Monthly Archives: April 2012

Technique Tip: It’s Not Your Commercial

Technique Tip: It's Not Your CommercialSomething to take into consideration when marking up copy is the degree of creative license you can reasonably take for a given piece without hijacking the script altogether. You may be tempted to make your auditions stand out in a sea of 50+ other auditioners, but sometimes standing out is a very bad thing!

When being unique does work, the most memorable commercials get stuck in your head because they feature a voice-over actor with dramatic flair. Some of the most brilliant commercials include: Beggin’ Strips, Kibbles & Bits, and Meow Mix.

Whether the commercial script is animated or not, you’ll still have to make judgment calls on what "voice" the voice-over job calls for. Answering the basic questions, like whether to use high/low energy or hard/soft sell, etc., are easier to answer than others, like pause here/there or how to make a laundry list sound more distinct. Something to keep in mind: this is not your commercial!

In addition to thinking, "How would I do this commercial if it were my project," consider what the client wants. Ask yourself, "What is the client’s goal with this copy?"

Taking the client’s objectives into careful consideration will require you to remember everything you learned about breaking down scripts during your voice-over training. When you record a commercial script for a client, think of yourself as a consumer and member of the company. How would you want to be sold on the product or service?

Analyzing copy from the client’s perspective will also help you become better at selecting which voice-over jobs to audition for based on your talents. Rather than taking the "wet noodle approach" of throwing auditions out there and seeing what sticks, apply for voice-over work that best suits your niche. You’ll not only save yourself many headaches in the long run, but you’ll become better at ‘what you do’.

The Last Voice You Hear…

One of my favorite TV characters is "Penny," from CBS’s The Big Bang Theory. As I counsel clients on their career goals, I’m often reminded of Penny’s comments to her soon-to-be-boyfriend, physics genius, Leonard Hofstadter.

Behind in her bills, having had her power disconnected and relying on candlelight, she tells Leonard things aren’t really going according to plan. He inquires "What was the plan?" to which Penny replies, "Um, waitress for six months and then become a movie star." Leonard muses on this and asks if there was a Plan B, to which Penny replies deadpan, "TV star."

Voice Over Training and EquipmentI suspect most of us have had dreams we thought would surely become reality, only to wake one day and embrace the shocking truth that time may have run out and we don’t even have a Plan B!! This is particularly true for those in the arts, I suspect, where opportunities have always been very select and it requires tremendous commitment and a thick skin to succeed.

For those of you who have taken that big plunge – invested in yourselves to acquire the best training and equipment, posed for cool head shots, responded diligently to voice-over job postings, and begun to experience success – kudos! You’re well on your way to a new and rewarding career where you can experience the rush of performing and real satisfaction as you craft and follow an exciting new career path.

But as you enter this entrepreneurial arena, you are probably facing stiff competition, and you need to market yourself in many different ways to ensure maximum exposure and to capture the attention of businesses inundated with potential talent. In a nutshell, you need to become your own best commercial!

Voice Overs Marketing and LinkedinThe rise of social media has introduced new and innovative methods for introducing and marketing your talents. You must surely develop and update a solid Linkedin profile, and should plan to create or commission your own web page – even a specific Facebook page where you can advertise your strengths and, particularly, link to your web page.

But be careful – even these methods are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. A perfect example: I recently filed my 2011 tax return, using a popular automated tax program. When I clicked that final "Submit" button, the system messaged me, saying "Way to go!" (it’s true!), and then asking if I wanted to publish my tax-filing success on Facebook and Twitter!! So be careful about placing too much faith in new-media marketing – you don’t want to be lost in an over wash of ads that now appear on most people’s FB feeds.

To establish you as a competitive force, there may be no substitute for old-fashioned legwork – searching out opportunities that most people might miss. You can begin by examining your local world for opportunities and make some non-traditional contacts. A perfect example: The March AARP Bulletin showcases Carolyn Hopkins, a 63-year old Maine resident whose recorded voice is heard in nearly 250 airports worldwide making departure and arrival messages since 1984. Perhaps contact your local municipality or government for potential opportunities. Your Chamber of Commerce should be a wealth of information on businesses in your area. Developing a positive business relationship with a local Chamber employee can be a great source of information, especially for learning about recently arrived businesses or those coming to town that may not yet have an advertising strategy and could use voice talent to establish their image locally!

Be sure to approach your local radio and TV stations; radio is likely to be of particular importance as voices are what it’s all about there. Face-to-face meetings can be challenging to secure, particularly with the vast reach of our current marketing universe. But reaching out is that first step. To make the most lasting impression, you should be prepared with an impactful suite of voice-over demos accompanied by a cutting-edge portfolio of professional documents that captures your unique "brand," showcases your creative edge, and sets you apart from the competition. As my very Southern grandmother used to say, "Presentation is everything."

