Entries Tagged as 'voiceover advice'

straight talk for voice-over talent

Bob Bergen, Lisa Marber-Rich and Tim Walsh at The Business of Voiceover in New York City. Photo Courtesy of Invision/AP

Bob Bergen, Lisa Marber-Rich and Tim Walsh at The Business of Voiceover in New York City. Photo Courtesy of Invision/AP

Melissa Exelberth (also know as ‘X’) posted a video of a voice-over panel she recently attended in New York City that was hosted by the Television Academy.

On the panel was a voice-over talent, two agents, a casting director and a voice-coach, all with names you’ve likely heard of if you’ve been doing voice-over for any length of time.

You don’t need any more build up for this other than to say you should watch this. Watch the whole thing.

And you’re welcome. ;)

who cares?!

voice over workshop kick in the pants

Too much free time. That’s the problem I think plagues many voice talents.

As busy as I am, some days I pay too much attention to social media silliness and my “likes”, “comments” and “retweets” take up more of my day than it should. Like other small business owners, voice talent get sidetracked. But I think it’s a bigger problem for voice talents.

Voice talents love to post and debate – for example ANYthing that has to do with Pay To Play sites and how frustrating those sites are. I see the start of a P2P rant thread and I think ‘do what I did, dump them and move on’ but for some, the topic continues to fester. While I respect that Pay To Plays do have some impact on a voice talent’s bottom line – it is NOT as important as the continuously recycled debate online would make it seem.

But the most recent discussion involving a blog post from my voice – over colleague Paul Strikwerda really brought this “too much time on voice talents hands” thought home to me.

It had to do with the recent Voice Arts awards. Paul wrote a very well thought out post about the awards with his opinion on their value. My take away as the reader (these are my words not his) was that the first year awards, while possibly noble in intent, do seem more like a cash grab in some ways, judged by a bunch of folks who in a few cases seemed to have served as both judge and nominee.

Discussions ensued on line (some thoughtful, some humorous, some vitriolic) about the awards, their merit, their prospective longevity and whether or not Annette Funicello really was the prettiest Mouseketeer.

To all this I say: who cares?

Not that people are not free to express their opinions. Sure they can. Paul’s points are well taken and the people who are behind the Voice Arts awards should at the very least be commended for trying to be innovative with a new idea for an awards show. Being the first to do anything is fraught with peril, financial risk and ridicule. My point isn’t to indict a blog post or an awards show.

My point IS an indictment of voice talents who continually get caught up in excessive online nonsense, preferring a social media time suck to actually taking care of business. And I see it ALL. THE. TIME!

This particular Voice Arts debate is a very good example of social media as a worthless distraction. And I believe voice talent fall prey to it waaay too often.

For example, what part of any of this Voice Arts discussion (or any other voice-over related discussion on any other social media forum) vitally impacts the daily life and bottom line of a workaday voice actor?

The answer is honestly none of it. Nor does it end up changing much.

‘But Peter, it’s FUN!’ Sure, we all enjoy the sense of community that social media affords us and I am not trying to squash that.

But it’s a business problem for voice talents when social media becomes (as it does so often) a distraction – the overactive back and forth online does not truly matter (except to boost or damage certain egos) and only serves to take our minds off of managing our businesses.

So my solution is to have voice talents do a pre-post test of what they are about to put up on any social media channel.

If you as a voice talent find yourself in an on-line debate about some voice over matter – before you hit send, even before you post or like or retweet, ask yourself if being online at that very moment the best prioritization of your time and talent.

Note, all this is about more than the occasional “like” or “comment” or “retweet”. It’s about willingly getting caught up in a time suck and focusing on that in the name of branding and marketing. And YOU do it. You can lie to me but you cannot lie to yourself.

Too much attention paid to social media is neither marketing nor branding but you, as the CEO of your voice-over business have no one above you to give you a kick in the ass and tell you to get off Twitter and get back to work.

Consider your ass kicked (mine too).

faffcamp II is coming march 19-22, 2015

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Faff Camp II is scheduled for March 19-22, 2015 at the Omni Colonnade in San Antonio, TX. Use this promo code: VT8988559 and I win a new(er) car! It might be a Matchbox or Hot Wheels – no way to tell yet.

