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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
We're Losing Voice Over eLearning Jobs To
AI Voices. What Should We Do About That?

By Christi Bowen
Voice Actor

I lost an eLearning job recently. No big deal, happens to all of us, right? 

Only this time the loss wasn't to one of my colleagues … but rather, to a machine.   

My client told me that their client had chosen to use an AI voice for budgetary reasons instead of working with me. 

This is happening more often in the eLearning space. 

An eLearning producer told me that AI voices are used for scratch tracks, and then are often left in when it's for internal training, time sensitive or something that's constantly changing, to save on time and budget. 

So where does that leave us human eLearning narrators?  

AI - IN VO WORLD NOW

Whether we like it or not, Artificial Intelligence (AI) voices are now a part of the voice over world.

I recently posted about this job-loss event on my LinkedIn page and it's sparked an interesting commentary. Most of the comments were supportive and in agreement that AI can never replace a human completely - and certainly can't deliver customer service or build a long lasting relationship with a client.

There was surprising support from two European voice over talent marketplaces, as well.  

I know AI will never fully replace the human voice and the relationships we build with our clients. But we are losing paying jobs to AI. 

HOW DO WE SURVIVE?

I'm not the first to bring this up, and I haven't done all the research on it that my colleagues Anne Ganguzza and Sophia Cruz have. But I do know that this is an issue we all must become aware of and learn to adapt to.  

eLearning is a growing genre in voice over. Customer and employee training is expanding rapidly. With a workforce that is no longer centralized due to COVID, companies have turned to online training even more to educate their workforce.   

So how do we human narrators adapt and survive? By offering more value and building a relationship with our clients.

Here are a few things I think we can do when working with our clients or reaching out to potential clients.

1. Deliver great customer service.
  • Reply quickly to inquiries
  • Meet or exceed all deadlines
  • Engage in friendly and professional conversations.
2. Deliver a top quality product.
  • Audio quality has to be fantastic
  • QC the files to ensure there are no mistakes
  • Label files correctly
3. Remind clients of your humanity…and theirs!
  • Build relationships
  • Start conversations that make the interaction personal but still businesslike
  • Make clients want to work with you, a human, rather than typing words into a computer and having them  spit back out.
4. Add value to the projects.
  • Talk to clients about the goals of their training modules
  • Ask how you can help achieve those goals. A machine can't do that!
5. Be a resource for clients.

Maybe they need a voice different from yours, so recommend your colleagues
Offer to help with casting
Offer to manage a multi-voice project for them.  

You might be doing all of these things already and that's great. For the clients that need humans, you're all set. 

But for those that are more concerned (or pressured) by budgets and time, you may have to work harder to convince them to make that human connection.     

ABOUT CHRISTI
Christi Bowen has over 25 years of experience in voice over and video production, and has been a full-time voice actor for 10 years. She's the Director of Corporate & eLearning for ACM Talent, the Associate Producer of the VO Atlanta Voiceover Conference, and also co-founded the meetup group Tennessee Voice Over Exchange. She has developed a roster of clients worldwide on many types of projects - from commercials and corporate narrations to eLearning modules and phone systems. Specializing in eLearning, she also has a passion for political and automotive advertising. Her clients include L'Oreal, Walmart, General Mills, AAA Auto Club, Quaker Oats, IKEA, Philips and many more. Christi has won two Voice Arts Awards and two Pollie Awards for political voice over, and her corporate narration work has garnered three The w3 Awards and two Tellys. She is also a finalist for two Reed Awards for political voice over.  



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Comments (6)
Patricia M. Smith
5/28/2021 at 11:20 AM
Christi reminds us of the key elements in relationship building, and customer service is the most important one.
Ron Whittemore
5/26/2021 at 4:59 PM
Well said, Christi! Thanks for the encouraging, insightful words!
Joshua Alexander
5/26/2021 at 1:55 PM
Scary but true! I've also heard this from a potential client: "We use voice synthesizers for our E-Learning and that seems to have worked for us." Eeek. Sure! If you want your students & employees to connect to a robot, be my guest. I'll stick with the humans, and I'd prefer to be that liaison who is approachable, friendly, directable, connective, engaging, and everything else that a HUMAN needs to hear.
Rebecca Haugh
5/26/2021 at 9:44 AM
Sorry that happened to you, Christi. I'm sure it will affect more voice actors over time, and probably already has. Perhaps it's happened to me already. It's good to remind everyone with this article that VO actors can lose business to A.I.

As unfortunate as it feels, from a business profit viewpoint, this is a bottom line decision related to budgets and expenses. Maybe it feels cold and perhaps a foreboding disaster if much of our own business relies on eLearning. There are things you can do.

As a voice actor myself, I've been fighting low prices in eLearning a long time, whether it is in-house employees doing the VO or now A.I. By fighting, I mean doing whatever I can to show the value of my eLearning VO rates. Sometimes no matter how much else you bring to the table, the clients go for a lower price because their value is based on cost.

So what to do? In addition to the good points you've made, Christi, we have to be looking ahead to trends and preparing our business for what may affect it. A.I. and similar technology have been on the radar for a bit. I hate it, sure, and also I'm ready to let go of clients who go in that direction.

Sometimes it's better to thank them for what business you had, let them know you're available if they change their mind, and let them go on without you. Sure - stay in touch of course. Their eventual experience with A.I. might turn out bad and thus they may come back to you. If not, you've been professional and helpful with integrity.

Keeping solid relationships with clients, where you really talk to them and know their business priorities, will help you. You can't control technology, nor your client's budget or internal team decision making.

You can:
- have a strong connection whereby they'll give you a heads up if they see a change in the horizon.
- keep looking for potential new clients
- develop your skills in eLearning
- stay on top of benefits and drawbacks of your 'competition,' be it human or not!
William Bruce McFadden
5/25/2021 at 12:51 PM
No one is mentioning the impact of AI audio on the "end-user" --the reader, the student, the trainee, et. al. There has to be a quality impact on them, Yes? How much impersonal input can they take before they feel like they are being treated as "not-real" people? Is there a loop for feedback on learning, comprehension, enjoyment?

People are people.

Is AI that good?
Joe Loesch
5/25/2021 at 7:35 AM
Sorry this happened to you, Christi. Great advice. Great attitude. We all love you!
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