Entries Tagged as 'voiceover advice'

all voice talents are steve whitmire

There’s on old saying that you haven’t really worked in radio until you’ve been fired.

True of my old business, but for my current business I’ve always felt the saying should be you haven’t really worked in voiceover until you’ve been hired…for the day. The next day, until you get a VO job, you’re still not a voice talent.

muppet montageSteve Whitmire, who has worked with Jim Henson’s Muppets since 1978, has been the puppeteer and voice of Kermit THE Frog since Jim Henson’s death in 1990.

We found out this week that Whitmire had been fired from that job in October of 2016. He evidently kept the dismissal quiet in the hopes the Muppet executives would have a change of heart.

As of this writing, they have not.

Just a brief background, before I get to the meat of this post.

When Jim Henson died, I kind of lost my interest in the Muppets. Not out of any disrespect for those that continued after him but just cause when I saw Kermit in a show or movie, I knew Jim Henson wasn’t there. I know I am not supposed to think of the actors at all when I watch The Muppets, but I do.

I thought of Henson and it made me a bit sad.

Through Henson’s children and the talented puppeteers and writers, the show went on as it should. Steve Whitmire was elevated to the puppeteer and voice of Kermit and has performed admirably. Whitmire should be nothing but proud of his work and how he honored Henson with his interpretation of Kermit.

Under whatever circumstances or whatever ‘new creative direction’ the Disney management (who now owns the Muppets) wanted to move forward in, I don’t know. Whitmire was called and told his services were no longer required. He stated recently that working for the Muppets and being Kermit was very much a way of life, given his tenure and history with both Henson and the company.

This job was clearly very personal to him. I very much respect why that was while also admiring his great talent.

To be clear, I do not know Steve Whitmire.

But to me it seems likely, having read his recent blog post, he’s been living with a great deal of pain and sorrow since October 2016. He may be well over it by now and I hope that’s the case.

It’s a pain and sorrow almost every working voice actor has known at sometime.

I have been there. Maybe you have too or, if not, someday you likely will be.

Though not within anything as incredibly famous and ingrained as Whitmire’s work, I’ve been fired from a few really nice, longer-term voice acting jobs over 35+ years.

Sometimes the firing was because of a “different direction” for the project, a couple of time I screwed up (it happens) and sometimes I just could not give the producers what they wanted, hard as I tried.

That subsequent feeling of failure, depression and fear for the future (“do I even have a career”) after losing one of these gigs can be paralyzing.

‘Get up in the morning?! What for?!’

And yet we must get up in the morning. And the morning after that.

As much as we may identify our lives with our jobs, we are MORE than our jobs.

We have much to offer other clients or in some cases, other industries.

It is SO hard…but we must move on when we lose these big gigs.

We cannot wallow. Wallowing can start to feel good after a while but it leads to excuses, laziness and a list of other not good things. Do. Not. Wallow.

We need to remember what we were like when we got that nice, big  voiceover job…what was our attitude, how did we present ourselves, how did we sound?

What was our mindset? Likely, it was that the world was our oyster and we wanted to go out and get the big gigs. We need to do it again. And we can.

Yes, we’ve been handed a slice of humble pie. We ate it and now we move on. Only WE can control our future. But also, WE control our future.  That’s pretty cool!

We are voice actors, we have skills, we have talents and we have contacts.

Train, audition, network, market, repeat.

Losing a big gig may FEEL like the end of your world. But it isn’t, as long as you won’t let it be the end of your world.

I hope this helps.

are you ready?

Are You Ready_VOSome years ago, the singer and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth was in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. As part of her concert, she evidently pulls up a random audience member to sing one of Chenoweth’s biggest hits, “For Good” from the show Wicked.

On this night, she randomly chose a woman named Sarah Horn. Sarah identified herself as a voice teacher.

Unrehearsed, the orchestra began playing and this happened.

The video was an Internet sensation with millions and millions of views. It was a magnificent, inspiring performance and Chenoweth’s reactions were equally as wonderful.

Some years after that video, Sarah Horn was asked to give a TEDx talk in Riverside, California. Her presentation was entitled “Be Ready: Lessons from the Hollywood Bowl”.

Horn’s message was clear: random as her selection was, she had rehearsed that song before the show…. from a young age, in her bedroom singing to the cast album, literally hundreds of times.

She had rehearsed as a voice teacher, learning about music and the human voice. Because of her deep passion for singing, Horn was constantly preparing, never not rehearsing and always performance ready.

