Entries Tagged as 'voiceover advice'

letters, we get letters…

audioconnell_email_computerWell maybe not letters so much as emails. Often the emails are clients or prospects wanting a quote on a voice-over project they are working on.

But almost as often I get emails from people wanting to break into the voice-over business. Many established voice talents receive these types of emails.

I try and answer them as honestly as I know how, even though I know most want me to paint a rosy picture of their voice-over future for them. I don’t do that but nor do I want to shatter their dreams.

Every person has a right to try to follow their dream and it’s not my place to knock them down. Nor is my place to set false expectations.

Just as an illustration, I will share with you an email I received this evening (yes, on a Sunday evening). Such an email on a Sunday is not so uncommon, as many people are facing the prospect of another Monday at the job they don’t like with great dread. I know that feeling from my past lives and I am not unsympathetic to their plight.

So anyway, here is the email I received and my reply. I’ll leave it to you to decide if I am a helpful realist or a soulless dream crusher.

“I am a 22 yr old kid looking to fulfill his dreams. I’ve wanted nothing more than to be involved with voice acting since I was little. It’s truly what makes me happy and I do believe I have the talents to do some great things. Just looking for someone to take a chance with me. Just want one shot. I cant do an office job anymore. It isn’t the life for me at all. I’m miserable. I need to be around people and to make others happy.”

Here is my reply:

“Fortunately for you, you have an objective. A goal.

Now you need a strategy.

Know this first and foremost….working in voice-over is pretty much running a one-person business. You’re in an office 90% of the time and a studio 10% of the time. Those % can vary but not much on average.

Do you want to run a small business? I know you think you want to be in voice-over but what you’re really saying is I want to run a small business. You’re saying I want to take the financial risk (money is not huge for many), I want to be responsible for sales, marketing, human resources, accounting and toilet cleaning. It a one person gig and you do it ALL.

Are you ready for all that? ALL of that?

I’m not trying to scare you…I’m just offering you the facts. Your dreams of what voice-over could be will not jive with what the reality will be. It is hard work. Hard. Work. 24/7/365. And in all of this, I haven’t even mentioned turning on the mic.

If you have the financial resources to withstand significant dry times (no VO jobs) and start -up costs (studio, marketing etc), if you have the acumen run a small business and the personality to create positive business relationships, then consider starting your new voice-over business up on the side. Keep your day job and work VO in your off time. It can be done and is done by thousands everyday.

Take a look at my free e-book and see if that helps you on this proposed journey as well. The Voice-Over Entrance Exam can be found at www.voiceoverentranceexam.com

Go in with your eyes WIDE open to the work ahead.

Be afraid. Be worried.

Then, as you’re consumed by uncertainty, do it anyway.

You’re 22. If you fail, you’ll recover. But what happens if you succeed?

You miss 100% of the shots you never take in life. Just remember to take SMART shots, not emotional shots.

I hope this helps. Good luck.”

re-visiting voice-over body shop was a completely different experience

George Whittam, Dan Lenard, Peter K. O'Connell VOBS

When I wrote the promo blog for my Monday night appearance on Voice-Over Body Shop (formerly known as East-West Audio Body Shop or EWABS), I had the chance to watch a bit of my 2011 appearance. That episode was George Whittam and Dan Lenard’s 4th show and it was a great deal of work for them to get the show on the net, given the tools of the time. But like true broadcasters they worked through it and got the show done. It was a fun time for me to be a part of and especially for the audience.

Fast forward to last night.

Locales have changed with Dan having moved this past summer from Buffalo, NY to Hollywood and a new studio in his new house. The show originates from this “Lenard Broadcast Center” so finally Dan and George are on the same set. The show has a new name (‘cause Dan isn’t in the East anymore) and the broadcast enjoys much better Internet streaming technology. George has become extremely comfortable as technical director with the newer technology and Dan keeps the flow of the show going very well. 5 years worth of shows will do that.

