As someone who uses their voice professionally everyday, I'm more used to the sound of my own voice than the vast majority of people.
I'm used to hearing it, appraising it, critiquing it and improving and working on it all of the time.
But what if recording and listening to how you sound isn't your job but your work means that you need to do it and you want to feel happier about it and mainly, not cringe?
I was contacted this week by someone who is a professional in another area. She needs to record her voice as part of her work but isn't comfortable with how she sounds. To me, my voice is a commodity, it's kind of a product and although it "is me", it is also something I'm quite detached from (weirdly) in many ways.
Choose a good place to record
You won't have a VO booth (or maybe you do!) but you will have places at home that are quiet and largely echo free. A bathroom is the worst place to record. A wardrobe is much better. Soft furnishings and small spaces are your friend. Find a place, clap and listen if it's echoey - if it is, try somewhere else.
A trick that Voiceover Artists know is that if all else fails and you need a decent place to record something quickly then a car is a good option! Car designers know how to build solid small spaces with good sound absorbing qualities. As long as you're not facing the windows or windscreen, cars are surprisingly useful recording spaces!
If you need to do a recording, think about it in terms of speaking into someone's ear, in a one to one setting. You don't need to shout and you are (pre social distancing era) close to them.
So, get close to the mic and speak a but more quietly that you think you need to. The mic will pick you up and the sound will have less of a harsh edge and more warmth (proximity effect is your friend).
The recording will feel more personal and easier to listen to.
You will also have the added bonus of not needing the mic to be turned up so loud, so you'll be less likely to pick up as much background noise. Winning!
Keep in mind why you are recording and who the recording is for.
It's very likely that what you are doing is creating a form of audible "notes" for a client or customer. They will be aware that you aren't a VO artist so won't expect you to have that level of polish. So, relax a bit. If this is one to one, then that will inform the style you record in.
Visualise that you are speaking to a person, put their picture up on a tablet or something near you if that helps. Talk to them - not to the microphone.
If it's a more formal kind of recording you need to do then make sure you have notes / or even a script if you must and have a practice. You are surely not expected to deliver the perfect recording in every aspect. This is what people like me are paid to do and we can help if that's what is ultimately required.
Relax and be you
When I record I make sure my body is ready. I do vocal warm ups and my favourite thing to do after I've read through the script and few times is to stop! I then close my eyes and hang upside down for about 10 seconds, breathe, relax and then start to read the script. It is ALWAYS better! Maybe I was a bat in a previous life?!
People tend to carry a great deal of tension in their jaws, throats and necks. Find a way to relax those areas and your voice will sound more easily. (Nic Redman is the BEST person to work with if you'd like more on this subject)
Pause equals "control save"
Pausing and breathing is totally fine by the way. In actual fact, if you pause and breathe for a second you are adding gravitas and authority. You sound more confident. You are giving the impression that you are comfortable "taking up space". Every time you pause you are allowing the thing you just said to sink in as well. Bonus. You buy yourself a second to think and your listener will be digesting your words and processing your meanings.
Have a listen
Create yourself a little test script and try a few things out. Hear the difference between where you record, how close you are to the mic, when you speak more softly or louder, when you pause or speak quickly. This is a really good way of "owning your voice. You have a HUGE amount of control over how you sound and you how perform the words on the page. Try a few things, mix it up and keep listening to yourself.
Many, many moons ago when I was starting out in radio presenting, I was OBSESSED with getting better and I would make myself listen to my shows after each one and critique what I was doing. This might sound a bit much but it meant that I could make conscious decisions about what I was doing and try new things until I felt happy.
I hope this is a useful starting point - I coach people for public speaking as well as being a professional Voiceover Artist, so do please give me a shout if you'd like a one to one chat. email@example.com
Enjoy getting to know your voice and relaxing into it!