Part of a series of answers to follow-up questions about podcasting, from students at the University of Toronto. Here’s a link to all the student Q&As, including those from 2010.
Answer: The voiceover (VO) course I took was in 2004, but I remember much of it. Our instructor maintained that some people had a natural talent for “voice acting,” but that this skill could be learned as well. Part of VO comes from technical ability – learning how to exploit the capabilities of your microphone, for example – and part of it is the expressiveness that you employ to interpret the material you’ve been given. (Believe me, when I do a VO session, I can read the same paragraph eight different ways! Guidance from a good director really helps.)
I highly recommend the book The Art of Voice Acting, which contains a treasure trove of tips about VO techniques and the business aspects too. Of course there are numerous websites and blogs devoted to this topic. Check out Voices.com, especially their blog posts and podcasts, and Bob Souer’s web site and blog, as well as Peter O'Connell's site.
You might also enjoy this interview I did with voiceover great Joe Cipriano a few years ago for my Trafcom News Podcast.
One more piece of advice: Try to listen to everything with a critical ear. Whether it’s the CBC or some other radio show, an audio book or a podcast – even a TV commercial – tune into how the person uses his or her voice. When you become conscious of it, you’ll be amazed at what you notice.
UPDATE –- To be clear: Voiceover training is NOT a prerequisite for podcasting. However, the strategies and techniques you learn in vocal training can help you any time you use a microphone.