Beat the clock! How to improve your voice over timing without relying on editing tricks

Beat the clock! How to improve your voice over timing without relying on editing tricks
By Susan Berkley

A subscriber writes:

“I’ve been told I have a good voice but when I read out loud I feel like I’m either too slow or too fast. Perhaps I am self-conscious and think about my speed instead of my voice but I can never seem to read the spot on time. What should I do?”

Susan Berkley:

In voiceovers a good sense of timing is critical, especially in the broadcast niches like commercials, promos and imaging and in animation and interactive video games as well. Your script will always have a timing notation and you must be right on. When they say the spot is a :30 they mean it and you cannot come in at :29 or :31. You must be precise.

The good news is if you are off by a second or two you can sometimes fix it in the mix by removing breaths and tightening up (or expanding) small spaces in your reads.

But be careful! This can take some practice and you still need to master the skill. After all, just because you have a calculator and spell check doesn’t mean you don’t have to know how to spell and do basic math the old fashioned way (although many people seem to have lost that ability).

Your Inside Voice Over Assignment: Practice my top 5 ways to improve your voice over timing


In voice-over there is no such thing as “feeling” you are too slow or too fast. The stop watch never lies even though internally it may feel as if your time is off. Depend on the clock not your gut.


Record TV and radio commercials and time them. Then transcribe the copy. See if you can match the announcer’s timing. If she reads the commercial in :28 seconds, keep practicing until you can do the same.


Since you haven’t yet learned to “feel” timing, you can train yourself to “see” it. Imagine that the space between the words is getting smaller and you’ll tend to read faster, expand it and you’ll read more quickly.


It will increase vocal energy level. Use gestures to pump up the energy level. Don’t be afraid to look like a maniac.


Before you begin reading know exactly where you intend to pause and for how long. Mark these pauses on your script. This is also where you will breathe. Do not pause anywhere else!

One more thought, when reading copy you shouldn’t be thinking about your voice at all but concentrating on the person you are talking to. But that’s a conversation for another issue. Stay tuned! (and tell your friends)

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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit

Copyright 2011, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved.

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