HOW TO USE YOUR VOICE AS A TOOL TO ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE
Today I’m really excited to be introducing our first guest chat on the podcast. Today I’m talking to voice actor Samantha Boffin – we are exploring tools and techniques that will help you develop a more reliable and consistent voice.
Samantha Boffin is a voice actor working with clients on voice technique, voiceover and communication.
I invited Samantha to lead a masterclass on voice in the Visible Thinking membership and it was so well received that I invited her back on to the podcast to talk about how best to use your voice to engage and connect with your audience.
Your voice is one of your biggest assets when it comes to storytelling, entertaining and engaging your audience. In this episode, you will discover how to look after it, use it and make the most of it with simple, fun and actionable techniques. Sam shares some wonderful tips and techniques that we can all use to make the most of our voice and use it in the best way possible.
0:00:11.4 Claire: Hello and welcome to the Art Engager a podcast with me Claire Bown. I’m here to share techniques and tools to help you engage with your audience and bring art objects and ideas to life. So let’s dive in to this week’s show.
0:00:33.9 Claire: Hello, and welcome back to The Art Engager podcast. I’m your host, Claire Bown of Thinking Museum, and this is episode 21. Today, I’m really excited to be introducing our first guest chat on the podcast, today, I’m talking to voice actor Samantha Boffin and we’re exploring different tools and techniques that will help you develop a more reliable and consistent voice in your programmmes. But before we start, if you’d like to support the show, you can do so by treating me to a lovely cup of tea on buymeacoffee.com/clairebown. I’ll put a link in the show notes, and the show notes with all Samantha details, and then the other links we mentioned are available on my website, thinking museum dot com, podcast. And this is episode 21. So now let’s get on with today’s show. So I’m going to first introduce Samantha. Samantha is a voice actor working with clients on voice technique, voiceover and communication. A few months ago I invited Samantha to lead a masterclass on voice in the Visible Thinking Membership and it was so well received that I invited her back to be on the podcast. And I wanted to talk in this episode about how best to use your voice to engage and connect with your audience. So, your voice is really one of your biggest assets when it comes to story telling, when it comes to entertaining, but also engaging and connecting with your audience.
0:02:18.7 Claire: And in this episode, you will discover how to look after it, how to use it, how to make the most of it. Sam shares some wonderful tips and techniques that we can all use to make the most of our voice and use it in the best way possible. So you’ll hear in this episode why your voice is important, tips and techniques for optimising your voice before you start a session, so before you start an art discussion or a guided tour or even a lesson in your classroom, if you’re a teacher. You’re also learn how to use your voice to engage your audience, we’ll talk about the four Ps and how your voice can be a tool in your tool box to keep your audience tuned in, curious and eager to participate. Samantha is very generous with her advice and shares lots of gold here, so you might want to make notes. So now, let’s get started with today’s episode… So, hi Samantha, I’m so delighted that you could be here on the Art Engager podcast, I’ve wanted to invite you on for a while, and you are as well, my very first guest…
0:03:31.8 Sam: How exciting.
Claire: I know, very exciting. So, can you tell us a little bit about what you do and how you came to be doing what you’re doing?
0:03:39.3 Sam: Yes. So I’m a voice-over… Well, a voiceover actor, they call us all different things, voiceover, voiceover artist. It’s all the same thing, really. So yeah, I use my voice to bring things to life, I suppose. I explain new ideas, I explain new concepts. I could be a corporate voice or I could do telephone prompts, or I might do e-learning, or I might do character work aswell so working on games or audio books, in fact, that’s another one that’s probably the area that most people are familiar with, voice-overs for… Or adverts, commercials, that sort of thing. Yeah, and I came to it, I was originally… I started… Well, originally, way back when I was an actor, and then I decided that was far too much work far too many auditions involved. So I went into the BBC and I was a variety of different things, a voice, and then I became a network director, and then a creative, and I was in charge of all the bits between the junctions, basically all the promotional stuff. And so I worked on the children’s channels for ages, I worked on CBeebies, CBBC as a creative head, devising all the branding and coming up with all the ideas and making the promotional stuff, and then I left there because they moved to a different part of the country, and I thought, what I want to do, and I thought, actually, what I’d really love to do is to go back to doing voice work and acting, and so that’s what I did, and so I became a voiceover…
0:05:24.0 Claire: Brilliant. And, how long have you been… Back doing this, what you love doing?
