by | Oct 29, 2014 | Ruminations | 6 comments

conversation-aFile this under:  “the client really doesn’t know what she/he wants”.

…They just know what they DON’T want…and the popular Nazi-delivery du jour is “announcery”.  We talked about this before.  Announcers are the zombies of the voice-over world.  Dead, but still moving and seeking sustenance.  Please see my blog about how unfair that is, here:  ANNOUNCER DISCRIMINATION!

But I digress.  If they DON’T want announcery, chances are the client is including “be more conversational” in their instructions to the talent.

Why is “conversational” the magic word?  I don’t know about you, but most of MY conversations with people are either:

A: pedantic to the point of a lecture (convo with a stranger, a phone call on a bad network, discussion about my rates with someone who wants a clear understanding, etc.)


B: sloppy, fast, filled with pauses, colloquialisms, inside understandings, and vernacular to the point of unintelligibility.

So when a client says “conversational” it really means you are likely to deliver a contrived creation of sentences that while articulate, nonetheless flows, and sounds “natural” or non-contrived.  Friendly?  Convivial?  Neighborly?  Comfortable?

It’s like Spencer Tracy is believed to have said:  “…acting is all about being genuine and true to yourself…once you can fake that, you’ve got it made…”  AMEN.

The dictionary is not helpful in the search for “conversational”…because it breaks the cardinal rule of never using the word you’re trying to define IN the definition of the word:  “…of, pertaining to, or characteristic of conversation…”

“Conversation” is defined as “…an informal interchange of thoughts…”; “…intimate acquaintance…”: “…social intercourse…”

My head is spinning.  This is why clients ask for “conversational”, ’cause we all think we know what it is, so the greater challenge is deliveringconversational” when the client asks for it.

How does one get in the mode of “conversational”?

One technique used by a well-known coach is to have the talent write an essay about something they feel passionate about…deliver said essay in an equally passionate tone, then immediately turn-around and deliver the copy.

This actually works, but sheesh!…who has the time to write an essay between auditions.  Deliver it once, and the passion goes out…so it’s not usable over and over.

Another oft-quoted mental device is to speak as if you’re talking directly to your best friend…right there among the wires, the headphones, and the mic-stand…right there in your booth.  Yup.  THAT works.

It’s hard to pay attention to the nuances of your speech, WHILE you’re saying it…that obviously takes away the spontaneity of it.  Spontaneity.  That certainly must be a component of “conversational”.

So what I’ve come to is that “conversational” is more about listening than it is speaking.  That’s what a good conversationalist does, right?  They listen.  So listen to yourself.   Are you making sense?  Would you convince you if you said that, that way?   

Regardless, if all else fails…just don’t sound “announcery”.  Apparently everyone knows exactly what THAT sounds like!  😉




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  1. William Williams

    I looked Schmonversational up in the dictionary… “of or pertaining to Schmonversations”…

    But seriously, there is a great divide between old school and new school reads in advertising.

    Old school is called “parent-child” and it’s announcery with a more supported voice, in the vein of bad parenting it has a “sit down, shut up and I’ll tell you how to think” sound, and it sounds like the factory guy/gal. Above all it sounds objective and logical.

    New school is called “peer-to-peer”. It has a conversational voice, a “talking to your friend as an equal” feel, and it sounds like you are a consumer. Above all it sounds subjective and emotional.

    Since the beginning of the 20th century, advertisers have been exploring psychology to hone their advertising messages. There is no rational argument to urge people to smoke but their is a strong emotional (and irrational) element in Marlboro or Virginia Slims ads. We all make emotional decisions and then back that decision up with facts.

    So if a director says to you, “sound like your talking to your friend, like you own the product and like it and let me hear how you feel about it” that would sum up a “conversational read”

    By the way, both styles are still in use. Compare Jeff Bridges Duracell commercials (objective, logical, more supported voice) with his Hyundai reads (subjective, emotional and a quiet “talking to me” sound)

    • CourVO


      Great comments! Thanks for replying. I love this: “sound like your talking to your friend, like you own the product and like it and let me hear how you feel about it” that would sum up a “conversational read”. Perfect summation!

      I appreciate your visiting and contributing…write soon, write often!


  2. Jen

    Love it, Dave. A reminder to listen to yourself is great. It sounds so simple. Yet I find that it’s really easy to forget to do, for a variety of reasons. I think I’ll write
    It down and pin it to my Auralex. 😉

    Glad you had a great vacation, and nice to see you back!


    • CourVO

      Thanks, Jen…

      After the umpteenth reference to “conversational” in the directions, I just really felt like there was something to say, there. I’m glad it struck a chord in you, too.

      I appreciate your commenting!


  3. John McClain

    I jumped on here ready to say what William said but…he already said it (and with great clarity!). Conversational doesn’t really mean “have a conversation”, it means don’t push, don’t oversell. Advertising has realized that it no longer works to push your message in someone’s face, the “conversational” read is a manifestation of that realization.

    • CourVO

      Thanks, John…for underscoring what William said.

      I never thought of “announcers” as being pushy… just declarative, unmistakable, authoritative. Now as for car dealership ads… THOSE are pushy! 🙂



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