Breathe and Relax
There are many keys to a good Voiceover performance and it turns out two of the biggest are breathe and relax. Two things we usually don't have to actively think about on a daily basis but a VO artist has to be keenly aware of both.
Relaxing enough has been a challenge for me because I am used to working in a professional corporate setting. When I go into a "work mode" I automatically get focused, serious and a little tense. When I went in for my first coaching sessions, I would snap into work mode and get focused and intense because I'm ready to work, let's go!
This is the opposite of what you need for VO and it took me awhile to learn to relax, really relax and let it all go. It is not unlike when I was taking Karate. When we would spar, I immediately tensed up, because we're fighting right? No! The instructor told me, you have to be completely loose and relaxed. It's a strange dichotomy to be using you muscles to through your hands and legs yet remain relaxed. Our natural reaction is to tense up when in a fight and I had a terrible time trying to relax. But if you are too tense, you use a lot of energy and will get tired much sooner. Same thing with Voiceover. Too tense and you cannot connect to the emotion and bring that through your voice. You also sound better when the muscles in your throat as well as you're face and jaw are more relaxed.
This brings us right to breathing because it turns out breathing correctly can help you relax. Three or four nice. big, deep breaths will settle you right down. On top of that, how you breath is critical to how you perform and how you sound. If you're not breathing correctly you might gasp for more air between sentences and create a big editing problem. I tend to hold my breath which I think is part of my tension. Holding your breath also robs you of your true power and there is no air behind the words. I have been working with a vocal coach just on the tone and quality of my voice and we do a great deal of very specific breath work. It's amazing how much this helps. Breathing is a real, technical Voiceover skill. Nobody ever had to teach you to breath but to be great at Voiceover, you literally have to learn how to breath.