Sam: I have probably been doing it for about four years.
Claire: Brilliant and we recently invited you to do a masterclass in the Visible Thinking Membership, and I really… I think the voice is such an important tool that we have, and I think perhaps sometimes as educators, we do perhaps neglect our voices, we use them all the time, we perhaps don’t use them to their best advantage. Sometimes we overuse them, and we had a wonderful master class with you, which was all about how to look after your voice, how to use it, how to best engage people with it, and I thought it would be wonderful if you could come on the podcast and just share some of your amazing advice that you shared with us then So, tell me a little bit about where you work and the sort of clients you work with and sort of projects you work on as well, so… I’m fascinated to hear more.
0:06:27.6 S1: Well, actually that it hasn’t so much changed in the last few years since the pandemic, but it has got easier in many ways to connect with people, so I work with people all around the world, so I could be working for somebody in Dubai or in the States or I could be working with somebody down the road, and almost always I’m working from my own booth at home, but quite often, actually, I do go out into… Mainly into London, I have been in various other places in the UK, but then I go into their studios, but because of the lockdown and everything that happened in the last 18 months or so, working from your own studio has become more and more common, even with the jobs that normally they wouldn’t have dreamt of linking into your own studio, but they’ve had to, and they found that, of course, it’s very easy and that people have these really good studios, so that’s been a real boon for me, having this already when we went into lockdown was fantastic, because of the tone.
0:07:32.5 Claire: I’m so jealous of your booth, I would love to have for myself as I’m currently recording this under a blanket, but… Yes, that is amazing as well. Sam: It makes it really easy, and I think that working with people all around the world as we’ve all had an opportunity over the past 18 months or so to sort of expand our reach and who we work with, this is really, really, really, really good. So tell me, you’re obviously working with your voice an awful lot all day, every day, how do you look after your voice?
0:08:05.6 Sam: Well, I do warm up every day, so the first thing I do in the morning before I do anything, and even if I’m not immediately about to do any voice work, I always… It’s a kind of habit. And I always warm up my voice, it doesn’t need to be a massive warm-up, but just getting the vocal cords, just getting in touch with the vocal chords, because the other thing, working on your own although I’ve got other people in this house, quite often, I’m not really talking to them in the morning, so if I didn’t do a work out out, if I didn’t do a warm-up for my voice, there are quite often times where I’d be walking into the booth having not spoken to anybody that morning at all. So its really important, and it’s not just the interesting thing about voice work, that people don’t often realise, it’s a whole body thing, so you have to feel really connected to the whole of your body, ’cause usually we’re standing up when we voice and so warming up my voice isn’t just about everything that happens above the neck, it’s also about feeling limber and free in your whole body, because you use everything when you bring something to life, even if it’s a corporate piece, so it’s not just about the characterisation if you’re doing character work, but I mean, I’m using, I’m sitting here now and I’m already…
0:09:34.8 Sam: I know I’m using my hands to describe stuff, which actually is quite difficult to you, I would imagine under a blanket, and that’s actually why it’s quite important for the voiceover to have a booth that they can actually move in, that they can actually work in.
0:09:49.7 Claire: Definitely, I can understand how standing up would really add to the quality and the passion behind the voice as well, and I think when you start talking about warm-ups as well… And this is something that really struck me in the master class that we did was that it was something I’d never really considered before, so I work with my voice all the time. I used to do guided tours, I now teach trainings all the time, my voice is basically my profession, and I hadn’t even thought about things like what I ate before I started speaking or even doing any warm-up until you mentioned it. So perhaps you could tell us a little bit, maybe some tips for warming up our voices…
0:10:32.4 Sam1: Yeah, of course, actually, and you also mentioned something there in terms of what you need here, they’re… One of the most important things that I’ve discovered is having enough water is being able to drink enough water to keep your voice supple and without that sort of stickiness that often comes… It doesn’t really matter if you’re a mic, that stickiness is picked up by the mic, but also if you’re in live and actually talking to people in… In person, in a room, it’s still really good to have a clear, well, hydrated voice, because that makes such a difference to what you can do with it, but that’s a thing that’s so well-hydrated voice is really key. And in terms of actually warming it up, it’s a number of things. It’s warming up the vocal chords, and it’s also warming up your face, your mouth, and they are sort of almost two different things, so a simple humming actually going up and down scales is absolutely brilliant for connecting, reconnecting with your vocal chords and being able to… Wake them up, if you like. So that’s a really good place to start. And in terms of often, we need to get our mouth in gear literally, so that we can save complicated words or be fly enough to be able to really take on board anything, and that’s where things like tongue twisters come into it.