It was, in short, her life’s preparation for that thing that she was so passionate about (her singing) that allowed her to get up in front of that audience at the Hollywood Bowl with a performance that hit it out of the park. She didn’t know when she would get the call, but she was ready when she did.

As a voiceover talent, are you THAT ready?

Have you been working scripts since you were old enough to know what a script was? Have you always consistently experimented with new tones in your voice. If some producer asks “give me a series of 3” can you say “I can give you a series of 33!” and mean it?

Do you even know what “give me a series of 3” means?

It’s those examples and more that most professional voice talents can say yes to…because they ARE ready. Performance ready for almost anything a producer can ask them to do.

In an old biography for myself, I wrote rather unpoetically:

“As a high school student, Peter K. O’Connell garnered strange looks from his parents as they passed by his room when he would practice his announcing skills by reading magazine advertisement copy out loud. While they might have expected to hear a record from Bruce Springsteen, Peter’s parents got Ed McMahon instead.”

That sounds funny but it is a 100% true story. The quizzically look my Mother gave me through my bedroom door one time as I was reading commercial copy from a print magazine was very funny. She didn’t understand why I was ready out loud from a magazine. Was this what my puberty was going to be like, busting out into an open reading of magazine print ads? What will the neighbors say?!!!

But I wanted to be ready.

I’ve worked on voiceover and announcing since high school. At that time, I became brave enough to not be self-conscious about performing (and I was – and still can be – very self-conscious). I worked all the time on my reading, my pronunciation, my sound, my characters, all of it.

I still do.

This is not to brag but merely to serve as an example to those who want to be in voiceover that THIS kind of dedication (almost obsessiveness) IS what it takes to be a professional voice talent.  And to be ready.

To become so practiced, to able to do something so well that, when called upon in the most unprepared of circumstances, your mind, body and spirit instinctively over take any immediate nerves or challenges to allow you to easily do that thing you’ve worked your whole life to perfect. In this case, voiceover.

Voiceover is not about having a nice voice.

It IS an art. It DOES require consistent practice. You MUST be focused. Not because you HAVE to but rather because you WANT to!

That want, that desire, that very NEED to be a voice talent is what will fuel your engines to work so hard and to constantly improve as a voice talent.

Just so, one day, you too will be ready.

3 Steps to Fix Your Twitter (maybe 4)

Fixing Twitter For Voiceover TalentsMaybe Twitter is working just fine for your voiceover business.

More likely, though, you don’t really have a focused business purpose for Twitter.

Twitter is designed to be very customized so even if two voice talents compared their Twitter feeds, likely it would be different…please don’t worry that you are doing it wrong. You’re not.

But you may be able to do Twitter more efficiently.

If you’re just looking at Twitter for fun, you don’t need a plan. But it’s also, in my opinion, kind of a waste of your business day if you spend any time there.

Should you want to use Twitter for a myriad of voiceover business objectives, putting some thought into it will help you make sense of Twitter and make it work for you.

‘But Peter,’ you whine, ‘this sounds like work.’

Yes there’s some work involved. We are talking about Twitter as business tool, you tool!

Relax, though, as I’m going to chart a course for you to help you think all this through.

I’ll also give some examples of what I do so you can either copy some of what I do on Twitter or run fast in the opposite direction…but at least you’ll have a plan!!

Peter K. O'Connell Twitter

  1. Decide what you need Twitter to do for you?

The assumption here is that you want to do more with Twitter than just play. You likely want to have some kind of objective, like:

  • I want to network
    • It could be with prospects, clients or your fellow voice pros
  • I want to be educated
    • I want to learn about industry trends (mine or the business categories I work with most); new technologies, or even social media trends from people smarter than you or me
  • I want to stalk
    • In a business way, not a creepy way – most likely involving prospects or current clients (maybe also your peers) as a way to learn about what topics, trends or observations are important to them — you DO already follow all your clients on social media, right?!

You may want to do one, some or all of these things and that’s OK. You may even want to execute something totally different. But as you look at your current and future Twitter connections, I would advise that you identify and follow your custom objectives with a specific agenda in mind because I think it will help you moving forward

  1. Identify your top Twitter targets

You want to network? OK, but with whom and to what end?

You want to be educated? OK, but what about and with whom do you want to achieve that knowledge?

You want to stalk? Which prospects do you want to follow and what do you want to achieve (awareness, new business, a referral)? Are they specific people or a category of folks?

Just following someone on Twitter is simple. And not likely to move the business or educational needle terribly far.

