My notes from a Narration Workshop with Dian Perry
Here’s the conundrum… you do a read-through but it doesn’t sound quite right. It’s too thoughtful, mechanical, contrived, and self-conscious. It’s simply not believable to the audience.
This is the challenge a group of us tackled in our recent Narration Workshop with professional VO Artist Dian Perry, but it could just as easily apply to any form of performance, from singing, public speaking to writing and interpretive dance. So how can we seem authentic and engage with our audience?
Happily, if you get the first part right, the second part will likely follow. Being authentic is what directors and audiences need; because it is only then that they can start to trust you. Be believable and you will have a chance to engage with the audience.
So how to do this… Dian had a great anecdote about the incredibly talented actress Meryl Streep in which she thoroughly researches her next role, but at some point puts it all down and just focusses on delivering the part. Somewhere in that process, the leg-work has been done and doesn’t inhibit her delivery, which always comes across as very natural.
In her online series on How To Sing With More Power, Vocal Coach Madeleine Harvey says that the main things that stand in the way of vocal power are anything that slows it down – resistance, tension, pressure. She says that our job is to learn to get the barriers out of the way. In the same way, we have to prepare for the vocal delivery, but then we simply have to deliver.
In the narration course, we all had to read two scripts and as part of this process we worked with Dian to improve our delivery. In the first of my read-throughs, Dian noticed how precise and melodic I was being and rightly said that I was trying to work it out as I went. She advised me to instead imagine that I was talking to my wife across the table and telling her about the wonderful benefits of the product mentioned in the script. The change in my tone was significant.
The second script was for a voice recording informing the listener of the company office hours and that the main number had been changed. For this, it didn’t feel like it added anything to convince my wife to call a different phone number. Instead Dian recommended that I held one word of direction in my mind that I wanted to get across in my message. I choose the word ‘Kindness’ and the difference in the delivery was very noticeable.
My final thought on this subject is one that I’ve heard footballing legend and coach Zinedine Zidane uses with his players. Keep it simple. When he instructs his players pre-game, he limits his notes to three things. They train all week, but as with Meryl Streep, once it’s time to perform, it’s time to put the paperwork down and deliver.