What’s up with the Conversational Read?

Conversational Read


What’s up with the Conversational Read? Why must we be conversational in our voiceovers? Millennials want story, not ads. Simple right? Not so much.

In most promotional scripts, sellers are…well, selling something. As soon as we are “pushing” something on customers, we use specific words and inflections. A quick visit to a clothing store, a car dealership or even a restaurant will illustrate my point. Staff are always “selling” and “up-selling,” and when faced with this behavior, we react by putting defenses up. We start feeling like we aren’t being treated like people anymore, but like numbers that must feed a bottom line somewhere.

To cut through those defenses, advertisers have been requiring that voice actors speak more “conversationally” when performing scripts. They want to avoid alienating a new generation of buyers who loathe being sold to (millennials “can’t even”). While the idea is good, the approach doesn’t always work, and it’s not always because of the voice talent. Often, there is a disregard for “conversation” in the actual script. Words like “Introducing” and “buy one, get one free” and “for a limited time” make it difficult for the listener to believe someone is merely “sharing” or recommending a product they love. These types of words also make it difficult for actors to connect with the script or brand. We end up feeling like salespeople and resort to the same behavior a sales person would: we sell. It’s a healthy human reaction.

To create as “real” a spot as you possibly can, take some time to think of creative ways to tell your story that don’t involve “salesy” words and clichés. Speak “with” your audience, instead of “to” or “at” them. Make sure the script sounds like an actual conversation. This is not something you can rush, -it takes time to mimic life! Pros all over the world spend countless hours trying to achieve this. But once you do, finding the right talent will be much easier.

Also note that the more conversational your script is (unless you’re dealing with a serious testimonial, or a comedic, wry piece) you will likely end up leaning towards higher pitched voices. Lower voices have more weight to them (more authoritative), and feel less casual or like they are simply “sharing”. Keep that in mind when casting.

On the other hand, if you do want to stick to the “tried and true” then be honest with what you are trying to achieve in your script: more sales. Use those sales words galore: nothing wrong with trying to make a buck! We all are!