It would also be wonderful if these folks you followed on Twitter would follow you back, but that’s not a given. They might not initially be interested in you, as people don’t immediately follow back on Twitter like they used to do. Or they might not pay a ton of attention to Twitter. Everybody and company uses social media in different ways.

The point being you should have a kind of mental strategy about what you want to achieve with Twitter targets.

Twitter listsIf you can’t fathom a strategy quite yet, that does NOT mean you should not move forward with Twitter. You can at least get your ‘followers’ list organized and Twitter has a great internal tool for that.

It’s called Twitter Lists. Twitter Lists allow you to create your own lists within your entire list of the people you are following. You can also subscribe to lists created by others.

How is that helpful to you?

Viewing a timeline of just people from a specific list will show you a stream of Tweets only from the Twitter accounts on that list. While there can be some benefit to subscribing to other people’s lists, I personally just focus on lists I have created – occasionally checking other lists to see if I’ve missed somebody in a category.

For example, voice talents are always looking to get on voice talent rosters of audio production companies. How many audio production companies are you already following? How many are following you? (If you’re not sure, check out follow tools like http://unfollowerstats.com/).

My recommendation is that you create a Twitter List of Audio Production Companies and tag all your current connections to that list (a list as big or small a list as you want).

Then figure out what other lists you’d like to curate on your Twitter account (you can have one Twitter connection on more than one list if you like, it’s your list!). Again, this is valuable because with this list, you can see only the Tweets of those on the list. This is a big time saver, a great way to see customized conversations and trends — and all of it leading to the next big fix.

  1. Tweet thoughtfully

For some folks, the idea of Tweeting is truly butt clenching, for fear of not knowing what to say. For some folks, they just type what ever is on their minds (often proving they have nothing to say).

If you have focused on what you want to get out of Twitter (step #1) and from which audience you want to interact with (step #2), step 3 shouldn’t be as challenging and you won’t come off a s a moron (see above folks with “nothing to say”).

Rule #1 on Tweeting thoughtfully is to remember to treat each tweet like you’re speaking to a person…don’t be intimidated by 140 characters…just be you, for lack of a better term. Don’t “act” like an expert, your content will prove your expertise.

Rule #2 is tweet like you would like to be spoke to. For example: what do you like hear?

  • You like to be sincerely complimented
    • You can simply “like” a Tweet by somebody on one of your list (they’ll likely be notified of your like and may check out your Twitter profile – make sure that your profile page is updated and looks nice)
    • You can send someone on your list a compliment on their Tweet – throw something personal in there, more than “nice Tweet” or “thanks”
    • You can share the Tweet with your audience (people whose Tweets get shared usually get notified about that and it may help you get followed back)
  • You like to learn new things
    • If someone on your list has shared something that you really like, say thanks but tell them why it was helpful
    • You might try doing this via “direct message” on Twitter, and a conversation might ensue
  • You like to share things that are interesting to you and that you think others also my find interesting
    • So share what you like – if they don’t like it or aren’t interested, it’s no crime, people will move on and not think worse of you

The bottom line is you MUST offer content (i.e. Tweet) for people to begin to notice you but it’s best not to just Tweet for Tweeting sake – offer a thoughtful content that reflects who you are either professionally or even personally if you’re comfortable doing that

Make Friends First AudioconnellRule #3 would be don’t sell. This is more my rule than anything else but I have not seen one example of someone actually selling via a Tweet and people buying, at least not in voiceover.

At the very least, be indirect. For example: “I’m really excited that my new commercial #voiceover demo is done. If you like, check it out at www.audioconnell.com

When it comes to tone on Twitter (or Social Media or Life) my rule is to at least attempt to talk with people, not at them.

SO now what? What’s the follow up after I do all this?

Well, what you’ve done by creating these lists is you’ve got the start of a database. People you can learn from; connect with and possibly get some business done. So craft a plan to do something with all this information. Like what?

For example, from the aforementioned list of audio production companies, why not go to their Twitter account, click on their web site link and gather some contact data to put in your company database. Then send them a letter, introducing yourself and your information- maybe request to be added to their voiceover roster. Then a few days later, follow up by phone.

Did Twitter just become a lead generation tool for your business? That’s for YOU to decide.

Hope this helps.

Some quick thoughts on a successful email blast

Voiceover talents love their email blasts.

It gets the message out to your “people” and putting a blast together is not terribly burdensome with all the online services available to help (they are not very costly either).

Depending on who you speak with, of course, email blasts are either the dumbest or the smartest marketing you can do. I’ll let you guess which side thinks they get better results from their blast.