Sponsors have noticed the improved program as well because the show has many of them including (on this episode anyway) Voice-Over Essentials, Voice-Over Xtra, Edge Studio, Source Elements, VO2GoGo & Antland Productions.

I was linked in to the show about 30 minutes before air and got to have a nice visit with George and Dan, discussing how much the show has evolved. Certainly with any broadcast, that’s going to happen.

However, from my perspective as an early guest on show #4 to my latest appearance 5 years later, the show has experienced a wonderful evolution from two well-paired co-hosts who are not just committed to their show but, even more so, to their audience.

So if you didn’t get a chance to see the show live, here for your viewing pleasure is last night’s broadcast. Thanks boys. And happy 5th anniversary.

off to vo atlanta

VO Atlanta audioconnell

What’s your agenda when you attend a voice-over conference?

I think most people would answer – ‘whatever is on the agenda’ is on their agenda when attending a voice-over conference.

One assumes people look at what’s planned for a conference and decide based on that whether the event is worth attending.

That’s fine. I also think it’s lazy and unproductive. (Uh oh, here he goes again!)

Look, if you want to be led around by the nose by whatever is put in front of you in the banquet of conference classes, that’s OK.

It just seems to me that to get your true money’s worth out of a conference, you need to set personal objectives – to be achieved as a result of your attendance – that will help move your career further, no matter what stage you find yourself in your career.

I’ll give you a personal example.

Outside of FaffCon and FaffCamp, which remain my favorite professional voice-over events, I haven’t been to that many voice-over conferences. I’ve presented at some but I don’t attend that many.

Time is one reason but the bigger reason is I don’t feel the content at most VO conferences will add significantly to my current knowledge bank. That doesn’t mean I’m better or smarter or that the content isn’t good. It means I don’t feel like I’m the right audience for most VO conferences.

When you’ve worked in a business (any business) for 34 years, that’s going to happen. Someone with none of my experience, half of my experience or even more than my experience would likely see many VO conference agendas differently than I do. It’s a personal career decision.

But it is also true that after that much time, I’ve come to realize that I know how much I don’t know. And you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. The tricks had just better be spectacular.

The tricks at FaffCon and FaffCamp, because of the level of professional, experienced talent in attendance, have always been pretty spectacular and helped in my professional growth and development.

I am a newbie to VO Atlanta, which is now in its 3rd year. There are a significant number of folks new to the voice-over industry that will be in attendance and certainly some of VO Atlanta’s content is geared toward that audience. That’s cool.

Unique this year at VO Atlanta is the attendance of a great number of casting directors and voice over agents. This has piqued my interest.

It pleases me to already be working with many (but not all) of the agents at VO Atlanta including Erik Sheppard from Voice Talent Productions, Jeffrey Umberger from Umberger Agency and of course my agent and long time Toronto pal Tanya Buchanan from Ta-Da Voiceworks. I would like to at least meet a few of the agents and casting directors that I don’t yet know.

Further, there are a couple of sessions on Saturday (the day I’ll be there) that I would like to listen in on. Although I am not interested in the concept of X-sessions, which requires an additional fee for each session on top of the initial conference fee. Not judging, that’s just me.

Also, I’ll be in attendance at VO Atlanta with some of my fellow MVO: The Voice-Over Guys including Dan Friedman, Brad Venable, Jordan Reynolds and Dustin Ebaugh. That’s always fun!

Will there be Voxy Ladies there? Nah, ya can’t never find them anywhere. 😉 (ducking).

Finally, there are at least 25 of my longtime VO friends who will be in attendance, whose company I enjoy and who are always generous with their insights and advice.

Too, there are new friends to make at this new-to-me conference.

So not a lot of my objectives for VO Atlanta have anything to do with the agenda. But I do have specific objectives for my attendance.

My suggestion, if you are going to this or any other VO conference, is to think about what your goals and objectives are for attending…then think bigger – whatever that means to you.

You’re the student.

