Tag: voice over

Media Options for Conversation-Driven eLearning

Rather than delivering eLearning content as a lecture, you can explain it through conversations. While more resource-intensive multimedia may be desired, you have a range of options with this technique. It’s possible to use conversations even with a low budget. In the past, I’ve created conversation-driven eLearning with video, animation, and photos.


You can use video to introduce the characters and the challenge they’re facing. Video is especially helpful for courses where non-verbal communication is critical to understanding. With good actors and production quality, this gives your course the feel of a TV show intro. The next time you’re watching TV, pay attention to how the conflict of the story is introduced via a short segment before the title sequence.

My Story-Based Coaching and Mentoring Course for Cine Learning Productions used this technique with a video introduction. After the initial video, we used cutout still photos of the same actors. This requires a custom photo shoot, but it’s much cheaper than using video for the entire course.


As an alternative to video, you can use illustrated characters with animation. I use full animation only for the intro and closing, similar to how I use video to set up the story in the course described above. After the intro, use stills of the same characters. The animation can be engaging to “hook” learners at the beginning, but it may become distracting once you’re delivering content.

We used animated characters for this professional development course for teachers. In the intro and closing (plus a few transitions between sections), the characters were the focus of the image. During most of the content delivery, the voice over continued as a conversation between the two characters, but the visuals supported the content rather than the characters.

Animated course with closed captions

Photos or Illustrations

If your budget doesn’t allow for custom video or animation, character photos or illustrations can certainly work. I would generally opt for photos from a library like eLearning Art over illustrations, but it depends on your audience.

If using more intensive multimedia will subtract from the resources to create more realistic practice exercises or other valuable learning experiences, you should cut the complexity of the media. Cathy Moore asks “What’s the real cost of eye candy?” Video and animation can be “eye candy” rather than adding value. Think about the trade off for media.

Voice Over…Or Not

While I find voice over to be beneficial, you can do a read-only version. Try a comic book or graphic novel style with conversation bubbles. I created this brief example with photos and conversation bubbles debunking the learning styles myth. This was created in PowerPoint; no rapid development tools were needed. Even on a low budget, you can immerse learners in a conversation rather than a didactic presentation.

Conversation between two employees

Want More?

Image credits: Storyblocks, eLearning Brothers


ID and E-Learning Links (9/5/16)

Instructional Design and E-Learning Links

  • Whether male or female voices are better for elearning narration may depend on what tone you’re trying to achieve, although the research results are a bit weak. Breaking tradition and stereotypes can sometimes be effective.

    tags:voiceover research gender

    • “Men’s voices are associated with neutrality, with authoritative, factual information,” explains Arthur Chu, a Cleveland-based artist who’s done voice over work for brands like Safeway and Intel. “The voiceover you want for some kind of authoritative instructional video, or something asserting dry historical fact, is going to be that baritone, somewhat monotone, slightly stern voice.”
    • “Because females tend to be the more nurturing gender by nature, their voices are often perceived as a helper, more compassionate, understanding, and non-threatening,” says Debbie Grattan, a veteran voice over artist for brands like Apple, Samsung, and Wal-Mart. “This can be important in instructional videos, (sense of patience and compassion in teaching a new skill), corporate/web narration, as well as commercial spots (conveying a less aggressive, more persuasive approach.)”
  • This research found a slight benefit to recall when using male narrators, but it’s a small study and the difference wasn’t large

    tags:voiceover research gender

    • There was a marginal difference in percentage of extrinsic words recalled in female vs. male narrator. There was no difference in number of extrinsic words recalled in male-visual, male-no visual, female-visual, female-no visual.
    • However, when percentage of extrinsic words recalled was analyzed between male and female voice conditions, there was marginal significance, where subjects in the male voice condition recalled a greater percentage of extrinsic words than subjects in the female voice condition. This marginal significance is not enough to definitively conclude that there is a relationship between gender of narrator and recall of extrinsic words.
  • Some gender stereotypes affect the perception of voice over, but gender is likely not the most important characteristic for retention. This post is older and not all the links to citations work

    tags:voiceover research gender

    • But most studies that I have seen indicate no statistically significant difference between retention by an audience of one gender of content delivered by a voice of another, or the same, gender.

      In my experience there are characteristics other than gender that play a much bigger role in engaging a learner audience. Things like dynamism, clarity, ’emotional bonding’ with the content, enthusiasm, and perceived subject matter expertise are more important than whether it is a male or a female voice.

