Entries Tagged as 'voiceover'

an old voice-over friend has passed

VO-BB Microphone IconMaybe you feel the same way, but I can only tolerate so much of Facebook recently, with full-blown idiots of every political persuasion hell bent on proving their idiocy to the world. Ponderous. “Hide” is a useful FB tool. Yet I still check in occasionally on FB to check on the world.

Aside from the above silliness, some sad and unexpected news made it in to my Facebook feed last week.

VO-BB_logo_VoiceoverBulletinBoardThe Voiceover Bulletin Board (the VO-BB) closed up last week. You can still read it, but you cannot post anything new. Foundress of the board and one of my absolute favorite female voice talents, DB Cooper, got frustrated at some feedback she got from a post of hers and turned over the closed sign on one of the most important internet sites for aspiring and professional voice talents.

I don’t begrudge her the right to shut the place down whenever she wanted and for whatever reason she chose. She can’t begrudge me, though, the right to be sad it’s gone.

When my friend (and another killer female voice talent, Connie Terwilliger), directed me and others to the VO-BB so many years ago, I didn’t realize how this new place would change my professional and personal life with industry news and insights, new friendships and a place to be silly (well, and plain stupid…sometimes I was stupid in my posts but an apology usually fixed that).

Thinking about the board and its members and the discussions (and jokes and rants and drama….we’re talking voice actors here…always drama), I started to piece together how so many of my current professional and personal relationships started on this board.

How?

Fellow voice talents who’s comments I read on the board; those who read my comments on the board; voice-over talents who started a business relationship with me because of the board; voice actors who I met at an industry function who knew of me through or because of the board; FaffCon (always FaffCon, which began through the VO-BB); Bob Souer inviting me out to lunch, which beget multiple meetings among VO-BB’ers for years (with more always to come).

So I’ve just made a quick list of voiceover folks I’ve met via all the above permutations that came about because of the VO-BB. Each of these folks have truly made my voice-over journey so much richer because they have been some part of it.

The list has left me a bit gob smacked (and guilty, for fear of those I have no doubt and inexplicably left off, with no malice intended). But I list it as a tribute to what DB created and nurtured over all these years, on her little plot of land on the interwebs.

In NO order of priority:

1. DB Cooper
2. Bob Souer
3. Doug Turkel
4. Connie Terwilliger
5. Liz deNesnera
6. Bruce Miles
7. Philip Banks
8. Lee Gordon
9. Peter Bishop
10. Rowell Gormon
11. Amy Snively
12. Diane Maggipinto
13. Todd Ellis
14. Mandy Nelson
15. Frank Frederick
16. Mary McKitrick
17. Elaine Singer
18. Chuck Davis
19. Anthony Mendez
20. Dave Courvoisier
21. Dan Friedman
22. Tom Dheere
23. Ben Wilson
24. Pam Tierney
25. September Day Carter
26. Moe Egan
27. Jeffrey Kafer
28. Donovan Corneetz
29. Tom Test
30. Vance Elderkin
31. Kara Edwards
32. Caryn Clark
33. Bobbin Beam
34. Terry Daniel
35. Roger Tremaine
36. Lance Blair
37. George Washington, III
38. Erik Sheppard
39. John Florian
40. CC Petersen
41. Melissa Exelberth
42. Jodi Krangle
43. Chris Mezzolesta
44. Dave DeAndrea
45. Craig Crumpton
46. Bob Bergen
47. Michael Schoen
48. JS Gilbert
49. Diane Havens
50. James Clamp
51. Trish Basanyi
52. Monk Schane-Lydon
53. Jane Ingalls
54. Paul Strikwerda
55. Bruce Jacobson
56. Darren Altman
57. Mara Junot
58. Fran McClellan
59. Dale Leopold
60. Lori Berman
61. Talmadge Ragan
62. Scott Pollak
63. Lauren McCullough
64. Randye Kaye
65. Melanie Haynes
66. Larissa Gallagher
67. CC Heim
68. Jordan Reynolds
69. Kristin Lennox
70. Martha Mellinger
71. Rosi & Brian Amador

I am at once heartened and heartbroken when I look at the list, the members of this always-welcoming club. While I expect we will continue our friendships, it seems we shall not have this special place to visit and update.

Maybe it will come back again and maybe we will appreciate it more and treat it better if it does rise again. If not, at least we had it for a time.

“And”, to quote Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference.”

UPDATE: Working with D.B. Cooper, Bruce Miles has resurrected the VO-BB so this wonderful LIVES AGAIN!

audio’connell in charleston, wv (again)

Voice Talents Peter K. O'Connell_Amie Breedlove_Charlie Cooper

The Cold Spot is a fun tavern in Charleston, West Virginia that my friend Charlie Cooper picked as the dinner site for our voice-over meet-up with he, me and and Amie Breedlove.

It was a nice place but the company was even nicer.

So often when I travel to cities, my trips are simply more enjoyable because I get to spend a little time with my voice-over friends. There’s a ton to talk about with people who get “the life”.

