Your online course is so much more effective and digestible if it comes with a high quality voiceover track! Here are 10 "ah-ha" things I wish someone had told me when I started recording my voiceovers.
1. Don't improvise your voiceover.
I would highly recommend against going full improv on your online course voiceover. Like everything else in your course, the voiceover should be well thought out and strategically planned in advance. If you're a natural speaker and teacher, I recommend at the minimum, having a rigid outline with speaking points. And if you are like me, and the thought of giving an unstructured lecture makes your palms start sweating, then I recommend having a complete script to read from. This will keep you on track and help you easily avoid all the "uh"s and "um"s.
2. Don't (just) read your bullet points.
Your bullet points are a great guide to creating your lecture outline, but for God's sake, do not leave it just at that. A high-value eCourse should provide more information in your lecture than just that which is visible on screen. Your verbal lecture should go into more depth about each bullet point, image, or reference shown in your presentations. If you are worried about your students not retaining the information that you are saying verbally, have a downloadable transcript available for students to refer to if they want a written form of the verbal lecture content.
3. Don't cold-read your script.
Your future self will thank you for knowing your script well. Having a good understanding of your script will give you time to rehearse the content and practice intonation to make it sound more natural and not like you're reading. It will also make the recording session faster and smoother, and will eventually demand less time needed to edit out any mistakes. I suggest reading your script every night before you go to sleep on the days leading up to your recording session(s). Supposedly, your brain is best at memorizing information just before you go to sleep, or at least that's what I've heard somewhere. In any case, it works for me :)
4. Don't speak too closely to the microphone.
Be aware of your proximity to the microphone. When recording audio, it's natural to err on the side of overcompensating the relationship between our voice and the mic to make sure that it hears us. However, speaking too closely to the mic is an incorrigible mistake that creates an uncomfortably intimate audible experience for the listener. Imagine someone with their lips inside your ear. Yuck! For it to sound natural, keep a distance of around 6 inches from your mouth and the microphone. Or simply do a test with your microphone to identify the optimal distance for the effect that you want.
5. Don't speak louder than normal talking volume.
Unless you know yourself to have a softer-than-average vocal volume, don't speak louder than normal speaking volume when recording. Again, we tend to err on the side of too loud to ensure that the microphone hears us, but if you're using a decent microphone in a quiet environment, just trust the mic does hear you. You shouldn't have to yell. A yelling tone is impossible to remove in editing, but you can always crank up the volume a little bit if needed. What's more important is that your vocal tone is relaxed, comforting, and natural.
6. Don't assume the microphone is working.
We've talked about how to do your best when recording, but there are, unfortunately, times when Mr. Microphone doesn't do his job properly. I've wasted hours of my life due to assuming the microphone was recording properly, when it in fact, was not. To avoid this, invest a few minutes before your session to do an initial sound check in which you listen to your recording (with earphones) to make sure that everything sounds to par, and repeat this sound check at least every hour, if not more frequently.
7. Don't be afraid to show personality.
No one likes to listen to a monotone robot for an extended period of time. Your students will thank you for making the lecture more personal and expressive. So what might that sound like? Giggle if something is funny! Do a little acting when telling a story. Offer improvised reactions. If your script states, "Did you know that one bee has to fly about 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey?" Maybe your improvised and natural reaction to this fact is something like, "That's insane; I would die! " Leave in those quirky moments because it makes your voiceover feel more entertaining and less robotic.
8. Don't be afraid to go off on a little tangent.
Even though you have a script or outline, some of our best ideas come spontaneously. While recording, if you find yourself compelled to go off on a small tangent, go with it and see where it takes you. You can always edit it out if it doesn't serve the lecture in the end.
9. Don’t ignore odd background noises.
When recording, make it a habit to be hyperaware of any noises in the room or outside. If a dog barks next door, if a skateboard rolls by outside, even if your refrigerator starts making a strange sound midway through your recording session, always listen and be aware. If it's a one-off noise, then re-record your last segment. If it's an ongoing hum, such as the refrigerator, stop recording and record a new room tone so that you can edit out that background hum. I teach you all my tricks for removing background noise in my Voiceover Perfect Tutorial™.
10. Don’t spend too much money on recording equipment.
Fancy microphones and audio editing systems can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars! Trust me, you don't need all of that to get high quality voiceover for your online course. I have tried and tested many products and methods, and I have my process down to a T. I have made a business by selling my voiceover services for thousands of dollars to online course creators, and I don't even work in a recording studio! I just work in a normal home with affordable equipment; it's my simple recording and editing process that makes the extra difference. And it's something that anyone (really, anyone) can replicate! All you'll need is a basic microphone, a quiet room for recording, and a computer for editing (I have the perfect free software), and you're on your way. If you are up for the fun journey of recording the voiceover for your online course, be aware that there are many ways to do it and many other pitfalls to be aware of.
I hope I've inspired you to get to work on your awesome voiceover recordings! Best of luck!