Friday, May 30, 2008

I felt like the Energizer Bunny!

This week I had one of the most amazing experiences of my voiceover career: a 10-HOUR voiceover session.

Yep, 10 hours.

It was an ISDN session where I was in a studio in NJ and the client was at a studio in San Diego, CA.

I have to say that while it was the longest session I have ever had, it was also one of the most fun, rewarding and personally enriching experiences I’ve ever had. Because I now know that when it comes to long sessions…I can pretty much handle anything!

I thought I’d share a few tips I think might help you prepare for some of those long narration sessions you may have:

- Make a habit of drinking at least 8 glasses of room temperature water or herbal tea everyday. I am SURE that my voice would never have held up if my vocal chords/folds were not well pre-hydrated prior to the session. Remember: it takes at least 2 hours after you start drinking for that hydration to start having an affect. I drink tea throughout the day everyday.

- If you get the script ahead of time: READ IT! The worst thing you could do is walk into the session saying…”I have a few questions…..” when you’ve had the script for several days. Yes…this prep work IS part of the gig. Ask as many questions as you can before the actual session, as this will help keep the session moving once you’re in the studio. Nothing slows down a session like asking a question that needs a phone call to an outside person before being able to continue recording. Get those questions answered beforehand. Of course…if you don’t get the script…well then, prepare for a longer session! ;-)

- Supplies to bring to the session:
o At least TWO PENCILS with an ERASER. I say a pencil because every once in a while the client will say “cut this part out” and then change their minds. You want to be able to erase the line through the copy you just made! And two, because one pencil point might break!
o Tissues
o Room temperature water
o Herbal tea bags – one of my favorites: Twinings “Herbal Unwind”
o “Throat Coat” Tea bags – MY lifesaver!
o Bagels & Peanut Butter – Carbs & Protein!
o Granola Bars – My favorite? Nature Valley Crunchy Oats & Honey
o Bananas

Yes, it may seem strange to walk into a session with a bag full of this stuff, but believe me, they come in handy!….You don’t want your stomach growling during a session, do you?

- Wear comfortable clothes
o Skintight jeans are not what you want to wear to a long session!
o A cotton shirt – remember polyester makes noise!

- Get friendly with the engineer so that they can help keep you in cups of tea throughout the session! :-)

- Keep a positive attitude! Long sessions are taxing on all concerned, but lets’ face it, would you rather spend ten hours in front of a mic or digging a ditch?

- Don’t be afraid to ask for breaks. If the session goes longer than two hours. Ask for a break at a point in the script that makes sense.

- If you “hit a wall” and start feeling tired, ask for a break, go to the restroom & do some jumping jacks, quick arm punches, anything that will get your body moving. It’ll get the blood flowing and re-energize you. Throw some cool water on your face…and then look in the mirror, smile and think about what an amazing gig this is! Walk back into the booth smiling!

- Remember, your job is to make the client’s job easier. If they want something said 3 different ways, then record it 3 different ways. The easier you are to work with, the better the chance you’ll have to get re-hired. No one likes to work with a prima donna!

- Have Fun! This is a great gig!

I have to say that I walked out my 10-hour VO session feeling amazing. I know that the client who was on a super-short deadline was happy to have gotten everything recorded, and I was thrilled to know that I could get this done. I felt like the Energizer Bunny® that kept voicing, and voicing, and voicing!

Yes, it was a long day, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else! I was in front of a mic, living my voiceover dream! I LOVE my job!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Demos Here, Demos There, Demos, Demos Everywhere!

OK…in the old days…yeah, OK…not so long ago, when you decided to “Get into Voice Over,” you made a demo (a demonstration reel – demonstrating what you could do & the “sound” that you had). Years ago demos were on reel-to-reel tape, then audio cassette, then CDs and now, more and more they’re digital .mp3 files.

The world has changed.

It used to be that you got training, made a commercial demo and off you went to get an agent to get work.

I say again: the world has changed.

Now, more and more, although most VO talent start with a commercial demo, if you want to branch out into other areas of VO, you then start being asked for:

- a Promo demo
- a Narration demo
- an Audiobook demo
- a Telephony demo
- an E-learning/Online training demo
- an Animation/Character demo
…just to name a few!

