Casting Voice Over Talent for E-Learning, by Peter Drew

You’ve integrated narration and role-playing into your instructional design.  Now, you have to cast the voice talent and get the best reads possible out of them.  This process starts, not with listening to voice-over demos, but with the course itself.

Casting starts with questions

To whom is the course targeted?  Primary gender?  Age?  Financial status?  What is the attitude of the course’s presentation?  Formal?  Light and breezy?  Enthusiastic?  Intimate?  What method is used to measure a learner’s performance?  Anything that has a bearing on not just what is said but how it’s said.

Use the answers to these types of questions to get an idea of the type of voice that would work best as the instructor/narrator.  For role-playing scenes, create a simple persona for each character in order to reflect and reinforce what is being taught.  For example, a female supervisor discussing a job performance review with an employee.  How old is she?  What is her personality?  Is she demanding?  Quiet, yet commanding?  How does she dress?  Is she feminine or otherwise?  What about the employee?  How old is this worker?  Meek and compliant?  Defiant and obstinate?  Concerned and engaged?

Finding the right voice

Once you created these simple character sketches, you have a basis for casting the voice talent.  So, where can you find the right talent for your project?  The Internet has revolutionized the voice over business.  Before the advent of the Web, a producer had to work through a third party, e.g., a talent agency or recording studio to locate voice over artists.  Today, through the Internet, you can locate and contact talent directly, as well as through talent agents, recording studios, and voice casting sites.

On the Internet, voice-over demos are just a mouse click away.  Most voice talents have at least two demos—one for commercials and another for narrations.  For e-learning casting purposes, the more important demo is the narration demo.  With the expansion of online learning and training, though, there are voice talents that now specialize in voicing instructional material.  You can tailor your search to locate these specialists and their
e-learning demos.  If no credits are provided along with the online demo and the voice over artist makes your short list, then be sure to ask if he or she has voiced an elearning project.  Having experience in the category might be helpful in determining your final selection.

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The Biggest Misconceptions About Voiceover Demos, by Kate McClanaghan

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A voiceover demo, by definition, is a professional demonstration of what you do best and what you want more of. Yet many well-meaning, even experienced talent fall prey to the following misconceptions regarding what should be included on your voiceover demos.

  1. “My make-shift demo oughta hold me for a while until I start working steady—then I’ll make a ‘good’ demo.” 

Okay, who’s foolin’ who here? The truth is you can’t book work with a lousy headshot—or a lousy voiceover demo. Period. Do it right the first time and save yourself time, money and frustration.

  1. Your demos were created solely for talent agents. 

The standards for what should (and shouldn’t) be included on your voiceover demos are defined primarily by commercial creatives (producers, copywriters, and creative directors) from advertising agencies. They’ve been creating demos defining their own aesthetics for more than 50 years now with the intent to remain employed. Producers and their assistants contact casting directors and your talent agents when they are looking to hire you. If you’re not servicing the producers with your demos, you’re not hitting your target audience. They’re who you created the demo for in the first place.

  1. Every spot on your demo is a something you were paid to voice.

Just because you were paid to voice the job, doesn’t mean that segment belongs on your demo. Many of the jobs we book don’t necessarily best define us professionally and therefore should NOT be included on your demo.

  1. Commercial and Industrial spots can all be included on the same track.

A commercial demo consists primarily of spots that sound like national caliber TV spots. Industrial demos (also known as Corporate Announce, or Narrative, or Non-Broadcast) by design are meant to service producers looking to hire voice talent that demonstrate narration typically reserved for training films, documentary, medical, corporate sales, or tradeshow style narration. (To name a few.) Consolidating a variety of voiceover styles on the same demo cancels each other out. It exhibits a lack of understanding for the client’s professional needs, and therefore a lack of professionalism overall.

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Agents – Part 1: The low-down, by Rachel Fulginiti

Today kicks off the first in a new three part series, inspired by one of my readers (thank you Britt Dyer!). Over the next several weeks I’ll be talking about agents: what they do, how to get one and how to work with one once you’re in partnership. It’s a subject that can often feel mysterious or frustrating. Sometimes it’s a challenging part of getting “to the next level” in your career, but it doesn’t have to be confusing!