0:11:58.8 Sam: So actually, if you did a combination of neck rolls to kind of warm up your body and some side bends and actual touching your toes, that as simple as that, to kind of wake your body up, and then you did some humming up and down scales and then you did a few tongue-twisters, that’s a pretty good work out actually, to wake yourself up.
0:12:22.8 Claire: Definitely, and I’ve got… I’ve got my water with me today because I knew I would be speaking with you and you… I knew I should have it to hand, so definitely the hydration and the warm-up techniques, because I think we don’t think about the fact that we may not have spoken to anyone before we left the house and we started teaching or you know that we haven’t actually used our voice enough to be able to get our mouths around some of the words that we’re trying to use, and quite often, I’ve started a lesson or started a tour or an art discussion and been unable to speak properly because I haven’t properly warmed up, so… Yeah, as you say, it’s really, really important and also, will that help you to sort of optimise your voice by doing these warm ups and exercises.
0:13:07.5 Samantha: Yeah, definitely, I think so, because if you’re putting energy into your body and energy into your vocal chords and energy into your mouth, so you are literally being able to energise, because what we’re doing and what you’re doing all the time, it’s really a telling story. Is that’s what we’re doing, we’re engaging people, so we store be telling, so the more light and shade we can get into our voice, the more energy we can get in there and the more variation we can get in in the pace of things that we’re talking about, that adds interest for the listener or the person that’s engaging in your story, it really helps them to connect with it, and the more range you have will enable you to bring things to life in a better way, basically.
0:13:58.2 Claire: That’s brilliant. And that brings me really nicely on to engaging with your voice, and obviously this podcast is all about engagement and how we can connect with our audiences, but also how we can connect our audiences with artworks and objects and how we can keep them tuned in and curious and wanting to learn more, so you’ve already shared some advice, but how can we actually use our voice to engage our audience?
0:14:25.6 S1: Okay, so when we were doing… When I was doing the workshop for you, we were talking about what I always sort of see as the three Ps, so that is their pace, your pitch and your performance which is always very difficult to say on. Mic because you immediately start popping when you say ‘p’ which is one of the things you have to watch. I always think of pace as being a little bit like a racing car, so that you’ve got a variety of gears that you can engage in in order to work through anything so that if you’re telling a story or you’re giving some information about something in your case a piece of artwork or whatever it happens to be, if you can vary your pace, if you can use different ways of being able to speed up and slow down and emphasise different parts of it, thinking of yourself a bit like a Formula One racing car is a really good way in, actually… And then the pitch We often talk about pace and pitch, the pitch of your voice is more like if you were part of an orchestra, and at various times, you’re going to be able to use your voice to create interest and effect in terms of where your voice is pitched within a scale.
0:15:46.1 Sam1: So you can use that rise and fall to really create dynamism and… Yeah, and just invite people in, it’s a bit like when you’re… I think a lot of people are used to reading stories to children and they, you know bedtime stories and things like that, and they over-emphasise, and that’s great to actually over-emphasising something can be brilliant because it’s much easy to pull back from something than it is to try and add interest, one of the things is to try not to be too flat, so if you think that you are over-emphasising something, you’re probably in the right place, actually. And then the performance part of it is just being able to bring something to life and add that interest using the pitch, using the pace and also actually using a pause, pause is surprisingly under-used, but can be fantastic as a way of letting your information land and allowing people to, if you pause, you can almost see them lean in to what you’re saying because suddenly, aah, here’s something interesting now. So she stopped speaking to, what is she going to say next, so you can see people leaning in.
0:17:04.8 Claire: I was just talking about this this morning. I’ve been running a challenge and the day one of the challenge was all about coming up with a guided looking… So when you actually arrive at an art work or an object before you start discussing it, this is really you, the educator, the museum guide, talking your audience through looking or observing at an object or an artwork, and we were talking about how you should sort of vary your pace, so that you give people time to think, but also how you can vary your pitch as well to sort of bring people in and sort of really get them curious and learning and wanting to know more and how this sort of guided observation should be in some ways, a bit of a performance, so yeah, that really all sort of hung together when you were just explaining, I was thinking… Yes, I was talking about just the morning as well, so we really do use our voices in this way, but what I think is quite interesting is that sometimes we forget to do this… So we forget that we need to be aware of these three Ps as you called them.
