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Really, What is a “Conversational Read?”

You see these terms all the time in audition breakdowns and specs: “conversational, authentic, natural, not like a spokesperson, doesn’t sound like a ‘voice actor.'” But what does that really mean?

Whenever you are speaking with another person, it is a conversational voice.  Now, this doesn’t just mean friendly nonchalance. This includes nearly the entire emotional spectrum of tones. After all, we have conversations when we’re feeling all sorts of ways: excited, scared, furious, relaxed, and so on.

“Isn’t everything conversational?” Not exactly. If an audition or client is asking for any kind of affectation on your voice (for example, “announcer style” or “game show host”), they probably want a less “natural” sound.

If a client is seeking a “conversational” performance, then they want you to sound like someone the listener can relate to personally. This is your task as a voice actor: to deliver the provided message so convincingly that it sounds as if there was never a script to begin with.

This extends to many of the various genres of voiceover. In Telephony, you must sound like you’re personally meeting the caller and be interested in the reason for their call. In Audio Guides, you must envision each painting, sculpture, etc. as you describe it. In Wildlife Documentaries, you must “see” the subject, and subtly react to what happens in the visual. In Promo, you must think it’s the most spectacular (or whatever) program ever made. And so on.

Some people – especially when getting started on their career path – overthink their performance. Rather than expressing true emotion during the read, and thinking the thoughts they are expressing, they’re thinking about the words they are saying, and how they’re saying them. The listener hears the result of this, and it sounds unreal.

So it helps to envision the context of the script. Why might you be talking with someone about this? What did they say/ask you earlier in the “scene” to warrant this response? To your client, the story is more than words. If you find the connection that makes you care about what you’re saying, your listener is far more likely to engage.

Our coaches’ bread and butter is training voice actors to speak naturally with their authentic, conversational tone, whatever the genre. If you could use some help honing this invaluable skill, reach out to our Education Team today about working with a coach to beef up your auditions and book more work. The Audition Prep Program is the perfect choice for making the tweaks you need to get hired.