Expert Author Susan Leigh
Many of us live in a world of constant noise. We are bombarded with the sounds of traffic, the background noises of co-workers; from their voices, equipment, general babble as they go about their business. Then there is the world of enforced sounds; when we make a phone call to a large company, use public transport, do a supermarket shop.
Often we are able to neutralise these sounds. We go into a trance state and blank them out or we integrate them into our general consciousness and hardly notice them after a while. Look at how workers in noisy factories are able to adapt and even hold conversations across the deafening noise of industrial equipment, or those people who are unable to sleep in the quiet of the countryside because they have become accustomed to the soothing, relentless sound of city traffic.
But sounds, noise can convey information in perhaps unconsidered ways. Our senses hold a database of accumulated experiences relating to all our senses including sound. These memories can be good or bad, evocative of people, times, associations from our past. These sounds evoke a subtle power in our lives.
How many of us have become affectionately nostalgic over tunes from our youth when unexpectedly heard on the radio, as we reminisce over people, places, things that we did back then? Conversely, the tone in a complete stranger's voice can make us tense, angry, defensive, even fearful, as their words, tone, demeanour trigger us back into a long forgotten, unpleasant time in our lives.
Other sounds often cause a more universal reaction; the grating of chalk on a board makes many people cringe. A child laughing, someone giggling uncontrollably, a champagne cork popping, the sound of the sea, bird song, church bells often make people smile, feel secure, calms them down - unless those sounds have a past experience of hurt, disappointment, upset associated with them.
So, when we're looking to use voiceovers and audio support in a generalised setting we need to be aware of the subtle power it can convey. Some people may be sensitive to or unappreciative of sounds that other people relish and enjoy. It's important to be clear as to the targeted audience; their age, demographic, reasons for listening. Will the use of music, a localised accent, firmness of tone be perceived as reassuring or deemed to be patronising?
The engine noise of a fabulous motor car could be highly motivational in some environments, whereas in others it would be of little interest. Used well, audio can provide valuable information, introduce calm and soothing tones into difficult or tense situations, motivate and enthuse staff, clients or customers. Used well, it can be a positive tool for good.