced them that a slower delivery could create more of a sense of danger.
So why do people misuse rate? What I hear from clients is that most of them think vocal energy equals a fast rate. They end up sounding like an overzealous used car salesmen. They use a rapid-fire delivery almost like a crutch to make their read sound exciting. They forget that sometimes slowing down can give your read even more vocal energy. I think “passion” is a better way to describe what vocal energy actually is.
Listen to this clip, which is my favorite example of great vocal energy.
Who could have better vocal energy than James Earl Jones does in this clip? And yet, he speaks slowly and uses pauses to enhance the vocal energy (passion) he puts into words.
So what’s the bottom line here? Rate has little to do with vocal energy, and misusing a rapid rate can backfire on you. Think of vocal energy as passion for what you’re saying, and you’ll like what you hear.