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Audio Narration In eLearning

What makes engaging eLearning content? Is it the narrative style of that content? The subject matter? The visuals and graphics? The overall duration? All these things are important, but if the right voice is not used for the eLearning audio, it may be jarring and disengaging for the learner.

Audio narration in eLearning is critical in creating engaging material because many people take in and process information both VISUALLY and AUDIBLY. That’s why choosing the right voice is essential.

Humans are very good at blocking out messages that don’t resonate and connect with us. Sometimes, of course, it’s as simple as the message not being relevant (and designed for a different age demographic, psychographic, or gender).

But there’s also research and expert opinion suggesting that the chosen voice has a critical role in creating engaging material.

The right voice has the power to awaken the senses and connect on an emotional level. As humans, our emotions play a large part in who we are - and if a message can connect with both the emotional and rational aspects of a learner's brain, it has a greater chance of sticking and being committed to memory.

Male or female voiceovers?

It’s reasonably easy to pick the difference between a male and female voice (especially with adult voices.) There’s a distinct difference in pitch, tone and timbre. A female voice is usually around one octave higher than a male voice (i.e., a higher pitch).

Some research suggests that female voices tend to convey more empathy and trust. However, another study indicates that lower-pitched voices are the most popular. 

In this study, both male and female participants “found lower-pitched female voices to be more competent, stronger and more trustworthy. Male (but not female) listeners found lower-pitched male voices to be more competent and stronger. Neither men nor women found the lower- or higher-pitched male voice more trustworthy.”

In a nutshell, in this study, lower-pitched female voices were most popular with male and female listeners. Other research suggests that people associate male voices with ‘authority’, while female voices have more ‘neutrality’. 

However, while these studies and stereotypes might have elements of truth, it can be easy to pick a study or find research with results that support any particular bias.

Here’s my takeaway. When casting voice talent for eLearning audio, cast for authenticity.

Choose talent who can breathe life into a script, understand the content and add feeling. It matters less if the voice is male or female; most importantly, the audio must connect with and engage the learner.

AI voices or human voices?

AI voices can be helpful tools when developing eLearning audio content. Being able to time animation and visuals with guide tracks wasn’t easily possible a few years ago. There are dozens of text-to-voice AI apps and tools that eLearning developers can use as they build out content. 

But as good as the technology is, nothing is as engaging as a professional, human voice talent. It can be difficult to manipulate an AI to get the cadence, pronunciation, flow and inflection just right - and working with this can often take hours. A professional voiceover artist will deliver a read that is authentic and engages the learner - and THIS should be the primary focus for any eLearning developer.

You’ve spent days (or weeks) on a project – spend a few minutes on the voice

Too often, the choice of voiceover talent can be left to the last minute - which doesn't make sense if you’ve spent days/weeks/months working on a project. 

Thinking about voice talent and audio narration ahead of time will ensure you create eLearning content that sounds and looks right. It may even help develop the scripts and characters - as you can create characters to suit your chosen voices.

At Abe’s Audio, we have access to an extraordinary range of professional eLearning voiceover artists who can bring your content to life. From kids to adults, serious and matter-of-fact to authentic and approachable voices, we can help you cast the right talent for your eLearning project.

Talk with us today.

Watch this video to see how we can work with you.

Abe Udy

Abe is the founder of Abe's Audio and started the business in 1998 from his bedroom with an old computer, fax machine, dial-up internet, and a microphone in his wardrobe. Today, he leads a team that provides audio production and voice overs to media, agency, eLearning, video & creative clients around Australia and beyond.

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