And that’s not to mention all the custom demos you’re asked to create for potential clients on the online lead generating sites. Sure, those are more like auditions, but still...

And there’s more!

In the non-union world of VO, one of the ways many of us market ourselves, and generate repeat business, is to get on the roster of as many production studios, marketing companies, message on hold companies, audio book publishers….you get the idea…as you can.

That generally means creating custom demos for those companies as well. Whether it be the fact that these companies want all their talents voicing the same script, or having all the demos the exact same length or of the same genre.

Right now, I have 32 different demos floating out there on the Internet. That’s 32 different demos (there may be more, I stopped counting ;-) not counting my “generic” demos that are on many different rosters and my personal website. Now granted, that’s because I have both English & French demos out there, but still, even if I were a one-language talent, I’d still have about 16 demos out there!

Getting into voiceover these days is not just about having your commercial demo produced. Yes, that’s a very important step, but it’s only the first step.
How many demos do you have out there?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Press 1, For More Business

In the voice over world, just like in any other business there are niches and specializations.

When people say they want to “get into voice over” they are often thinking of the “glamorous” work of National TV commercials. You know the “voice” of Ford or Macy’s. But there’s a lot of voice over work that never makes it to the airwaves, yet keeps many of us working voice talent very busy.
I’m talking about “Telephony.” (Pronounced teh-LEH-fuh-NEE). You know…voicemail jail! Those infamous “For Sales, Press 1” recordings that people have complained about for years.

Well, I’m here to stand up and proudly proclaim: “Hi, I’m Liz, and I am a voicemail recorder.” Actually in our business we call them Interactive Voice Response or Message On Hold recordings (IVR and MOH for short).
Besides long form narrations, telephony is a mainstay of my business.
And I’m very happy with that!
Although it’s not looked upon by some as very prestigious, I see it as a very important part of my and my clients’ business.

Let’s face it, these days, the IVR/MOH system is usually your first contact with a company. It’s the first impression you get and usually that’s the impression you stay with when dealing with a company forevermore.

We’ve all heard horror stories of being trapped in a voice mail maze, or about the awful voice you had to listen to while on hold. That’s not the impression that a company wants project. Those awful recordings were probably recorded by – if I may be so bold as to to assume – the cute receptionist that was pressed into service to “just record this into the phone.”

Clients that hire me and my fellow IVR/MOH specialized voice talents know how important it is to give a good first impression. They know that by having an effective IVR or MOH system in place they are putting their best foot (or voice!) forward.
And lets be clear, I don’t want my recordings to illicit a “Wow, what a great voice” response. I want people to listen to that Message on Hold and say “Oh, I didn’t know this company offered that service, I’ll have to ask the rep about that when they get back on the line.”

An effective IVR or MOH recording will keep a company's clients happy by routing them to the correct department quickly…which gets their questions answered quickly…. which keeps them coming back and doing business with the company. An effective Message on Hold recording educates customers about your business and your services

So the next time you are asked to “Press 1, for Sales” or to “Ask our representative about our 10% discount on bulk orders” say “Hi!” That pleasant sounding voice may just be mine!
And if you need a telephony recording done? Call me!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Free Public Service Announcements For Myanmar Relief Efforts

Once again my friend Peter O'Connell has stepped up to the plate.

Ever the one to work at finding a solution to a problem, Peter has written and produced 2 public service announcements to get the word out on how to donate funds directly to UNICEF for the cyclone relief effort in Myanmar.

If you know of any radio station or television station program directors, internet radio stations or podcasters, please tell them about these ready-made, ready to broadcast PSAs.

Again, tell your contacts to go here.

This is what our global social networks are really for!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Happy Blogiversary, Bob Souer!

Today is a very special day for a very special friend of mine.

Today is Bob Souer's 3rd Blogiversary!

It was three years ago today that Bob Souer started his blog that I believe should be required reading for ANY voice talent.

He's also reason I started my blog, so you can blame him! ;-)

Happy Blogiversary, Bob!
Thank you for all you do!