IF you work in voice-over, know people in your acting class, VO workout group or wherever you’re connected to VO pals and colleagues, you should all attend if you’re all serious about a career as a professional voice-over talent.

Voice Talents Amy Snively, Lauren McCullough and Peter K. O'Connell at FaffCamp 2013
We’re looking for bright, friendly, down-to-earth VO people (like those in the above picture –ahem) who you think would love Faff Camp’s smart, ego-free, solution-oriented learning and sharing; people who’d fit in well with the Faff culture of VO people helping VO people get better at VO stuff (and make more more money doing it).

We’re doing Faff Camp II registration “Kickstarter-style”. If we hit our attendance target by July 11, we’ll see you at Faff Camp II!

If we fall short, we issue 100% refunds and…no Faff Camp.

My guess is – FaffCamp II WILL be happening. Visit the FaffCamp web site for all the details. Registration opens Monday, June 30, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. pacific time.

nerves are not just for newbies

Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O'Connell shares his marketing insights during a VO in TO Voice-Over Meet-Up at Livingston Studios, May 2014

Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell shares his marketing insights during a VO in TO Voice-Over Meet-Up at Livingston Studios, May 2014

Recently, I was invited to be the featured speaker at a semi-regular meeting of the VO in TO group, founded by Patrick Sweeney and Jodi Krangle. For professional, intermediate and newbie voice talents, the group used to meet in a billiard room at a bar in Toronto but recently shifted locations to the Livingston Studios in Toronto. It’s an intimate location, with all the VO recording facilities you could want plus a meeting/performance area – which is where the meeting took place.

If you're a good speaker, you get a mug; if you're a great speaker you get a mug AND a t-shirt

If you’re a good speaker, you get a mug; if you’re a great speaker you get a mug AND a t-shirt

Pat asked me to speak about writing a marketing plan for a voice-over business and that part of the night went well enough. Only one audience member almost fell asleep, which for me is an improvement over most of the snoozers I present to ;)

But it was the mixer after the meeting that made the biggest impact on me. A bright, friendly, young woman who wanted to thank me for my presentation approached me. But clearly she had another voice-over matter on her mind that she wanted to talk about, so I invited her to sit down and talk with me.

She was very new to voice-over although she had some performance experience. She had recently done a training session in a studio and was besieged, evidently almost from the moment she walked into the booth, by a case of nerves. She couldn’t get her mouth to do what her brain was asking it to do. Classic symptoms: words not coming out right, breathing irregularly, the whole deal. This perplexed her and bothered her and she needed to talk about it.

We did. I complimented her for being honest enough to talk about it and work through it – that’s a great start to overcoming most problems. I explained – with many embarrassing examples – how I also experienced vocal performance anxiety at various times in my VO career and that when I am in a studio or speaking publicly I still get nervous. She was very surprised by that, given what she had just witnessed.

I explained that I am able to work through it more quickly and seamlessly because of my years of experience performing and presenting but the nerves are still there. And I explained further – that’s a good thing, offering me a heightened sense of awareness to both the work being done and the audience being informed and entertained.

She and I were joined, during the course of our conversation, by two other experienced voice-over pros and fellow Faffers: Mike Pongracz (one of the 3 AmiVos – who still owe me a 3 AmiVos toque) and Elaine Singer. They too offered up to her their experiences with nerves and how they dealt with it (sidebar: sorry to brag but Faffers really do know best how to listen to and help fellow voice talent, with any type of problem better, than any other voice-over group cause I think Amy started the kind of “lend me an ear” VO philosophy – end of brag).

By the end of the conversation, I think this young woman was heartened by the support she received and the insight she was given. She won’t not ever be nervous again but she’ll now know better how to deal with it. And that’s part of how you develop into a professional in this or any other industry: by being just as scared as anyone else but doing it anyway, while everyone else cowers in the corner.

And I offer this story for those readers who aren’t brave enough to talk about their nerves or their performance fears but still want to deal with it somehow. Just know that your fears and obstacles probably aren’t unique. In this case, everyone and anyone in voice-over has and will still have nerves and anxieties. Even us old guys.

