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Tips to Help You Record IVR Voice Prompts Like a Pro

So you’ve just treated yourself to a brand new virtual PBX phone system. Dandy! Grab a piece of newspaper and rustle it in your ear to get that sweet sensation of unwrapping a present. Now, with all that shopping adrenaline out of your system, you may find an old friend has dropped in for a visit—that same old stage fright that got you all mumbling as Romeo back in junior high and everyone else asking ‘is he doing Macbeth?’

But not to worry, before you start questioning ‘to be or not to be’, here are a few tips that will quickly help you get the performance of a pro.


To Record or not To Record...Yourself

The first decision to make is whether you'll record your own voice or that of a colleague, or delegate the task to a professional altogether.

Recording Yourself (I'll be my own talent!)

This is a good choice if you feel you've got the voice for it, or perhaps a co-worker who sings like a canary.

The Benefits

  • Low cost

  • Flexibility to change prompts in the future

  • Control over quality

You’ll Need

  • A computer

  • A microphone, or your Phone

  • A quiet room

  • A script

  • A voice


  • While Synclio’s virtual PBX gives you the freedom to record right from your phone, it’s best to use a computer with a microphone whenever possible to avoid distortions that may occur during the call.

  • Use a quiet room with no background noise (turn off the AC, get away from the fridge or any humming lights—you’ll be surprised at the amount of white noise we filter out on a regular basis.)

  • Speak louder than you normally would, this will force you to articulate. But DON’T speak slower—people will grow tired, especially if it’s the type of menu they’ve heard a hundred times before.

  • If your IVR menu features unique choices in an otherwise standard menu, or if you have made recent changes to the call options, make sure you state this at the beginning of your recording so that callers will know not to skim through the message.

  • Likewise, try to position such choices as early on as possible so as not to force callers to sit through the entire menu they already know by heart to arrive at the relevant part.

  • Spend time on your script. Make sure it’s as clear and concise as possible while covering all options and extensions. At the same time, maintain a friendly tone, and don’t be afraid to inject something personal to stand out. A touch of personality can identify you and your business.

  • Train your voice. You might feel a bit tense or strained at the beginning. Take your time and give it a few trials until you feel it starts flowing more naturally. Listen to the recordings and keep trying until you are happy—that’s the advantage of being your own talent. You can take all the takes it takes (now try saying that three times fast!)

  • Find out what file-types are supported by your provider, and whether there is a size limit. Use the highest quality audio possible (.wav or equivalent if supported)

Hiring Voice Talent (ok...I may need some help after all)

Hiring professional help is a good choice if no one you know is much of an orator (don’t worry, that’s right here with the rest of us 90% of the population—they don’t call it talent for no reason).

The Benefits

  • Professional quality

  • Guaranteed results (offered by certain companies)

  • Fast turnaround

  • No need for equipment

  • Available in multiple languages

You’ll Need

  • A script

  • A Wallet


  • Look around until you find a company that offers the right balance between features and cost. Get a few different quotes. A company charging significantly less or more than the average for no apparent reason may better be avoided.

  • Check freelancing sites like elance or oDesk for freelance voice-actors that may fit the job and the bill. These can often be more affordable, as you’re dealing directly with the individual instead of an agency, but always be sure you ask for samples (and don't be too cheap. As with everything, you'll get what you pay for)

  • Make sure the agency or contractor understands your needs, and that you understand what they are willing to commit to.

  • Find out in advance if their service is guaranteed, and if so, under what terms.

  • If you require multi-lingual recordings, make sure that’s been discussed and accounted for in the quote.

  • Be specific about any special intonations or pronunciations in your script (for technical words, proper names, etc)

  • Discuss the desired tone and effect with your talent. Especially if using independent voice-actors, as they may be predisposed to conveying emotional characteristics (such as overt enthusiasm, if they come from radio) that may not be right for what you're doing. Try to aim for a friendly but neutral tone, unless you have specific reason to do otherwise (be careful though. It's only a phone menu. Make it functional.)

  • Inquire about their policy for recording future changes. Try to secure the rate in advance. Some companies will try to take advantage of the fact you’re now ‘tied’ to their voice talent and charge a higher rate when you come back.

Use Text to Speech Software (What about A.I.?)

TTS (Text-to-speech) computer products are a great idea, but have limited realism. This makes them suitable for situation where quality is not paramount, such as IVR menus for internal use by employees, or for tasks that call for short phrases like naming numbers or letters—but likely not for delivery of full-length passages to the public (unless you don't mind sounding like robocop).

The Benefits

  • Highly adjustable. Can easily be changed or updated.

  • No need for, or reliance on, voice talent

  • No recording equipment required

You’ll Need

  • A computer

  • A Script

  • A Wallet (ok, this joke’s getting old)


  • Carefully assess whether or not a TTS product will suite your needs.

  • Compare products to arrive at a balance between cost and features that you feel comfortable with.

  • In some cases you can consider supplementing voice talent with TTS. For instance, if certain parts of your menu will be fixed while others may be frequently updated, or to avoid recording short individual phrases like numbers or letters. In such cases, try to make sure ahead of time that the voice of your voice-talent closely resembles that of your TTS product.

So you see, recording IVR prompts is really not all that complicated. You likely have all the equipment you'll need right before you this very minute. All that remains is finding your voice, jotting down some notes, and perhaps adding a smidgen of creativity.

Good luck!

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posted by Maty Grosman @ 7:51 PM