Working with Voice Actors in Podcasting

Aside from great quality content and high-quality audio, voice actors are the next main ingredient in producing an excellent audio fiction podcast. There are tons of amazing voice actors out there, but if you are working on a small budget (or no budget), you may find yourself asking friends to play characters and do narration. Working with inexperienced voice actors requires a little bit of extra work but done correctly you can coax out a great performance and make your podcast sound high budget and professional.


Being in front of a microphone can be an intimidating experience. Nervousness can cause all kinds of issues that are undesirable in your recording such as: erratic breathing, fidgety hands, swiveling chairs etc. Because of this, it is worthwhile to treat your voice actors gently and to be encouraging whenever possible. Give them time to breathe and assure them that mistakes are unimportant. The mistakes will all be corrected in the editing stages, so are unimportant during the recording. When a mistake is made, let them know it is ok and have them redo the line starting at the beginning of the sentence. You’ll want to make sure not to have them start in the middle of the sentence because inflections tend to change from one performance to the next. The more comfortable the actor is, the better their performance will be. Let them know they are doing a great job, offer to give them tea or water (the throat gets dry reading), and generally do whatever you can to keep the attitude positive and comfortable. It is also helpful to have multiple lighting sources so that you can vary the brightness based on their needs, and always have a book easel available, so the mics don’t pick up the unwanted sounds of paper rustling. 


In order to do a good job directing the actors, it is imperative that you become as familiar with the story as possible. Read it many times and make notes as to what inflections should be used where. It is important to gain the best understanding of the story as possible because subtle changes in tonality can alter the meaning of the words. Take detailed notes and share them with the actor as you go through the story. It is also worth letting them take their own notes, as we all use different shorthand to cue ourselves during performance. Try not to micromanage their performance as this will tend to make them nervous and will interfere with the quality of the delivery. 

Mic Technique

A microphone is essentially a type of instrument and it can take time to develop the techniques it requires to capture a great sound and practice solid mic technique. That being said, there are some simple ways to show the voice actor how to perform in front of the mic. Visual cues can be helpful for keeping the actor centered in front of the mic and not moving back and forth too much. Once you get a decent level on their voice give them a visual reference for their distance from the mic, this will aid in keeping them from moving around too much and help ensure that your level remains consistent. When speaking louder, they will also need to back off of the mic a bit, and likewise get a little closer for soft spoken parts and whispering. Always keep an eye on the levels while recording to make sure that the track isn’t peaking or getting too low a signal. 

Dealing With Mistakes

It is inevitable that the voice actor will make some mistakes, mispronounce words, and flub lines. Make sure to let them know that mistakes are ok and will be dealt with in the editing stages. But also make sure to have them redo any lines that you think could be better. It is always better to have too many takes then to have to ask them to come back just to rerecord a few lines. If you do have to do another session to fix mistakes, keep in mind that one performance can vary considerably from another, so make sure to have them deliver the lines with several different inflections, so that you have some choices when it comes to the editing phase.


The editing stage is where you will edit out all of the mistakes and make the performance sound perfect. Sometimes this will require adjusting the volume of individual lines so that the volume remains consistent throughout the performance. Compressors, gates, and envelope tools are all useful at this stage, but that’s a subject for another article. 

Jean-Paul L. Garnier

Jean-Paul L. Garnier lives and writes in Joshua Tree, CA where he is the owner of Space Cowboy Books, a science fiction bookstore, independent publisher, and producer of Simultaneous Times podcast. In 2020 his first novella Garbage In, Gospel Out was released by Space Cowboy Books and in 2018 Traveling Shoes Press released Echo of Creation, a collection of his science fiction short stories. He has also released several collections of poetry: In Iudicio (Cholla Needles Press 2017), Future Anthropology (currently being translated into Portuguese), and Odes to Scientists (audiobook - Space Cowboy Books 2019). He is a two time Elgin Nominee and also appeared in the 2020 Dwarf Stars anthology. His new collection of SF poetry, Betelgeuse Dimming has just been released and is available as a free download audiobook / ebook at He is also a regular contributor for Canada’s Warp Speed Odyssey blog. His short stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in many anthologies and webzines.