In addition, the successful applicant in today’s market will remember the forgotten art of follow-up – a personal thank you note, a well-placed phone call to inquire if additional information if needed, even a pleasant email following your contact with a potential employer – these are not optional and they definitely establish you as a professional in the mind of that prospective employer.

Get that voice over job by sending a Thank You

In short, get yourself jazzed up to reach out! Have your documents and voice over demo attractively packaged for a personal meeting and be sure to follow up every interview or cold call. I recall hiring an employee for a counseling position, primarily because her thank you and follow-up letters made an impression on me. She wasn’t my first choice, but when a second opening appeared, I remembered her as the last "voice" I had heard

Make sure YOU are the last voice – or at least the most memorable one that potential employers hear!

Fran Webb Sheridan, CEIC
Certified Employee Interview Consultant
The Writer’s Webb – Fsheridan107@windstream.net

Marianne Coleman-Hipkins Volunteers Her Talent on Librivox.org

Originally from New Zealand, Marianne Coleman-Hipkins moved to North Carolina 3 years ago. She started doing voice work at the tender age of 11 reciting poetry at the local talent and speech competitions. She was a nurse until a work related back injury forced her retirement 30 years later. During her entire nursing career Marianne continued voice work in the form of musicals, plays, TV roles, and movies. Since she has been in the US, Marianne’s focus has been voice over work. She has a passion for medical reads and related jobs as well as children’s audio books and narration. Her most recent jobs include a part in the latest Tyler Perry movie, “I can do bad all by myself,” an infomercial as an onscreen talent due to be released this month, and a child’s interactive audiovisual story in which she voices 3 characters, 2 children and an adult.

LibriVox - voice over talent marketing tipLibrivox.org is an extraordinary site, one that relies entirely on volunteers in all aspects of the organization. Let me tell you a little about them and what they do, and how as a voice over student this site can truly benefit you and how you, in turn, can be of much use to them.

Librivox in a nutshell: An open source audio-literary attempt, to harness the power of the many to record and disseminate, in podcast form, books from the public domain. But that simplistic explanation does not do justice to the volunteers and the original organizers of this site and great undertaking.

Librivox has volunteers record books that are all in the public domain; more specifically, books that are at risk of disappearing forever on some dusty shelf, forgotten in the annals of time. It is a truly worthy undertaking for the preservation of some really important books. In translating these books into audio, it allows the visually impaired access to books that they perhaps would not have had access to before. Not only are novels recorded, but poetry, plays, autobiographies, medical and other textbooks, art books….the list goes on!

So you may be asking yourself what does this have to do with me as a voice over student? Plenty! Librivox is a fantastic opportunity for any voice over student to hone their voice skills in many different fields. As a volunteer, you can record chapters from novels and practice your narration and acting skills at the same time. It’s a perfect win-win situation! Not only do you get to practice your voice over, but also your recording and editing skills. It is a fantastic opportunity to help others and by doing so, yourself, along the way.

You also get the added benefit of public exposure, being listed on the search engines under the Librivox banner, and are possibly listened to by possibly hundreds of people. I had only been there for a few weeks when someone heard a poem I read, emailed me, and asked if I would be interested in recording some audio for students learning English as a second language. Also, in every recording you do, at the beginning or at the end, you have the opportunity to promote both yourself and your website.

Voice over talent that helps othersAnother benefit of doing this as a student is that you can see how much you are progressing in your voice over work. When I listen to some of the earlier recordings I did for Librivox, I cringe. However, I can hear how my voice is progressing and I can hear how my editing and recording skills are improving. People at Librivox do not judge your recordings or your voice, they will, however, help you get your recordings to the standard that they set for the site by giving you tips and pointers. They are a very, very nice bunch of volunteers, all totally passionate about the work they are doing.

Did I mention there is no pressure on you whatsoever? None! Record as much or as little as you desire, and if for some reason you are unable to complete a project you started – no problems! They are all volunteers there and realize that sometimes we over-commit ourselves, or life intrudes. Simply let the project controller know, and someone else can take over for you.

There are so many fantastic opportunities that this site offers the voiceover student. The voice over professional can also put the power of their knowledge into a community project that genuinely benefits the world wide community… any language, any country!

What better way to give of your time and voice over talents than in helping preserve some very valuable and old manuscripts for generations to come after us? Join me and hundreds of others to volunteer your talent for a worthy cause? For more information visit www.librivox.org.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Cheers!
Marianne

P.S. Another thing that Librivox has just done is to create a file of all the different accents from different countries that record there, all recording the same story. If you are looking to hone a foreign accent for your voice over work, then you can use these to practice with. It is a great resource!