The Challenges of Medical Narration

stethMedical Narration is its own animal. It’s a VO genre that presents unique challenges, but also offers great rewards.

One of the greatest rewards in Medical Narration is repeat business. Once a client finds a talent who can confidently,  and competently rise to the challenge, he usually comes back time and time again. It’s not easy for clients to find someone who can do medical narration well.  In fact, I’ve noticed  that even many seasoned voice actors and actresses—not to mention some prominent coaches who  have decades of experience—don’t do a very good job with medical narration!

Why?  Perhaps because they focus too much on pronouncing difficult terminology correctly—as if that were the big challenge of medical narration.  It’s not.  Sure, pronunciation can literally be a mouthful, but that’s easy to remedy.  Find out how to say the words and practice saying them until they roll off your tongue like a fluent language.

The real challenge in medical narration is telling the story.  And for good reason.  In many medical narrations the terminology is so difficult, and the subject so foreign,  that even the narrator can’t see the story! How can you tell a story you don’t know?  Yet if the words are spoken in such a manner that the story is not told,  the narrator loses the credibility in the eyes of the most important listener,  the audience for whom the script was written.  Whether it be doctors learning about a disease, students exploring biological processes, or patients being instructed on how to use a medical device, presumably, the audience will understand what is being said—even if the narrator doesn’t!  And to that audience the narrator is supposed to be the expert! He or she is the one teaching the information!

So, how can you know the story?  There are a number of techniques we practice in my Medical Mumbo workshop (where we use the most difficult medical copy you’ve ever seen in your life!) But for starters,  don’t let the words get in the way. Don’t get so wrapped up in the medical mumbo that you can’t  see past it to the underlying message—the story.

How To Approach Your Medical Script:

•    Go through the script and make a  note of every word/term you don’t know •    Do some legwork to figure out how to pronounce the terms

•    Go to m-w.com and look up the word

•    Ask a doctor, librarian, or other medical person who may know

•    Ask the client

•    When in doubt, do two takes of that part, pronouncing it two ways so the client can choose.

•    Read the script for the story •    If you don’t know the story, break down the copy until you do •    Tell the story (don’t “announce” it!)

Julie Williams

About Julie Williams

Julie Williams has voiced thousands of commercials and narrations, and eLearning scripts, as well as many other voice-overs. She is an active audiobook narrator, and was a 2012 Audie Finalist. Julie has also taught at such notable events as VO2013, The VoiceLympics Cruise, and multiple VOICE Conferences. She is a nationally recognized voiceover coach, and has coached hundreds of talent worldwide to reach their full potential. Julie is available for private coaching via Skype for a limited number of students.

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