I hope this helps.

are your voice-over prospects dead?

Peter K. O'Connell Google Contacts

If you’ve worked with any prospect or client database for any period of time, it will happen to you. Through a phone call, a direct mail or an email blast that you’ve done, you find out one of your prospects has died.

Worse, they’ve been dead for a while but because you hadn’t reached out to them in much more than an automatic (read: email blast way) you didn’t know.

You didn’t kill them but you feel like crap about it anyway for a number of reasons. Maybe it shook you a bit. OK, take the day, do something else at the office. Come back to prospecting tomorrow.

And when tomorrow comes, learn the lessons.

One lesson is that if someone is a TRUE prospect, you should try and call them a few times a year. Be a real person on the phone (not salesy), chat and talk a little business. Keep them on your prospect/client list if there’s an opportunity and pull them off the list if there is not. Also pull them off if you can never get through or if they never call you back. Or put them on a secondary (not prime) list if you don’t want to give up on them completely.

The other lesson, the one that requires more physical work for you, is that it’s probably time to clean up your database of prospects and clients.

I know this to be a valuable exercise because I just finished doing it.

No, a death didn’t trigger the clean up. It did, however, make an eye-catching headline (gotcha) and yes, I actually have been through that “death” experience with a few prospects (it’s bound to happen to every business person). It was awkward and I survived.

What caused me to go through all my voice-over prospects were the results of my voice-over email marketing campaigns and some voice-over direct mail campaigns I did in 2015. What I knew in my head before all that was that it had been a while (read: years) since I did a thorough scrubbing of my list. I tried to do some work on it but it wasn’t enough.

Also, let me be clear, I am well aware that it is the quality of the list and not the quantity that makes it valuable. I’m not saying I always “lived it” but I know it.

It is a lot of tedious work to purge as you are looking at every name on your lists. For me, that totaled easily over 4,000 contacts (leads, clients, voice talents, family, friends, etc.)

I knew there were going to be some “corpses” in there – some that were still alive but were dead to me, in a business context.

Studying data results (most easily done, in this context, via email blast results included in most email programs) showed me that a lot of people were not opening my voice-over business emails. Now, there are many reasons for that (like spam filters). I also know that some people HAD opened my emails but it didn’t register as having been opened (ah, technology). Ultimately, the numbers were enough of an indication to me that I needed to look through the data and purge.

In my case, I use two primary tools for coordinating prospects: Google Contacts and LinkedIn. Google Contacts is a free address book (and or Customer Relationship Manager if you want to be all fancy pants about it). In it are the contacts I have had since the beginning of time (importing them to Google Contacts when that became my tool). LinkedIn started in 2002 and I remember hopping on around 2005 or ’06; LinkedIn lets connected members download each other’s emails. My profile clearly states I will be communicating with my connections via email (and it is not terribly frequently).

Time gets away from all of us. While we are seemingly always busy gathering prospects and client information, it is a more rare occasion when any of us purge it. While not hoarders, there is definitely some cleaning up we all need to do.

And so I began.

I looked at each individually exported list (Google Contacts and LinkedIn). I also compared those lists to those email addresses that had bounced, opted out or otherwise failed from my email blast system. It was a lot of checking and cross checking, then updating or (mostly) deleting.

What I discovered in my voice-over database probably won’t surprise you but it still agitated me…

• There were prospects from easily 10 years ago who I had long forgotten about…some of who’s businesses had even closed (they aren’t prospects anymore); same with some really old one-time only clients
• When I first joined LinkedIn, likely not understanding it and not having a business plan for it at that time, I connected with a lot (A LOT) of people for no good reason other than to build connections —those folks are gone from my connections now
• Google Mail will create contacts for folks you may only briefly email in something called “Other Contacts”; evidently it was a few (many) years before I got that memo and noticed that option (more deletions)
• You and likely only you can do this task as the voice-over business owner because only you know who to keep and who to toss – this job cannot be delegated and done effectively
• Tedious and tiresome as it is to do, the result of your focused efforts to manage your prospect and contact lists will pay off in your future marketing efforts

Between my two main sources, I deleted or updated over 1,200 contacts (yes, one by one). Besides feeling lighter and less stupid (or stupid to a lesser degree) what, if any, outcomes came from this exercise?

