Most often when a voiceover recording session begins I will get very clear direction about a specific kind of delivery style that the client wants to hear. One such session took place just a couple of days ago. I’d booked a job through In Both Ears, my agent in Portland, OR. Right from the start of the session the direction was clear and easy to follow. We did a couple of reads that way, then there was a short pause in the action while the producers (there were 4 involved, I beleive) talked with one another with the line to me turned off. (This was an ISDN session, so I was in my studio in Charlotte, NC while the clients were at a studio in Portland, OR.)
After that short pause they came back on the line and asked to go in a rather different direction. Again, this new direction was clear and easy to follow so off we went. After the first take with this new style, it was obvious from the reactions on the other end of the line that everyone was much happier with what we were now doing.
It’s true, sometimes the direction you get isn’t all that clear, or maybe it’s framed in a way that’s outside your experience. If you need clarification, be polite but ask. Don’t faff around. Get to the point. Let your director know you’re not quite sure how to do what’s been asked.
This is different from misunderstanding direction. If you think you’ve got what’s been asked, head off in that direction. Don’t worry. The director will let you know if you’ve missed the mark. Make corrections based on the new direction and then launch in again. But, by all means, follow the directions you’ve been given, even if you think they’re all wrong. Voiceover work isn’t about you, your voice or what you want. It’s about what your client wants, telling his or her story in the style and manner he or she has requested.
(edited to fix typos)