Risk and Choice

We are bombarded with choices each and every day. Some choices are easy and less impactful than others and some require a bit more backbone and have farther reaching consequences. Regardless, each choice carries with it an inherent risk. For example, if I choose to go out with my friends after work, I risk not getting my after work run in…and you all know what a fitness buff I am! Ha! Every choice has risk. Despite the risk, the choice must be made.

The difference between successful and unsuccessful people boils down to the choices they make. Successful people do what needs to get done to achieve their goals. They do not always like everything they need to do but they realize the risks of not doing what they must to get the results they want. Just look at any successful athlete. The training regimen, the diet, the intense focus are choices supporting the commitment the athlete has made to succeed.

The risk of missing an episode of Entourage while enjoying an adult beverage and some pizza is worth the achievement of their goal. Unsuccessful people want the desired end result but are unwilling to make the choices necessary to achieve it. They want to watch every episode of their favorite show, have the adult beverage and pizza, and still achieve their goal.

Do you want to be a successful voice over talent? Then you have to make a choice and take a few risks. Define what “successful” means to you. Write it down and determine when you want to achieve it. Then determine the necessary steps you will need to take to achieve your goal and commit to doing each of the steps in the right order. The risks you have to take to be successful are not overwhelmingly difficult but they do require a commitment from you.

You will have to get some professional training if you are just starting out and will need to get periodic professional training even as a working voice over talent to keep your skills sharp, learn new techniques and stay abreast of the industry. Professional demos are only possible after you have professional training – not before! No amount of production can or should cover for your voice over abilities. Auditioning is part of the process, as is editing, billing, marketing, etc.

If you want to be successful in this business, there are no short cuts! You can do it but you must be willing to take the risk. Bottom line: You have to put yourself in the game to win. It’s your choice. You are either in the game or on the sidelines. Only those who are in the game can win.

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Voice 2010 Recap

What an incredibly awesome experience!   Those who were there understand the power of attending this phenomenal conference!  For those who were not present this year, I encourage you to attend the next one.

James Alburger and Penny Abshire co-produced this amazing event, bringing together top voice talent and industry experts who generously shared their time and expertise with attendees as presenters, making themselves available mingling throughout the event, and some even offered private coaching sessions!

The Red Carpet Reception Wednesday evening was a kaleidoscope of talent from around the world and a fantastic opportunity to network.  Pat Fraley and special guest, Brad Garrett, kicked off the event Thursday morning with a keynote presentation on understanding and delivering comedy in voiceover! Specialized breakout sessions followed by top talents such as: Marc Cashman, Dan Lenard, Deb Munro, Melody Jones, the queen of telephony, Liz de Nesnera, Erik Sheppard, Tim Underwood, technical audio expert and genius George Whittam, and more.

The Expo boasted representation from such popular voice over resources as John Florian and VoiceOverXtra, SAVOA, Source Connect, Performer Track, El Dorado Recording Services, and many of the presenters too.  Outstanding photographer, Ce Ce Canton was available for professional headshots, and technical experts were available for techie questions on the Tech Talk Terrace.  One of the most popular exhibits at the Expo was the Osborne Head and Neck Institute, where talents could actually receive a complimentary general scope of their throat and vocal chords, speak with Dr. Reena Gupta, MD., who is a board-certified fellowship trained Laryngologist about vocal health concerns, and other medical experts including a Pediatric Otolaryngologist and a Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon.

Dave Courvoisier and I kicked off Friday morning with a riveting keynote on building your voiceover business through social media networking. I even did my best David Lee Roth-inspired kick!  You can check out the PowerPoint from our talk on SocialMediaVO.com.  Following our presentation were more breakout sessions from vo experts such as Richard Horvitz, Julie Williams, John Florian, Gabrielle Nistico,  an audio book panel hosted by Hilary Huber, and an uncut, uncensored course from Nancy Wolfson on “The Absolute Best Booking Secret F%#king Ever!” in effectively delivering copy!   MJ Lallo, Bill Homes, Big Louie and the queen of improv, Karly Rothenberg, delivered the final touches of the evening.   More networking fun and fellowship followed at the X-Bar!

