How to win voiceover jobs, part 1: emotional intelligence – Carrie Olsen Voiceover

How to win voiceover jobs, part 1: emotional intelligence

I’ve talked before about how listening is such an important trait for good voice actors to have. Voiceover is a performance-based profession, which tends to draw people who (surprise, surprise) like to perform. But the real surprise is that many people who are very talented at performing, can’t cut it in voiceover. This is because it takes more than being able to do voices well. You have to be willing to tap into the humanness of each character you portray. You have to have high emotional intelligence to be a good voice actor. [clickToTweet tweet=”You have to have high emotional intelligence to be a good voice actor.” quote=”You have to have high emotional intelligence to be a good voice actor.”]

Wikipedia defines emotional intelligence as the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations, and desires of other people. This ability is what takes a read from mediocre to excellent.

When you’re doing VO, it should affect you. There is a shift that you can almost see take place when a voice actor gets from that place of, “just reading” to “getting it.” Sometimes it’s evidenced by a more intimate tone that I describe as “leaning in.” Sometimes it is characterized by more thoughtful intonations and use of “white space” (or silences, or beats).

So how do you increase your emotional intelligence so that you can deliver more captivating reads?

Improve your emotional intelligence to get more voiceover work

1. Take note of how you are feeling. It’s easy to go through your day without ever really reflecting on your emotions and what caused them. Try to be intentional about stopping to think about why you had certain reactions. For example, when a friend tells you about a sweet, expensive vacation they have planned for the summer, and your initial reaction is to roll your eyes and then change the subject, take a moment to put words to your feelings. “I was jealous of Dave when he said he was taking his family to Cancun.” But don’t stop there. “I felt jealous because Cancun is my dream vacation spot, but my kids are too young for a trip like that.”mug of coffee with smiley face voiceover

2. Take note of how you’re moving. Physicality is a big part of delivering a believable voiceover read. Everything from hand gestures to facial expressions, and even your posture. But moving your body in ways that don’t match up with real emotions will not help your reads. In fact, it will hurt them. So start to connect the dots between how you’re feeling and how you’re moving. This Psychology Today article says that you can increase your emotional intelligence (or EI) by tapping into this connection. For example, when you’re excited, your heart might start to beat fast, and your shoulders may tense up.woman doing a flip voiceover

3. Let yourself feel fully. In other words, don’t be too quick to “edit” the way you are feeling or brush off your emotions. Give yourself the chance to experience every wave of the emotion fully. The only way you’ll be able to genuinely tap into those emotions for a voiceover read is if you’ve been there before. Not allowing yourself to feel will inhibit your ability to portray those emotions in a convincing way. Your audience, who you are trying to connect with on an emotional level, will be able to quickly perceive that you are faking it.

It is disconcerting to let yourself be raw for a voiceover job. But the results are so rewarding.

Try these tips on for size, and see if you don’t see a marked improvement in the believability of your reads!

I have adapted many of these tools from this wikihow article.


Carrie Olsen

I'm a full-time professional voice actor and voiceover business coach. I have done work for Taco Bell, REI, BNSF Railway, Bank of America and ESPN to name a few. I dreamed up this community of voice actors to connect, grow, learn and get mentorship from each other. We're the most dedicated group of voice actors on the net, and we're here to help each other build and sustain profitable voiceover businesses.

  • Tawny says:

    Yes!! This is a fantastic article that really nails it on the head. There truly is a difference between being a good performer and an amazing actor. Thank you for sharing! ?

  • Great tips on how to tap into that well-spring of emotional intelligence Carrie. Noticing is key and I really like your emphasis on not judging, or “editing” your emotions. Our first instincts/feelings are often the most true.

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      So true! We don’t have to think about “what feels most natural” when we’re playing, or in everyday conversation. We tend to complicate things when we’re behind the mic!

  • Keith says:

    Excellent advice! Since we are not seen when playing our parts, it’s crucial that our performances resonate feelings.

  • ROYAL JOINER says:

    That was great information Carrie. Glad you shared it.

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