Silence is your friend, but too many people in voiceover and public speaking don’t know how to use it to their benefit. You might think this business is all about using your voice, and yes of course it is, but it’s also about knowing when not to use it. You’ve heard of the term pregnant pause right? What does that mean? It means that pause has the ability, in its silence, to create something new and amazing, humorous and surprising.
Most people just getting started in voiceover like to fill every nano-second of their audition or practice sessions with non-stop speaking, but there are many scripts that benefit greatly from an awkward pause, from a silent, comic beat, from not talking. These scripts often involve a person’s thinking process and we, the audience, need to hear that. The thinking process takes time, we need to consider how we are feeling about something, what the right words are to express that feeling. When we, the audience, hear that thought process happening in a commercial right there in the moment it sounds real, we accept it as real, and therefore, we grant the person voicing that script a certain integrity, a genuineness that is essential to making that script work, and if it’s a producer or casting director that’s listening to an audition, well, they might be much likelier to grant that person a job.
Quite often, voiceover work sounds too canned, too ready made, too directly off the page, and not enough in the moment. It isn’t quirky, or whimsical, the piece doesn’t have a chance to breathe. Sometimes, I think people are just plain scared of silence because you know what silence does? It allows the truth in, and some people don’t want to be faced with the truth; that maybe they’re not that good, or that they don’t trust themselves to know what to do with silence in the first place. But if you are going to make a go of it in this business, you are going to have to make silence an asset you know how to use effectively.
When you understand how totally cool silence is as a tool in your bag of tricks, you will be able to make people laugh with it, be deeply moved by it, you will be able to make a salient point, or maybe create a witty moment of sarcasm. The next time you pick up a piece of copy, see if you can’t play around with some lines so that silence, even if brief, can accentuate or emphasize a point necessary to making that script come alive. I’ll even take this one step further. If the script allows, try pausing in an unusual or weird place. It may surprise you and give you a whole new take on how to bring that script to life. And who knows, in an audition, such a different read could give the casting director just the pause they need to consider you for the job.
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