Marc Cashman made us laugh until we cried Saturday morning as he shared real life examples of horribly offbeat, crazy, demented directions and copy given to voice talents that he’s collected over the years.  An entourage of exceptional talent ensued with sessions by John Taylor, Beau Weaver, Peter Rofe, Tim Keenan and the awesome Joe Cipriano, who closed out the Saturday sessions with a powerful promo panel!

The Poolside Mixer was a definite hit and the VOICE Banquet was the perfect culmination to VOICE 2010.   John Florian received VOICE Community Award and we were honored with some very special guests who are legends in the voice over industry – June Foray, Bob Bergen, Rob Paulsen, and Maurice LaMarche.

The relationships forged at VOICE 2010 are memorable. An excellent opportunity to connect with other people and be connected to a wonderfully supportive and powerful community, VOICE is an event you won’t want to miss!

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Caring For Your Voice

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I talk a lot. It’s how I earn money. No voice, no money. So over the years, I’ve learned quite a bit about vocal health and the importance of caring for my voice. Here are some tips that have served me well:

Warm up your voice and your body before you practice, audition, or record. These warm ups may include humming, tongue twisters, yawning, stretching, singing, jumping up and down, etc. Do what works for you. Your vocal chords are muscles that need to stretch and warm up before a workout just like any other muscle. It’s also important to loosen up your whole body to alleviate strain and stress on the vocal chords from poor posture, tightness in the body, particularly the back, shoulders, neck and jaws.

Hydrate. Vocal chords must remain lubricated to function properly. Forget to lubricate and your vocal performance will suffer. Water is certainly the top choice and room temp is best. Other great choices include herbal teas such as Yogi’s Throat Comfort Tea or Traditional Medicinal’s Throat Coat Tea. Avoid extreme temperatures as cool or cold beverages will tighten the vocal chords, and hot beverages will over relax the vocal chords. Your vocal chords are like rubber bands and vibrate to produce sound. If they get too cold, they lose elasticity and can tear when stretched. If they get too hot, they lose the ability to retain tension and strain to produce sound.

Breathe. Proper breathing is breathing from your diaphragm and requires proper posture. Stand in front of a mirror, place your hand over your belly and breathe. Notice your posture. Are your neck and shoulders relaxed? Are you breathing from your chest (up and down – not proper) or is your hand moving in and out on your belly as you breathe? Now speak or better yet, sing. Look at your neck. Do you see tension? If so, re-check your posture. Feet should face forward, knees should be soft, hips should be in neutral (stick your butt out, tuck your hips in, and then relax them –that’s neutral!), tummy should be tucked in, shoulders back and down, and the neck should be neutral (same process as the hips). Now try it again. You should see no strain in the neck.

Rest. Like any other muscles, your vocal chords need proper rest to repair and function. Allow breaks for yourself throughout the day and especially after a long day of recording. Refrain from talking as much as possible during those breaks. Additionally, give yourself 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night to rest your voice and body.

Avoid these for at least an hour before recording:
Dairy – produces mucus
Sugar – produces mucus
Caffeine – dehydrates and tightens the vocal chords
Greasy and Fatty Foods – produces mucus and promotes acid reflux
Spicy – promotes acid reflux
Alcohol – dehydrates
Smoking – produces mucus – also horrible for vocal health in general

Mucus happens sometimes. Allergies or illness can be culprits of producing unwanted mucus too. Tips for dealing with mucus include gargling with salt water, adding fresh lemon to your water, drinking more water, and doing a nasal rinse. Coughing is tough on the vocal chords. Avoid coughing by putting your chin to your chest and swallowing. The mucus will usually clear quickly.

Your vocal health is important for so many reasons. Protect your vocal chords and you will reap the rewards of a strong and healthy voice for years to come. As a voice talent, that also means more money!

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Making Mistakes In The Voiceover Business

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Mistakes.  We all make them!  Making mistakes is part of learning and growing and while we all hate to make them, the value is in what we learn from them. The best part is we don’t have to make all of the mistakes ourselves, we can learn from the mistakes of others.

I get emails daily from people who want to become voice talents.  They’ve heard all their life what a unique and wonderful voice they have, how special it is and how they are missing their calling of being a professional voice over talent.  With pure exuberance and an unquenchable curiosity they contact me hoping to get the one answer that will make their dreams come true!  Some are more curious than serious and some just want to make it happen so badly their excitement and sense of urgency leads to some really bad mistakes.

