Corporate: a word that many actors might shrink from. A word that conjures up images of big buildings and people in suits. Or some kind of HR video that you probably won’t mention to your agent. But in our realm? Corporate voiceover is an absolute gem.
I’ve been fortunate enough to do a variety of corporate voiceovers, and that’s the key word: variety. Sometimes you’re working for big businesses – banks, aeroplane companies, car brands – and sometimes you’re working with smaller ones – start ups, upcoming fashion labels, and the like. I mention those examples in particular because they’re all ones I’ve worked on. A lot tend to be in-house, for example, videos that help explain how a key process might be changing; while others can be for big events, like videos launching a new aspect of the business or model of a car or aeroplane. Whatever the job, it’s always different to the last. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s both exhilarating and exciting.
Corporates are also great for stretching your acting chops, and making you think about how you can best use your voice. I’ve found that there’s a huge amount of nuance when it comes to recording. Pace is a massive thing: sometimes you’re speaking at a machine-gun rate (as I was so kindly named in one voiceover: the machine gun!), and on others it’s a lot more languid and relaxed. There’s a surprisingly big difference between being uplifting and bright, and happily informative. Then of course there’s often the request to make something technical sound as delicious as ice cream melting down the side of a cone. Not always easy!
Recently I was asked to do a corporate voiceover where I had to do the exact same pace and delivery as a US version of the script, so that it could work perfectly alongside the same video. That might seem simple, but something that sounds sexy in a US accent often runs the risk of sounding horrendously cheesy and stilted in RP. Needless to say, like with any acting, rehearsal is key!
I like to compare recording corporate voiceovers to being a waitress in a Michelin starred restaurant. That might sound awful to some, given the huge propensity of voiceover actors to waiters as a sideline (I’ve been there), but the drudgery of attempting to balance 3 different plates on your arms while maintaining a winning smile although sweat is pouring down your face isn’t what I mean. When I think of that kind of establishment (mostly based on what I’ve seen on TV!) and the people who work there, I think of individuals who are passionate about what they do, who sell the product with a real interest, who aim to provide an impeccable service, and who always deliver what the customer asks for. Likewise, when doing a corporate, you need to be able to think on your feet, to make suggestions that are appropriate and to take direction on minutiae, to care about what you’re saying and doing, and to appreciate that whatever happens, the client must get what the client wants. Because after all, your voice is often bringing to life something that means a huge deal to them, or a moment that could change the scope of their business and lives, and that should never be underestimated.