To iPhone users across the UK, he’s the original voice of virtual assistant, Siri. Fans of television quiz shows will know him as Statman - the announcer on The Weakest Link. And to radio listeners, he’s the journalist and broadcaster who keeps them informed about what’s going on in the world.
But to the thousands of learners who have completed Mintra’s online courses, Jon Briggs is instantly recognisable as the voice of offshore safety. He’s provided the voiceover for hundreds of titles in Mintra’s course library, helping personnel in the energy and maritime industries to develop knowledge, build competence and act safely.
The recent expansion of Mintra’s maritime-specific eLearning library, more than doubling to 238 titles to offer a low-carbon, cost-efficient complete digital learning solution, means that his confident, authoritative and engaging voice is about to be heard by even more learners.
“I’m first and foremost a broadcast journalist. I started out in radio at the age of 16 and over the years that’s evolved into voiceover work. If you had told me then that I would be best known for my voice, I would have thought you were crazy.
“Voiceover work is only about one-tenth of what I do. But it seems that I have a recognisable voice so that’s what I’ve become best known for,” said Jon.
His relationship with Mintra started almost 20 years ago when the company sought out a voiceover artist to work on new eLearning content being produced in-house. Finding someone with the right tone – someone who would sound knowledgeable and engage the listener – was critical to success.
eLearning in energy and maritime was a completely new sector for Jon, but he quickly got an understanding of how the courses were instrumental in keeping people safe at work. He said: “I think the most important thing was finding a voice that would resonate with the people listening to it. I’ve got a relatively harmless voice.
“We are not in the drama business and making the courses sound dramatic is not what I do, but it’s important the learners pay attention to the voice. Ultimately, they are working in an industry where safety is a priority and they need to be engaged with what they are hearing.
“The voice needs to sound like they know what they are talking about. If I don’t sound as if I do, the learners are not going to take on board the information and they are not going to believe me. I have to read something like I understand it and if I cannot understand it, then I question the script.”
He is conscious that the scripts he reads are going to be heard by multinational workforces, and that English is not the first language of many learners. He normally reads at what he calls BBC newsroom speed – a reference to the guidelines of the UK broadcaster – which is 180 words per minute, or three words per second. When reading for eLearning where English is not a first language, he slows that speed to just 120 words per minute.
Jon is known for the timbre and clarity of his voice, which are also important attributes when voicing eLearning courses. “I definitely think that it’s a skill and there are people who are good eLearning voices.
"I’m very proud of the association I have with Mintra: it’s been a very long relationship and unusual to work with one company for such a long time,” said Jon.
After starting out in radio at a young age, Jon when on to work for national radio stations and television networks across the UK. As well as developing his own portfolio of voiceover work for organisations such as British Airways and Nokia, he helped many others to break into the industry through his own voice agency, Excellent Talent. It represented 200 other voice artists and pioneered the streaming of showreels, presenting customers with the best ‘voices’ that best matched their specific requirements.
In addition to being the voice of Siri, Jon’s voice is used by Apple to make their products more accessible to users with sight disabilities. They hear his voice guiding them on numerous apps that appear on PCs, Macs and smartphones.
Of all the many highlights in his career, it’s probably this of which he is most proud. Jon explained: “We have access to a myriad of information via our screens - computers, tablets, laptops and phones – but imagine how much of that is removed if you do not have good sight or any sight. My voice helps them to navigate across screens to access the information that you and I take for granted.
“I will take that as a legacy; what I am most proud of is that my voice is the one that gives people access to information. I have assisted thousands of people I have never met to do things that the rest of us can access without a second thought.”
Today, only little more than 1 per cent of the global seafaring workforce is female. Whilst this is an impressive 45 per cent