Many people interested in voice over work think it’s as easy as reading off a script into a microphone, and that the job equates to just speaking for a living. However, there’s a lot more involved, and one of the biggest obstacles that many new VO actors have to overcome isn’t learning how to speak a certain way – it’s learning how to listen.
Being a good listener can benefit you in many areas of life – probably all of them, in fact – but in the voice over industry, honing this skill can be especially helpful. There are a number of ways that listening, and listening well, can positively impact your career. In the beginning, you may experience most of this when you’re practicing and finding your niche. Take the time to listen to every voice over sample that you can, whether it’s commercials, video games, audiobooks, or even a training video at your day job. Listen for the volume, tone, inflection and other subtleties that you may not have noticed before taking an interest in VO work. Think about how these nuances may affect you and other listeners, and use this information to learn what works and what doesn’t. One thing I find helpful while watching TV is... go into another room and just listen to the program you've been watching. Without the visual aid you'll find that you hear subtle little things you didn't even notice before.
You’ll also need to listen to yourself so you can compare your work against that of other professionals. Record yourself doing a variety of readings and in different styles, and play them back so you can evaluate yourself. Listen for those same things that I mentioned above – volume, inflection, etc. – to determine if you are being effective or not. Be objective, and keep in mind that most VO artists spend years practicing their craft.