Well, here what I have found in only the past 2-3 weeks since I completed the chore:

audioconnell email blast study

• In November, 2015 I sent out an email blast to 2,749 prospects and clients (excluding all voice talents, family members and other non prospect/client related people)
• Overall, I had an open rate of 28.3%
• I had a “unique viewer” click through rate (people clicking on a link to read something) of 11.31%
• I had 88 bounced emails (even though I “thought” I was keeping up with deletions after every email blast)

• In February, 2015 with my purged and updated list, I sent out an email blast to 1,547 prospects and clients (same exclusions) (-1,202 contacts)
• Overall, I had an open rate of 35.4% (+7.1%)
• I had a “unique viewer” click through rate of 12.4% (+1.1%)
• I had 15 bounced emails (almost 6x fewer)

Taking into account, within this imperfect science, that the two blasts had different content, were sent at different times of the year and different times of day, the numbers are improved. They’d HAVE to improve considering I was carrying so much “dead” prospect weight. Worse, the numbers I’d previously studied were inaccurate. Because I didn’t properly manage my database, I was not managing my business as effectively as I could have. Advice: don’t be me.

There are other steps and plans that I can take with this renewed focus on database management. If I choose to target certain media business categories, there’s no reason I can’t pull them up from Google Contacts and LinkedIn, update the addresses (or lookup and add addresses in the case of LinkedIn) and do some better-targeted marketing.

I need to get on the phone to these folks more.

Finally, I need to try and make it a priority to more regularly edit, update and purge my database. It’s hard to keep up with it but I need to make an effort.

You’ve read about my mistakes here because I know you made some of them too, maybe more. You don’t have to write about your mistakes but I sure hope you can learn from mine. It’s not the end of the world for me or you, just another step in the voice-over journey.

I hope this helps.

Voice-Over Mastery 2015

Voice-Over Mastery

Some people would be content to rest on their professional laurels rather than try something new. Most folks don’t like to break out of their comfort zone.

Most people aren’t Randy Thomas.

Likely America’s most famous female voice-over talent, her talents have taken her from radio dee-jay to the voice of Hooked On Phonics to the first woman to announce The Academy Awards©, The Emmy Awards©, The SAG Awards©, The AFI Awards© (to name a few) voice of Entertainment Tonight for almost a decade, years as the station voice for countless local TV and radio stations, author….look, you get the idea.

Where you hear women announcing on live award shows a lot now, Randy is the one who broke through the male dominated field and paved the way for them (when on the rare occasion she’s not actually the one doing the voicing).

She’s still actively working on voice-over (most recently having done promo work for a well-received CNN documentary series) but she isn’t satisfied with just that.

Last year she created a new voice-over educational series called VO Mastery in her hometown of Fort Meyers, FL. The event is open to all voice talents and even folks considering joining the industry (mostly, though, the attendees include people working in the voice-over business).

In 2014 and again this weekend she brought together a series of accomplished voice talents and industry professionals (many of whom are not often seen at these kinds of voice-over conferences) to cover the gamut of performance, technology and business topics.

Last year, three highlight speakers were Joe Cipriano, Melissa Disney and Chris Corley who each offered some terrific insights into how they manage their careers and how what they’ve learned (good and bad) might be applicable to the careers of those listening. It was a great weekend of networking and I picked up some helpful information too.

This year I had a scheduling conflict with a family event so I couldn’t fly in for VO Mastery’s Friday’s reception. I grabbed a 6:30 a.m. flight Saturday via Washington, D.C. to Ft. Meyers and got there a little after noon.