Very glad I got to see these folks again and I GREATLY appreciate them joining me for dinner.

bbc greatness with mike cooper

Voice Talent Mike Cooper_BBC Radio

There were many great moments I enjoyed at VO Atlanta but one of the more unexpected moments involved a previously unknown (to me anyway) past life of one of my voice-over friends.

I knew Mike Cooper was from the UK (the accent was a clue) and I knew he worked in voice-over there before immigrating to the states a few years ago and making a home with his family in Asheville, North Carolina.

But up until he and I were speaking at VO Atlanta, I had NOT known that Mike Cooper – voice-over talent HAD BEEN Mike Cooper – news voice for BBC News. What?!!

There will be some reading this who think ‘what’s the big deal?’

bbc newsThose are folks who probably never listened to a short wave radio and listened to BBC News, long before the internet or before NPR started playing BBC World Service broadcasts on the overnight.

Listening to BBC News at that time made the other side of the Atlantic come alive to this young and future broadcaster.

Nothing in the US on TV or radio sounded anything like BBC News – not the stories (always more focused on the world than we are here) not the cadence and certainly not the enunciation. Oy, these people were (are) good.

Listening to the BBC sounded like you were listening to your well-bred cousin who went to the right schools and knew all the right people.

So at VO Atlanta, at one of the after parties, I was speaking with Marci Polzin of Artistic Talent and Mike Cooper when Mike shared this news.

I radio-geeked out a little bit. Kind like Brad Venable at any Comic-Con.

So I immediately made him announce some news, right there in the middle of the party in front of me and Marci. Mike looked at me like I had 6 heads but I said he had to do it. And he did. It was like I was in the booth at Broadcast House. Totally awesome!

So as an added treat, I few weeks later Mike was kind enough to send me a copy of his final BBC News broadcast, a portion of which I will gladly play for you here.

LISTEN TO A SAMPLE HERE

When I grow up, I want to sound that cool.

some happy news for a friend

Darren Altman Britains Got Talent 2016

Whether one acts on a stage, in front of a camera or behind a microphone, a performer is still a performer.

Yet for as many years as I have been a voice-over performer, I can still be surprised by some of the talents of my peers. It reflects poorly on me that I guess I subconsciously pigeon-hole them in my mind as only a certain kind of performer. I need to stop doing that.

Voice Talents Peter K. O'Connell & Darren AltmanCase in point, I woke up this weekend to see on social media that my friend and fellow voice-over talent Darren Altman had gone and got himself on Britain’s Got Talent. As an impressionist. How terrific is that!!! What I found especially interesting was the fact that the impressions were based on a variety of UK voices, with whom I had little familiarity. But when you watch the audience and the judges, they were enthralled!!!!

The other part I enjoyed was that Darren was FEATURED on the show. They didn’t just show the audition, they did behind the scenes, they taped him at home with his family and really gave him the star treatment.

Not that I am intimately familiar with the details on such shows but I believe they make performers sign a non-disclosure agreement of sorts, which means Darren and his family couldn’t talk about him being on the show or how it turned out. That must have been a crazy secret to keep. But well worth the wait.

As he states in the package below, he’d never done anything like this before. So a great congratulations to Darren on this very brave and very successful TV appearance.

:30 seconds notice and no script

Peter K. O'Connell Moderates Voice-Over Agents Panel VO Atlanta 2016

VO Atlanta 2016’s Voice-Over Agent Panel. L-R Peter K. O’Connell, audio’connell Voice-Over Talent (Moderator); Erik Sheppard, Voice Talent Productions; Jeffrey Umberger, Umberger Agency, Tanya Buchanan, Ta-Da Voiceworks; Marci Polzin, Artistic Talent; Susie De Santiago, De Santi Talent and Ralph Cooper, Capital Talent Agency. Photo Courtesy of Tom Dheere.

It was about :30 seconds between the time when I was asked to MC the Voice-Over Agent panel discussion at VO Atlanta 2016 and when I hit the stage and kicked off the session among a hotel ballroom full of people.

And oh by the way, there was no agenda, no script and no panelist bios.

Go!

Adrenaline? Nerves? Panic? There seriously wasn’t time to consider any of that.

The audience didn’t know about the birth process I was zooming through, they just knew the baby was coming – they wanted to hear the panel. For all they knew, I was scheduled as host weeks before.

Um, no.

Yes, I have moderated many panels and events over the years. I’ve done tons of live announcing and a bunch of emcee and hosting work for trade shows, conferences and award shows. It’s something I enjoy doing and I’ve been lucky to get high marks (and paychecks) from clients for my work.

Most importantly, with each of them I enjoyed lots of preparation, plenty of notes and a script.

Not Saturday.

By the way, that’s not anybody’s fault. Most panel discussions I’ve done, a moderator crafts a series of questions to start things off and maybe to fall back on if the panel discussion lags…they rest of it often is pretty free-form discussion.

So here’s the background on this special instance.

I was a first time attendee at VO Atlanta. I was not there in any other capacity – not a host, teacher or janitor.

