Casting Voice Over Talent for E-Learning, by Peter Drew

You’ve integrated narration and role-playing into your instructional design.  Now, you have to cast the voice talent and get the best reads possible out of them.  This process starts, not with listening to voice-over demos, but with the course itself.

Casting starts with questions

To whom is the course targeted?  Primary gender?  Age?  Financial status?  What is the attitude of the course’s presentation?  Formal?  Light and breezy?  Enthusiastic?  Intimate?  What method is used to measure a learner’s performance?  Anything that has a bearing on not just what is said but how it’s said.

Use the answers to these types of questions to get an idea of the type of voice that would work best as the instructor/narrator.  For role-playing scenes, create a simple persona for each character in order to reflect and reinforce what is being taught.  For example, a female supervisor discussing a job performance review with an employee.  How old is she?  What is her personality?  Is she demanding?  Quiet, yet commanding?  How does she dress?  Is she feminine or otherwise?  What about the employee?  How old is this worker?  Meek and compliant?  Defiant and obstinate?  Concerned and engaged?

Finding the right voice

Once you created these simple character sketches, you have a basis for casting the voice talent.  So, where can you find the right talent for your project?  The Internet has revolutionized the voice over business.  Before the advent of the Web, a producer had to work through a third party, e.g., a talent agency or recording studio to locate voice over artists.  Today, through the Internet, you can locate and contact talent directly, as well as through talent agents, recording studios, and voice casting sites.

On the Internet, voice-over demos are just a mouse click away.  Most voice talents have at least two demos—one for commercials and another for narrations.  For e-learning casting purposes, the more important demo is the narration demo.  With the expansion of online learning and training, though, there are voice talents that now specialize in voicing instructional material.  You can tailor your search to locate these specialists and their
e-learning demos.  If no credits are provided along with the online demo and the voice over artist makes your short list, then be sure to ask if he or she has voiced an elearning project.  Having experience in the category might be helpful in determining your final selection.

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