The Mission

It began with a train ride from Grand Central Station in New York to Yale University in New Haven. My mission: to speak to a group of pre-Med and pre-Health students; members of a national organization called MedX, whose mission is to explore the healthcare field from an array of interdisciplinary, holistic perspectives. Objective: to pose the question: is medical narration just icing on the cake?

Funny enough, when I arrived I was greeted with a sign that read “MedX -> McNuggets & Medical Narration.” I guess food is always a good way to draw a crowd for a speaking event—good thing I brought the cake.



The cake, you see, is content. Medical content producers (writers, illustrators, animators, videographers) have science backgrounds and are in business to communicate complex ideas simply, whether it be through imagery, text, and/or symbols (like arrows for example), to make a topic easily understood.

The consumers of the content-cake range from physicians, patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, parents, kids, sales reps, investors, to basically everybody.

But not all animators and video producers who are creating this material realize the importance of adding audio—voiceover (VO)—the spoken word to the mix. Some think VO might be a nice addition, an afterthought, something extra like icing on a cake—not essential to the basic cake. Still, there are many reasons why professional medical narration is a key ingredient and should be factored into the baking process, not just an optional afterthought.


  1. People learn through different modalities: visual, kinetic and auditory. Why limit one of the channels to the brain and inhibit understanding if someone learns best through hearing what the message is?
  2. The era of silent films is past! In this day and age, the brain expects to hear sound when seeing videos, so the project feels like it’s missing something without audio.
  3. The visuals must tell the story, but a script can go into greater detail and breathe life into the nooks and crannies of the illustrations, expounding, elucidating, drawing the viewer’s attention to what’s really important and to nuances that might otherwise be missed.
  4. A quality narration completes a project, makes it more professional and gives the project greater credibility.


Debbie Irwin with Yale Students.

Excellence Matters

Bad audio can ruin good video! Sound is invisible but essential! Video producers across the spectrum (medical videos, animated explainer videos, corporate videos, gaming videos, etc.) will all tell you that crappy audio will deter viewers. People may tolerate poor video but if the sound is bad they disengage, and who can afford that?! Any quality video production will have clean imagery, engaging content, and listenable sound.

That means:

  • No background noise (airplanes, wind, people talking in the distance, footsteps from the floor above, air-conditioner fans, rustling clothes, clanking jewelry).
  • Audible narration that can be understood: no mumbling, hemming and hawing, unintelligible accents, slurred or mispronounced words from someone who doesn’t know how to properly use a microphone.
  • Voice talent who can tell the story of complex material with confidence, credibility, and warmth, who understand how to change their vocal delivery to suit different audiences, be they lay or professional—e.g. speaking to physicians vs. speaking to seniors or children.
  • Balanced audio levels (between music, narration and SFX so no one element stands out, but rather hangs together harmoniously as a whole, supporting the visuals), with a sensitivity to the listener’s environment—headphones/tradeshow/auditorium.


So, take audio seriously and your presentations will rise to the top (like cake) of the class! Because quality ingredients make for quality outcomes!

Maybe, instead of chicken nuggets, the next group I speak to will have cake, I’ll bring the icing. Because who doesn’t like icing on their cake!?