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My Story: Michael Slemmer

The_Voice_of_Authority-_formated[1]VO work for The Voice of Authority (my “brand”) has continued on a steady and varied pace. I recently had a very interesting experience with a new client. The story begins with a lesson I learned in sales and marketing a long time ago (and one that SAV rightly promotes too): push every button, pull every lever to make yourself known to your market as you try to reach prospects. In this case it was my joining (for only $10!) – New England Actors. Although most of their gigs are for on-camera actors, they do accept voice actors also. The real value I saw, however, was gaining access to their list of audio/video production firms (cloaked until you joined). Cold calling this list of 14 firms has so far resulted in two jobs with 2 different firms, and likely repeat work from both.

Visual ConceptsThe second job, for a production shop called Visual Concepts, is the subject of my experience. I cold called the principal in March and then emailed a link to my SAV personal page and sent demo MP3s. I followed up with him in April, but there was nothing doing. Last week though, I got a call from him saying that he had a client that wanted my voice for a product overview to be introduced in July at a big Las Vegas trade show, to 500 doctors. The product is a kidney dialysis machine made by UltraCare. I won this by ‘electronic audition’ – Visual Concepts presented my narration demo, along with demos of five others to UltraCare, and I was chosen.

I expected to record and FTP the file on my own, as I usually do with jobs like this. But – as both Visual Concepts and UltraCare are local to my office and home studio, my surprise came when the producer said he wanted to come to direct me live. Then, a day later, the end-client at UltraCare, who’d said he wanted to be live by phone patch, announced that he too wanted to be in-studio! While I’ve done studio auditions, this was the first one in my studio. A mad dash ensued to clean my office, remove our dogs and cats, and otherwise “up” the professional image.

I got the scripts an hour in advance, and learned there was ‘politics’ involved – three scripts representing the view of different “factions”. With both men sitting nearby, I read all three and also helped them with some re-writes. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but their direction was minimal as they liked the reads. We were done in a little over an hour, and the best part was that I wasn’t tasked with any edits! The video is in post-production now, so I don’t have access to it yet. Overall, while there were a few ‘curve balls’ thrown along the way, it was a positive learning experience. My sense is that Visual Concepts will be sending me more work.

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 –