What exactly does an Agent do? Well, the short and sweet is: they negotiate contracts. Legend has it, there was once a day when they sought out budding young talent with potential and cultivated it…but that doesn’t happen much anymore. Basically, you and your agent are part of a team. You come to the table a completely formed product, and then your agent (hopefully) helps to sell it. Ideally, they find lots of opportunities for you, they talk you up, push for you and go to bat for you, and when you book jobs, they get you the very best deal they can, which will be mutually beneficial for both of you, as they earn 10% of what you make. With union jobs, that 10% is typically added to the top of your rate, so the agent’s cut doesn’t actually take away from what you’re making on the gig.

Wait, how are Agents different from Managers? Technically, to call themselves an agent (at least in the state of California), they have to have a license, adhere to certain guidelines and practices, and they can only take 10%. There are no requirements for someone calling themselves a “Manager”. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some great managers out there, and typically they get more involved in the day to day career of the talent (or at least, they used to), but beware, there are tons of unscrupulous ones out there, as well. Most managers take between 15- 20%. A lot of times they will add an additional percentage onto the client’s bill and still (also) take 15-20% out of your cut. That being said, if they are getting you work that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, then it’s probably still worth it.

So, do I need one?

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A Quick Guide to Selecting the Right Voice Talent, by Christopher Patrick Johnson

Choosing the best voiceover

Did you know that the right voice can make a 35% difference in conversion rate?

We replaced a voice track in a video—and made no other changes—and the conversion rate went from 2.5% to 3.8% on cold traffic. (Cold traffic refers to people that are mostly strangers coming in via search engines and social media.)

Since the voice actor’s role is an important part of storytelling, we’ll try to share with you some of the ideas we’ve learned, and hopefully you’ll know how to find, pick, and direct the best voice actors around.

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Why Self-Direction Matters, by Kate McClanaghan

audition-direction

When was the last time you heard another actor say, “I auditioned for that role. I would have done that—if they would have they told me to play it like that”? Maybe you heard yourself say it.

Frankly, it’s doubtful you would have been told exactly how to play it for the simple reason no one told the actor who booked the job precisely what to do. Most talent bring the core of their performance into the room during the audition. Auditions demand you make dynamic decisions if you hope to get booked. Yet, one of the greatest misconceptions about this industry is whoever hires us already knows precisely what they want and will direct us.

It may come as something of a surprise, but you’re not likely to get much direction at all. This is the case for auditions and sessions alike. All the more reason why you must effectively self-direct rather than wait to be told what to do.

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Why PLAY Matters To Your Performance, by Kate McClanaghan

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As an artist you need to give yourself plenty of room to play. You need room to create and discover, often under time constraints and the pressure to deliver your very best on the fly. At SOUND ADVICE, we refer to this technique as ‘stretching the canvas’.

We call it that simply because far too many talent attempt to ‘ramp up into their performance’ anticipating a longer runway than we are typically given, especially at an audition, where we‘re often given only a single take or two (if we’re given the luxury as voice talent of auditioning in front of those most likely to hire us). By giving yourself a broader playing field right off the bat you’ll more than likely deliver a far more impactful, desirable performance rather than revving up into it and, ultimately, offering only a mere passable take.

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The ‘Conversational’ Voice Over Read: Five Ways To Please Your Clients, by Pam Turow, Voice Actor

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I mean, really, come on.

Can we all just decide what constitutes a conversational v.o. read already, for once and for all?

I’m determined to define this type of read so there are no mistakes, no questions, so it’s 100% clear.

But alas, I fear that it’s not just implausible but completely, thoroughly impossible. Impossible like asking Charlie Sheen to be thoughtful, magnanimous and reflective. Impossible like seeing Lady GaGa on TLN. Because it’s just way too subjective.

Are You Suffering From Mic Fright? by Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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While listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab, I discovered an interesting fact.

Before legendary producer Allen Funt created Candid Camera, he experimented with a different show based on the same premise.

It was called The Candid Microphone, and it first aired on June 28th, 1947 on ABC Radio. Funt came up with the idea while producing radio shows for the armed forces at Camp Gruber.

One of the shows he worked on was called “The Gripe Booth.” Funt asked soldiers to come into his studio and talk about things that bothered them. Here’s what he found out.

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