There are two main drivers to a successful email blast: your list and your content. Which is more important? Both.

Let’s look at this two ways.

1. General Email Blast

Some voice talents write one email message or newsletter and send it to their entire list, without segmenting the list by categories (I’ll explain categories in a moment). This is the simplest way to do email blasts and can work if the message applies to everyone on your list.

2. Targeted Email Blast

This kind of blast involves creating an email message to just one portion of your list and sending the blast to them. For example, say you had a great idea for an email blast about your commercial production work. Let’s also say in your database, which you have previously broken up in to categories of people you work with and contact, you had a ton of commercial production contacts. BUT in your database you also had a ton of audiobook producer contacts too. In such a targeted email blast, you would omit the audiobook producer contacts from this specific blast because the message does not apply to them.

Which blast is more efficient? Depending on your message, both.

But I would suggest that voice talents send more general email blasts because it’s easy and are missing the marketing boat.

If you can target a specific message to a specific audience that would benefit from that message, spend the extra time to reach out to the RIGHT people, not just ALL the people.

Hope that helps.

‘you were their second choice’

2nd place trophy audioconnellA silver lining?

I prefer streets paved with gold.

But life doesn’t usually let us win every voice-over job and so it went today as I was advised, “you were their second choice”.

If you’ve been in voiceover for more than a day (and I’m not sure what percentage that is at the moment) you’ve likely been told at some point you were a prospect’s second choice for a voiceover job.

If you’ve been up for a job in almost any industry, you may have been told you were a second choice.

It happens. Now what?

Well nothing really. The bus left without you so you need to see about getting a different ride.

Sure, you can punch a wall or kick a dog (I’m personally OK with the wall option but not the dog…ever) but it doesn’t fix anything.

The real answer is that if it festers too much inside you, you need to get mentally tougher or quite seriously quit the voiceover business. The voiceover business is a business filled with rejection. Which is why it’s so great when you do land a new VO job.

As Pollyannaish as it might sound, it is not a bad thing to come in second. First is best but third is worse.

The point is your performance was really, really good. However, left up to the SUBJECTIVE (look it up) ear of a producer, they liked one other voice better. You cannot control that. No one can.

So if you can’t get over learning you came in second on a voice gig after more than about a minute, start working on your resume because you will need to look for a new job. I mean it. Get out of voiceover, for your own good.

Everybody else…move on. As I know you already have. Good job.

And congrats on that audition…you truly nailed it.

answers to your voiceover database question

audioconnell contact managementYou may be saying to yourself: “Self, I did not know I had a voiceover database question! So how is Peter K.O’Connell going to answer a question I did not know I had?”

I am going to answer it extremely well, especially if you are using Google Contacts as your customer relationship management tool. Based on discussions I have had with many voice talents as FaffCon, alot of people DO use Google Contacts…mostly because it’s free!

What you see on the left is my groups list for my database, which has about 1,250 contacts, pruned down significantly from about a year or so ago. At the bottom, you see a red circle around OTHER CONTACTS. That’s what I will be talking about here, specifically regarding when users export their contact list for things like email blasts.

If you’re smart, and I know you are, when you export your contacts to services like MailChimp for email blasts, you review the exported list before you upload the list to Mail Chimp or some other blast service. In doing so, many times you look at a number of email addresses on the list and ask in a loud, bold and italicized voice:

Who’s email address is THAT and how did it get in there?

The email address you are looking at is not familiar to you nor does it  match any names in your contacts, yet there it sits in your excel or comma separated values sheet.

Most likely it came from OTHER CONTACTS and my advice to you here today is to review, edit and/or delete any names in OTHER CONTACTS before you export your next list.

Briefly stated, Gmail and Google Contacts will save email addresses of group emails you received and some individual emails too if there is not a contact assigned to it. OTHER CONTACTS is where these emails get stored.

It’s not a bad thing. Sometimes when you get an email from a prospect who turns into a client, in the haste to provide your product or service, you don’t always create a prosper contact account for that person (i.e. you did not put that name in your database).

Google Contacts helps make sure you hold on to the email address and let’s you decide later if it is “Contact Worthy” or if it gets deleted.

If you have not gone through OTHER CONTACTS in a long time, spend some time to go through it and don’t just immediately delete everything. Copy an unfamiliar email address into your emails and see what comes up. You’ll know pretty quickly if it’s a keep or toss.

And don’t forget to sort your contacts by groups. But that’s a blog for another day.