0:18:11.5 Claire: Or forget to pause at appropriate months. How can we make ourselves more aware perhaps of using our voices…
0:18:19.8 Sam: Well, I think if you do think of it everytime as a story, we automatically begin to… When we are telling stories, we know that there’s sort of a beginning, a middle and an end to those, and we know that there’s going to be a moment in the where we are giving a piece of really exciting bit of information in a number of places in there… And I think if we think of whenever we’re explaining, say a work of art, because that’s a perfect example actually, because you are telling the story of that work of art. Now you might be telling the story of what the person is seeing immediately, you might also be telling the story about how that artist came to to create this particular piece and what they wanted to do with it, and so there’s all sorts of various things that you’re talking about that you might be talking about. The techniques they’re using, which was something that was relevant at that particular era, and so there are lots and lots of different stories that you’re bringing in, and if we think of it like that, then it makes it much easier to weave that interest as opposed to being monotonous.
0:19:33.0 S1: And also, the other thing is, of course, on the point of view is educators or people like you who are bringing ideas to people, there is a real enthusiasm, there is a reason why you’re doing this as educators, and so if you can harness that enthusiasm you have, that will come through in what you’re delivering, and I think people get worried about their voices, they sort of think, Oh, I don’t like my voice or it doesn’t do what I want it to do, but actually, if you relax and just accept that your voice is one thing, your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your interest in something, that is what adds the colour to what you’re talking about.
0:20:15.9 Claire: Absolutely, no, I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s that passion, that enthusiasm, and if you’re modelling that, if people can see that in you, then it really is quite infectious, other people start to feel the same and your audience will start to feel the same as well. Definitely. So if you wanted to leave us with any tips for how we can use a voice to engage, how we can optimise our voice, what tips would you leave us with?
0:20:45.3 Sam: Okay, so I would definitely say to try and find a warm-up that works for you that you can incorporate into your daily life, so something that will only take you five minutes, something that involves waking your body up, then waking your vocal chords up and waking your whole face up and just find fun ways of doing it, there are all sorts of tongue twisters, for instance, that you can find online that are nice and tight and easy to remember. My favourite one actually is right at the moment, is Benedict Cumberbatch broke a delicate luggage rack, which is my favorite is really nice, I really love that because it’s kind of quite funny and fun, and it’s easy to remember… Those ones that are easy to remember are fantastic, because you can just… You can do them while you’re walking from the bathroom to your bedroom or walking to the station, or you can be muttering it under your breath, and you can really wake your face up by doing that and really ever over-emphasise the way that you’re talking about it as well. Don’t just sort of say it and mumble it actually, but really use every part of your mouth while you’re doing it over over-emphasise, nobody needs to see it.
0:22:06.0 Sam: But if you can even just grab a few minutes beforehand just to wake everything up, those would be my top tip and… And also, make sure you’re well hydrated, when I say well hydrated, I mean that classic sort of two litres of water is a really good rule of thumb actually, to be able to always be sipping water because it will keep you very… Yeah, very flexible.
0:22:31.7 Claire: Really, thank you so much for sharing these tips. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you as always, sharing your knowledge with listeners as well. Can you tell listeners how they can find out more about you or how they could reach out to you…
0:22:47.0 Sam: Sure, of course. So the two places I hang up most of, I’ve got a website, which is my name samanthaboffin.co.uk, I tend to hang out actually on LinkedIn mainly, and again, Samantha Boffin, ridiculous name, so you can easily find me, and I also have a podcast, which is called Talking Creative, and it is about… Really, it’s about voice work, and the different kinds of voice work. It’s aimed at directors, but I have discovered at an awful lot of voice-overs themselves, listen to it, and it really discusses lots of different aspects of voice-over and different genres, and I think there’s actually one on museum guides.
0:23:30.5 Claire: There is, Yes, I listened to that. So, thank you so much, Samantha. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, thanks a lot.
So many thanks to Samantha Boffin for being on the podcast today. I know you will find all her tips and advice useful – do remember to warm up before you start a session and think about how you can use the 4 p’s – Pitch, Pace, Pause and Performance – to really connect with your audience.
If you want to find out more about Samantha’s work and listen to her podcast, Talking Creative, I’ll put all the relevant links in the shownotes!
Masterclass – Your voice: How to look after it, use it and engage your audience