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The do’s and don’ts of video narration

Video has become an unparalleled way of communication in the digital world. Whether it’s for mere communicative, educational, or entertainment purposes.

Video narration is a subtle art to master, it’s not as simple as speaking into a microphone and syncing it with video. There’s nuances to it that you should follow, somewhat unspoken rules to help you get the best possible result.

Elevate your video narration skills with these simple do’s and don’ts.

Do #1: Use a script to guide you

When narrating a video, you want the speech to be aligned with the visuals. Meaning with each transition, the voice over should be narrating according to the context of what’s being shown at the time.

Though a big part of that is fulfilled by practising pacing, a pre-written script can work wonders. Say you’ve got a wildlife documentary, you may showcase various animals throughout the course of the production.

Whether it’s hyenas, lions, tigers or even penguins on the screen, nature documentaries are what they are because of the insightful, contextual voice over taking the viewer through the context of what’s going on.

Although the best documentaries integrate voice over seamlessly within, they still require a script to guide them through.

David Attenborough narrating penguins

Do #2: Speak clearly and concisely

Speaking clearly and concisely is key to effectively communicating with your audience. Whilst their primary attention is on the visuals, sometimes viewers may play content in the background while they do other things.

With a clear and concise video narration, you naturally make your content more accessible to various audiences, particularly for the visually impaired. Speaking clearly and concisely doesn’t necessarily mean formally, but just in a way so that the audience can easily understand what’s being said.

It helps to have a good microphone on-hand when doing so, as opposed to the blurry sound you’d get from a phone microphone, for instance.

Do #3: Practise pacing and timing

Proper pacing is key to delivering an effective narration. You don’t want to speak too slowly, as you may bore your viewer. You don’t want to speak too fast, as your audience may not be able to keep up.

Of course there’s no one-size-fits-all pace to abide by, but it’s key that you take your viewers into consideration when deciding how to speak to them through narration. For a gaming audience, you’d most lead with a lot more energy and speak with a faster pace, for a documentary you may slow that down to regular talking speed.

Timing of your narration is also key for matching the context of your video. There’s no use following a pre-recorded script and freestyling with pace, narration about the lives of Zebras when the scene’s already switched to capybaras.

Try to keep your pace consistent throughout the video, that way the narration will sound as natural as possible.

Do #4: Speak in an engaging tone

Speaking in an engaging tone is key. This may vary, depending entirely on the voice type specific to you.

There’s a reason why people still opt for human voice overs in a world where AI narration is surging in popularity. The je-ne-sais-quoi of the human voice is something that we are naturally drawn to, as we’re, well, people. AI voices however, are less popular due to the lack of soul in them, making them tend to be less engaging than traditional voice over.

The main thing to take into account is to not be monotonal with how you speak, and be sure to enunciate certain words where necessary to help tell the story accordingly.

To summarise, here are the key things to apply when narrating your next video:

  • Use a script as guidance
  • Speak clearly and concisely
  • Utilise pacing and timing
  • Be engaging

Now that we’ve covered all there is to do when recording a video voice over, let’s go through what not to do.

Don’t #1: Speak monotonously

This may seem self explanatory, because it is, but for the amateur voice overs reading this, this is an extremely important tip.

Many may fall into the trap of reading a script in a tone of voice that doesn’t rise or fall, ergo, doesn’t create any type of engagement. Speaking monotonously is a sure-fire way to scare away any listeners by simply boring them to death.

The reason why we add voice over to video is to keep the viewer engaged as long as possible, if you don’t apply that to the tone of voice you choose to convey, you’ll have a harder time growing a loyal audience.

Don’t #2: Use fillers in speech

Fillers, more commonly known as the “uhm”s and “erm”s that come naturally with everyday conversation, should not be used in a video narration.

Although it’s perfectly natural to use in speech, when it comes to publishing a voice over, much like a song, you want the recording to be as clear and concise as possible.

You could argue that some video narrators, such as travel bloggers can get away with a more natural-sounding approach. But for the most part, to deliver the best possible voice over for your video, you’re better off cutting them out from the final recording.

Don’t #3: Waffle

Much like how fillers don’t help with the overall coherence of your voice over, the same can be said for unnecessary rambling or commentary.

Again, this is dependent on your niche (we’re not talking about the Youtubers here). For the most part you should ensure that your voice over audio is straight to the point, and doesn’t deviate too far so as to push your audience away.

This should be the case especially for those who regularly create content for a specific audience. Stick to the point during the narration, that way you ensure your audience knows what to expect the next time they view one of your videos.

Don’t #4: Follow a script too strictly

Although this slightly contradicts the previous point about following a script, it’s important to note that when narrating a video, there has to be some element of spontaneity there.

If you were to follow a script very strictly, you could end up with a really stiff sounding voice over as an end product. As mentioned, we want the flow to be as natural as possible, clear and concise, and engaging. So long as you can deliver those three main pillars, there’s no need to be overly reliant on your script.

Our advice here would be to use a script as a guideline, preferably for narration of context throughout a video, but with less focus on delivering the exact wording, especially if it disrupts the overall flow of the content.

To summarise, here is our top 4 don’ts of video narration:

  • Speak monotonously
  • Use fillers
  • Ramble too much
  • Follow your script too strictly

We hope you enjoyed this post on the do’s and don’ts of video narration, hopefully you learned something practical that you can use moving forward.

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