Listen Up! Why High-Quality Audio Matters

Bethany Snyder, Senior Instructional Designer and Professional Voice Over Artist

You’ve spent time designing a training plan that meets the performance objectives you’ve identified. You’ve turned that design into engaging elearning that incorporates first-rate graphics and interactivity. But have you considered the quality of the audio in your course? Low-quality audio can be a distraction at best and a deterrent to learning at worst. Taking the time to plan, record, and deliver high-quality audio can elevate your elearning to a new level. And the best part? You don’t need a fancy studio or expensive equipment to provide it to your clients. Just follow these steps.

  1. Read the script out loud. Text that sounds fine when read in our heads can sound very different when spoken aloud. Did you have to stop and take a breath at any point? Consider breaking up the sentence, or adding a comma. Did your text sound awkward or stilted? Revise the content so that it sounds natural to your ear. Tip: Unless your work prevents you from using them, always go for the contraction over expanded words; your audio will sound much more natural.
  2. Find a small, quiet space. The bigger the room, the more echoey your audio will sound. Consider investing in a portable sound booth if you don’t have access to a small room. Avoid areas with heating and cooling vents; we tend to ignore white noise, but your microphone will pick it up.
  3. Speaking of which: Invest in a good microphone. Your computer probably has a built-in microphone, but don’t use it. There are plenty of decent microphones available for purchase, such as the Blue Snowball. Your investment in this piece of equipment will pay off quickly, when your clients are pleased with the high-quality audio you deliver.
  4. Keep it natural. This is the trickiest part of recording audio. We’ve all suffered through audio that sounds stiff, awkward, or flat (or worse: all three!). To avoid these common issues, consider how you read to a child. Your voice is full of color, and you do your best to bring the story to life through cadence and energy. While elearning narration probably isn’t quite that exciting, you still want to keep your voice warm and animated when you record.
  5. Clean it up. After you record your audio, give it a listen. Are there breath sounds between sentences? Background noises? Use your audio software (Audacity is a great, free application available for both PC and Mac) to remove extra noise so that your audio sounds professional and clean.

It can be appealing to use your computer’s built-in microphone to dash off narration for your elearning project. But taking the time to acquire good equipment, find a dedicated quiet space in which to record, develop a well-thought out script, read with color and energy, and carefully edit the final files can add the final polish that truly engages your learners.