Just do it anyway.

an open letter to voice-over agents

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Hello Good People!

As my long time business partners, we have enjoyed some great professional successes. Because of your efforts representing me, together we’ve been able to make some nice money and create some terrific voice-over productions. Thank you most sincerely for your work — you know who you are.

We’ll just leave by the side of the road those who (big air quotes here) “represent” me – won’t they be surprised to see my name on their web site?! To that group I say, don’t worry, I know how expensive phone calls and emails can get.

But for the great voice-over agents, the not great agents and the agents I don’t work with – I’d like to make you an honest offer to help make the administrative side of your business more efficient and the lives of your voice-over clients a little simpler.

I would like to propose, in all seriousness, a standard email template for voice-over auditions. My belief is this will allow agents to craft a unified format on their emailed auditions in which they can simply and easily input information for new jobs each time and maybe be able to send it out quicker.

For voice talents, the benefits of this format would be a universal voice-over audition response format to follow. As a self-fish voice talent (and I know I’m the only one) when I get different auditions from different agents, I’ve got to try and remember how they like it labeled, slate or no slate etc. I want to do it correctly but sometimes when I am doing auditions while also looking the the mirror combing my perfect hair I get confused!

So, agents, see what you think about this:

#1 Each audition email you send out MUST contain the specifications for how you want your auditions recorded, labeled and returned. This must be in every email BUT once you create the audition template in your email system, you’re 90% done! You only have to fill in the specs of each job which hopefully is mostly a copy and paste task.

#2 File labeling must be universal. To begin the discussion, I would propose the following format: FirstNameLastName_ProjectName_Agency.mp3
I’m not saying that’s best (we need to include character names on some files, for example) but let’s discuss and agree on a file name style that will work on 95% of the jobs.

#3 Slating format must be universal. Some agents like slates, some do not. So I propose that all auditions must include slates. YES, there will be certain circumstances where slates won’t work, but again, for the majority of the work, slating will be fine. The format of the slate should be as follows: “This is (TALENT NAME) for (AGENCY NAME).”

That’s really it.

It’s been my experience that most all auditions are in MP3 format so I don’t think that needs to be addressed. Unique return email addresses are necessary based on how each agent would organize themselves. Nor can VO’s really do anything about audition lengths (specifically long form); on this topic, I believe the voice talents need to take their cues from the agents, knowing the agents will look out for the talents to make sure (as just one extreme example here) a voice talent isn’t required to read an entire book chapter to audition for an audiobook.

So my agent business partners out there, I hope you will weigh in on this as well. But it should be discussed and now a proposal has been put before you. The “it will never work, there are too many variables with each job” is off the table. And for any agents “who can’t be bothered to change” those are the lazy ones who don’t get voice talents any business to begin with and certainly aren’t involved enough with the voice-over community to read posts like this anyway.

So share you’re thoughts below and let’s see if we can get a professional discussion between the agency world and the voice-over world started on developing a logical solution to a universal industry issue. Thanks for your consideration.

I think it’s doable. What say you?

Best always,
–Peter

helpful tips to start a networking conversation

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Often times when people ask me about marketing, a discussion begins about attending networking events.

And at least a third of the time, someone complains about how awkward they feel going to events with people they don’t know to talk about a service (theirs) that the think no one wants to hear about.

If their attitude is everything then failure for these folks is imminent. Abort, Abort!

Look, I get that for some people, handling networking events is somehow intrinsically easier than for others. However, as an avid networker, I will add that I cannot read music or speak any other language besides English. Point being: we all have our strengths and if we put our minds to it, we can probably play a song or “sprechen sie deutsche.” Same thing with networking.

Sometimes, though, when people are uncomfortable with tasks like networking, a couple tricks can help ease the awkwardness. So when I saw this article from Fox Business News, I knew I wanted to share it with my friends in voice-over who aren’t always fans of business networking.

Some are going to equate these ideas with pick-up lines at a singles bar – but I don’t (and not because I ever used pick-up lines at singles bars…never knew where those bars were or what the lines were either).

Just read the article, give the content some thought and maybe customize them for yourself. It may be the beginning of a profitable conversation that you otherwise never thought you could start.

Good luck, I hope this helps.