  • This survey is about advertising, not elearning, but the results might be applicable in some situations. A male voice is viewed as more forceful, and a female voice is perceived as more soothing. Half of those surveyed said it made no difference though, and other results were mixed.

    tags:voiceover research gender

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

ID and E-Learning Links (7/24/16)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Vary Sentence Structure in Voice Over Scripts

When you use voice over for elearning, do you want it to sound natural and flowing, or do you want it to sound stiff and didactic? A great voice over person can make a good script more engaging, and a great script sound fantastic. However, if the script itself is completely stiff and unnatural, there’s only so much a voice over person can do.

One common problem in writing for voice over is overly complex sentences. Extremely long sentences, especially without pauses for breath, are hard to read aloud. Even sentences that are appropriate and effective for reading online may feel clunky in narration. Content from SMEs often includes sentences which are too long and complex for voice over. You may need to break up or rewrite sentences to make them flow better.

Vary Sentence Structure in Voice Over Scripts

Rewriting Complicated Sentences

For example, take this sentence on reasonable accommodations for disabilities. Try to read it aloud yourself.

Original: “The employer’s obligation under title I is to provide access for an individual applicant to participate in the job application process, and for an individual employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his/her job, including access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.”

That wasn’t written for voice over, but it’s not that far off from content I’ve seen in voice over scripts in the past. This sentence is 57 words long. That makes it long enough to be challenging to read aloud. It’s also so long and complicated that it’s hard to understand as a listener.

The first step I’d take to rewrite this is breaking it up into two sentences after “his/her job.”

Rewrite step 1: The employer’s obligation under title I is to provide access for an individual applicant to participate in the job application process, and for an individual employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his/her job. This includes access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.

The first sentence is still 38 words, but just breaking it up is an improvement. To flow better, I’d rewrite and restructure it further. This is 51 words total, so a little shorter than the original.

Rewrite step 2:  Employers are obligated under title I to provide access for individuals to participate in the job application process and for employees with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs. This includes access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.

Of course, this could even be rewritten further to be more conversational. Although this is 53 words total, it’s now four sentences instead of one.

Rewrite step 3: What are your obligations as an employer under title I? First, provide access for everyone to participate in your job application process. Second, support employees with disabilities so they can perform the essential functions of their jobs. This includes access to buildings, work sites, needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.

Not Just Simple Sentences

However, you can take it too far. In a recent discussion on LinkedIn, someone argued that scripts should be rewritten to “short, simple sentences.” You might think that simpler is always better. Too many simple, short sentences can sound choppy and unnatural though.

I can use simple sentences. I use a noun, verb, and object. I do not use dependent clauses. I sound like a robot. This is boring and repetitive.

When I say “simple sentences,” I use that phrase here with linguistic precision. A simple sentence has a single clause; that means no compound or complex sentences. If you use only simple sentences, then you can never use an “if-then” statement. You can’t add more variety, and you can’t sound natural without compound sentences. Being concise doesn’t have to restrict your grammar. A 60-word sentence (especially one without any place to breathe) doesn’t belong in a voice over script, but coordinating conjunctions certainly do.

Variety in Sentence Structure and Length

When we talk, we naturally use a variety of sentence structures and lengths. If you want your scripts to sound conversational, use a combination of short and reasonably long sentences. Watch out for sentences that are too long and convoluted, but don’t be afraid to use compound and complex sentences that flow well.

Further Reading

Interested in learning more about voice over scripts?


Voice Over Script Review Checklist

I’ve written several posts with tips on how to write voice over scripts. This review checklist summarizes all of the tips from the previous three posts into a single Word document you can download and use yourself.

Voice Over Checklist

Voice Over Script Review Checklist

Feel free to edit this document to match the requirements of your specific organization as long as you retain attribution to me with a link. If you improve this document, I’d love to hear about it.

Here is the complete list from the checklist:

  • The script has been read aloud
  • Script flows well; no awkward or clunky sentences
  • No grammar errors
  • Conversational tone
  • First and/or second person (I, we, you) are used
  • Contractions are used if style allows
  • No overly complicated sentences; variety of sentence length with shorter sentences
  • Pronunciation guides included for jargon, abbreviations, acronyms, and numbers
  • Emphasis in sentences marked as needed
  • Punctuate to mark pauses
  • Readable spacing, font, and font size (at least 12-14 pts)
  • Screen names clearly labeled
  • Numbers are written out as you want them said
  • Lists are written in conversational sentences (first choice) or punctuated for clarity and ease of reading aloud (second choice)
  • Serial comma used for all lists
  • Latin abbreviations are written out or noted: e.g. (“for example”), i.e. (“that is”), and etc. (“et cetera” or “and so on”)

For further explanation of the above points, review the previous posts in the series:

  1. Writing Style Tips for Voice Over Scripts
  2. Formatting Tips for Voice Over Scripts
  3. Voice Over Script Pitfalls

I want to give Jill Goldman of Goldivox one more shout out for being so helpful in putting these posts together.