The Voice-Over Agent panel was the second session of the morning on Saturday in the main ballroom. I started the day in this room because I had attended the previous panel session on voice-over marketing, featuring my smart friends including Celia Segal, Tom Dheere and Joe Cipriano.

The agent panel was an important focus for me at the conference because there were some folks on the panel I wanted to meet. I was about to get one hell of an introduction to them.

They included Ralph Cooper from Capital Talent Agency in Washington, D.C., Marci Polzin from Artistic Talent in Los Angeles and Susie De Santiago from DeSanti Talents, Inc., in Chicago.

As my unexpected adventure progressed, I would find it very helpful that the other three  voice-over agents on the panel were already my longtime voice-over partners/agents including Tanya Buchanan from Ta-Da Voiceworks in Toronto, Erik Sheppard from Voice Talent Productions in Austin and Jeffrey Umberger from Umberger Agency in Atlanta. We knew each other pretty well from various projects we’ve work on and I had a sense in this setting (as in every other instance we’d each worked together) they would have my back. (It turns out, I was right).

It all started innocently enough. Prior to the event starting, I was standing off to the side of the stage, just talking to Tayna and Erik, when Jeffrey approached us to advise that he was not only a panelist but also the moderator. In passing, Jeffrey offered that he wished he was just a panelist. We all said something along the lines that he would great (which he would have been).

I left the group so they could do whatever prep they needed to do and I took my seat near another voice-over friend Jackie Bales. We were talking about voice-over and people we both knew in the TV news business, where Jackie worked before going into voice-over full time.

Suddenly, we both became aware that the panel was about 10 minutes late in starting.

Spider-Man had his spidey sense. I have FaffCon-sense, which tells me when an event or program might be running in a small bump in the road (like not starting on time).

That same sense also caused the trouble I got myself into here.

I looked around and saw no VO Atlanta staff in the immediate vicinity (there was lots going on in other rooms at this particular time). I jumped up and over to the area the agents were. I said to Jeffrey that they needed to get up on stage.

Please note: I was totally out of line saying anything like this, because it wasn’t my event or responsibility. Yet these were my friends and I was trying to help them and the event.

Jeffrey said they were waiting on one more agent but that she was late and that they needed to get going.

And then he said “Hey, can you be the moderator?”

In the milliseconds that followed, I remember mentally processing only these three things:

  • This event was late getting started
  • This one event needed help
  • It was my friend and agent Jeffrey that was asking me for a favor

Being in “event” mode (again, not my place but it’s a fault I have) I said yes and I began to usher everyone up the stairs to the stage.

It was on those stairs that I changed into “broadcast” mode.

“Jeffrey, is there a script?” Peter asked.

“No.” said Jeffrey.

‘Oh s—.’ thought Peter.
As I picked up the hand-held microphone at the moderator’s podium, Jeffrey slid in front of me the open page of the program which listed the names and company names of the panelists.

That program and my cell phone were my tools for the next very live 80 minutes.

As I discussed later in the evening with my friend and fellow voice talent (and accomplished broadcaster) Mike Cooper, live broadcast training comes in very handy during many of life’s unexpected moments. Without a doubt, that training served me well in this situation.

Mind you, I haven’t been ‘on-air’ since 1986 but I have come to find out broadcast skills simply don’t leave you once you have them (see: riding a bicycle).

Peter K. O'Connell_Moderator_VO Atlanta 2016I brought up the mic and just started to talk (never let them see you sweat, right), beginning with a welcome (‘what was this panel’s official name? Uh, make something up’) and then I presented a format for the session. I quietly hoped there wasn’t a real format for the event because I went all Houdini on them with the format of my choosing. Abracadabra!

My mind was swirling as I spoke: ‘hmmm, I need to create actual questions!! Better yet, I need to stall for time so I can WRITE some questions’.

Well, with no bios, I called an audible and asked each panelist to introduce themselves and their company and tell the audience about their background.

‘Good, they’re talking’ I thought to myself. Via quick math I decided if they each spoke for a minimum of :30 seconds, I should have about three minutes to write some questions that would allow agents and talents to help better understand each others perspective. That would be good, right?! It would make sense, wouldn’t it!

Oh heavens, I hoped it would make sense!

Here are my Murrow-esque inquiries that I furiously typed into my phone while panelist introductions went on:

What’s trends in voices

Trends in clients

Your daily challenges

?Communication with talent

Communication on slate and details

Yes, I know these word strings don’t make much sense to you, but I just needed to have word cues for the questions in my head. With these points I knew I could formulate something (somewhat) intelligent when the time came. Maybe intelligible would be more accurate.

The rest of the session for me was a bit of blur, made completely awesome by the way all six panelists gelled so quickly with each other, continuing their own discussions without much prompting from me  to keep the conversation going.

To the audiences delight (and my relief) the time went by very quickly.

People said nice things about the event afterwords, which I took as a passing grade, nothing more nothing less.

And I aged about 5 years in 80 minutes.

It was fun. Well, it’s fun NOW cause it’s over!

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.