As you think about developing an audio guide, remember that a critical component is finding the right voice to tell it. Your storytelling approach could be one of three different styles:
- Narration: One or more people tell your story depending on the content and context.
- Oral History: Recorded perspectives from people being interviewed.
- Character Driven: Historical or fictional characters who have a conversation regarding the subject matter.
For any type of audio recording you will want to make sure you choose a person who has a clear and distinct voice. Oral history recordings may prove to be more difficult, because you are dependent on the availability of eyewitnesses. Accents, age, and speech impediments can make it difficult to understand the speaker. You will want to write a transcript of the conversation afterwards and get agreement that it is correct.
While you may think that you need to hire professionally trained voice actors for your audio recordings, I recommend a few other alternatives. If you are doing a voice narration, and you already have a tour guide in your organization who is an enthusiastic public speaker, you may try them out first. You may be able to find people within your organization or community who would volunteer their voices for the character-based audio guides.
While getting local volunteers does save you money, a local person committed to your mission will communicate energy and passion through the voice. Also, users of your guide may get a better understanding of the local culture through the accent and type of voice they hear.
Whichever direction you take, you will want to identify the type of voice you would like to have for each role in your guide. Sometimes people will relate a voice to a famous person (James Earl Jones, Casey Kasem, or the voice of Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider video game – Camilla Liddington) or try to define a type of voice by gender, accent, cadence, etc.
You will want to make sure you have a conversation on the phone, or possibly in person, to make sure that the voice is the type you want and, just as importantly, they understand what your story is about. You will need to determine how they might interpret the script you provide them. Providing them a with a few lines as a voice test will be a good way to compare voices and determine if the voice actor has the qualities you are seeking.
Using a voice actor is not inexpensive and rates can be quite different depending on the type of project and length of speaking required. Voice123 has an excellent article about how pricing for voice acting is handled.
Whether you use your own people, hire a voice actor or do both, finding the right type of voice that conveys your story in the way your audience will understand is vital.