I arrived in perfect time to grab lunch with longtime pals Doug Turkel, Dan Friedman and Celia Segal. What was especially nice about this lunch was whom they had brought along…Jonathan Tilley, who was speaking at the event (on Saturday morning, so I unfortunately missed the talk). But we had a very nice time at lunch. If you’ve not seen any of Jonathan’s videos including his Tedx Talk, you should check it out.

Another person whose presentation I was looking forward to David Lyerly, former Atlas Talent Promo Agent and now New York’s premier voice over coach for network promos. His panel presentation was interesting but what was especially fun was his performance class, where he guided about 20 of us through cable and network promo scripts. Then he and I got to have dinner afterwards.

There were of course other fine speakers as well including Susan Bennett, Peter Rofe, “Uncle Roy” Yokelson, Simone Fojgiel, Pilar Uribe, Zu Rek “Rick” Party, Carol Monda, J. Michael Collins, Don Abbott, Ronald Magaut as well as Doug, Celia and Dan.

Of course, truth be told the BEST part about these conferences is seeing my friends like Doug, Dan, Celia, Roy, Simone, Zu Rek and Randy. But there were other friends there too (most of whom didn’t know I was even coming to VO Mastery) and all of whom I wish I had more time with including Jackie Bales, Rosi Amador, Bev (Come to Welland) Standing, Shelley Avellino, Faith Coons & Kerri Donovan.

Of course, with my old brain, I have likely inadvertently omitted someone – for which I apologize now, no offensive was intended – but I am grateful for all the people I got to meet in my all too brief visit for #vomastery

the vo-bb…10 years later

 The Voice-Over Bulletin Board

The Voice-Over Bulletin Board


I realized this evening that I forgot an important professional and personal anniversary in February of this year.

For ten years I have been a member and participant in the Voice-Over Bulletin Board, The VO-BB.

There have been so many bulletin boards for the voice-over industry over these past ten years and many have burned off into the ether. But not Deirdre (D.B.) Cooper’s VO-BB.

It is unclear to me which is more important about this special internet place, wherein mostly words with links about the voice-over profession and the people who practice it are posted. Is its purpose more as a place of learning or as a community?

A case could be made for both.

So many educational nuggets on so many facets of the voice-over industry and it’s practitioners are contained within its virtual walls that if a PhD could be given for the study of voice-over, the VO-BB would be the industry’s Library of Congress.

But upon reflection (and yes, I am a person who reflects on such things) I think the VO-BB as a place of community is the site’s true hallmark. Beyond the business benefits of being virtually connected with these people (referrals and the like — as it is with most businesses, people prefer to do business with friends), there is a sense of camaraderie, of team and of belonging – of people who get me and what I do. After all, it’s their business too.

Some years ago, when there were more boards like this, a few people called those of us on the VO-BB “clicky”. That really was never true because, almost universally, everyone on the VO-BB always tried to welcome and acknowledge new members when they announced themselves. I think what those few “clicky accusers” were trying to say was that there was a great familiarity among the regulars on the VO-BB, sometimes, inadvertently, posting and “conversing” in a knowing shorthand. We all just followed D.B.’s rules (still do) and play and learn from there.

There may be a few folks who don’t realize that without the VO-BB, there might not have ever been a FaffCon. Without that epic voice-over convergence, many hundreds (if not more) voice talents might not have ever enjoyed the immeasurable benefits that this revered event brings to past attendees everyday.

We VO-BB members have done much voice-over work together. Heck, when Erik Sheppard of Voice Talent Productions used to have his holiday party, we’d have pre and post party VO-BB get togethers. There are even more stories beyond these two quick examples, but you get the idea.

And friends. So many real-world friends. An abundance of riches for which I am humbled and grateful beyond words.

Thank you Deirdre and all my friends on the VO-BB for…everything.

If you haven’t yet joined us, come on in. As Mickey once sang: “Hey, there! Hi, there! Ho, there! You’re as welcome as can be!”

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