Here’s the number 1 tip for a better, faster, efficient v/o session:
Read your script aloud.
This may seem either obvious or pointless, but it’s the easiest way to uncover problems before you’re being billed by the hour. Also, sentences and phrases that may look fine on paper can sometimes sound awkward when spoken aloud.
Technical terms and pronunciations:
Although we have LOTS of experience working in the world of medicine, pharmaceuticals, IT and other specialized fields, it’s always helpful to have a guide for any terms that a layman might not recognize. Phonetic pronunciations with syllable emphasis work best.
For example, “fuh-NET-ik pruh-NUN-see-ay-shuns with SILL-uh-bull EM-fuh-siss”.
Diacritical marks (as found in a dictionary) are OK as a substitute but the example above seems to work best.
Here’s an excellent source of pronunciations, usually including a sound file: m-w.com.
Especially in IT and Government work, we may not always know whether “SIP” is supposed to be said “S-I-P” or “sip” (as in tea). Same goes for strange number/letter combinations (“IVR97/a-pro”).
We’re always happy to let your subject matter expert attend the session either in person or by phone/Skype patch to listen in and help guide pronunciation issues. And finally, refer to the first suggestion above – reading the script aloud can be a big help.
Broadcast and other hard-timed audio:
If your script MUST be produced to be exactly 15, 30, 60 seconds, etc. then by all means see if it fits. Again, read it to yourself with a good stopwatch or other timing device. And just because you can finish the script in 30 seconds doesn’t you or your client will be happy when they hear your voice talent speed through it as well. Leave a little room for music, sound effects, etc.
A good rule of thumb is to run a word count on your script: 70-80 words is a safe target for a 30 second spot, 140-150 words for a 60. Of course, your results may vary…
Occasionally, we also wind up with scripts that are too short! In either case, it’s good to come to the session knowing that you have a sentence or two you could cut out (or add in) if needed.
14-point double spaced serif typefaces (Times New Roman, etc) are ideal.
They’re legible even for folks without 20/20 eyesight, and the extra space lets everyone add notes. Also for multi-page scripts, try to avoid sentences that start on one page and end on the next. And never try to save paper by printing on both sides of the page!
We work best with traditional paper scripts; if your voice talent prefers to read from a digital device (laptop, iPad, etc), that’s OK, so long as the device is absolutely silent (meaning no laptop fan noise).