Here are some examples of bad mistakes aspiring voice talents tend to make:

• Not Investing In Training
Prior to cutting a demo, a voice talent should invest in high-quality voice over training to work on script analysis, delivery techniques, recording, working with recording software, basically, the skills you will need to actually be a voice talent.  It takes some time to develop these skills and investing time in training and practicing your skills will increase your confidence and help you to accentuate your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses which will prepare you for your demos.

• Homemade Demos And Recording Demos Prematurely
Your demos speak for you and you need to make sure they speak well!  They need to be professionally produced. I do not produce my own demos.  Rather I work with a professional voice over talent, producer, and coach whom I can trust to bring out the best I have to deliver and I have been in the voice over business for over 20 years as a professional voice talent, coach, and producer.  You need to have an experienced professional who can be objective and pull out your best voice.  Demos must be succinct and should accurately reflect your abilities, range, and versatility as a voice over talent. Recording your demos is not the first step!  Training and skill development first, demos second.

• Sending Agents Homemade Demos And Audio Clips
Checking out agencies and getting a feel for what is available as far as representation is good.  What is even more important is putting your best foot forward.  Agents want current professional demos not voice clips, and most will not even speak with you unless you have professionally produced demos to offer them.  They want to be able to give a definitive yes or no based upon your demos.   Lack of professionally produced demos demonstrates a lack of professionalism and as much as agents are representing you, make no mistake about it, you are representing them when they give you the opportunity to audition for a gig, so the more professional you come across, the better your chances for representation.  That said, even some of the best voice talent get turned down periodically by agents because they may have similar voices they are representing too.  My best advice is to invest in proper training and send agents professionally produced demos.

Ambition and excitement are wonderful qualities.  Learning how to harness them and taking the appropriate steps to make good decisions will help you avoid unnecessary mistakes like these.

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Is 2010 Your Year?

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I’m dedicating this year to be the year of laughter, love, and living life to the fullest! It’s going to be my best year yet!  A year to take hold of my passions and work to make my dreams a reality.  A year to launch Voice Over Club, to speak at VOICE 2010, to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone!

I am passionate about what I do and am blessed to work from home as a voice talent, producer, and coach.  I thoroughly enjoy all three aspects of what I do – they complete me.  It hasn’t always been this way.  It started as a dream, something I wanted to learn about and pursue.  Then I made the decision, took action, and followed through with resolve.

I had to learn to take action!  Each day I took action in my voice over career created a confidence in me that pushed me forward.  Each week built up momentum. Each month built credibility.  Each year my income increased.  I just had to start.

What are your dreams?  Are you a prospective voice talent or are you a voice talent?  Which one do you aspire to be?  If you’re serious about being a professional voice talent, do you have professional training and demos?  If not, what is your plan to get them?  What is your time-line?  What will you do to challenge where you are today so you can be where you want to be a year from now?  We each have the same number of hours in a day, the same number of days in a week, the same number of days in a year to accomplish what we choose to accomplish.  The only difference is in our priorities.

Go ahead and decide what you want!  Take action!  Follow through with resolve and make this your best year yet!

Wishing you joyful abundance and blessings for the New Year!

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Staying Connected in the Voice Over Business

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You network. You audition.  You gain clients.  You create strategic relationships.  All of these efforts are crucial to being successful in any field and yet are particularly important in the voice over industry. Staying connected can be a challenge, however, and the holiday season is an opportune time to reconnect.

Consider sending Happy Thanksgiving cards to your contacts in the United States with a simple message of appreciation.  Contacts who reside outside of the United States may not celebrate Thanksgiving but will welcome a sentiment of appreciation too, so send them a letter of gratitude.  Perhaps you prefer more of a Happy Holidays or Happy New Year approach. Go for it!  Wish them the very best and abundant success in the coming year!

Everyone wants to feel important.  Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated. People like to be remembered.   The point is to reconnect and the opportunities to do so are not limited to the holiday season or birthdays. So take a little time to show your sincere appreciation and to remember those who have brought value into your life and your voice over business.  You may find this small gesture of gratitude not only lifts your spirits, but also yields unexpected benefits in return.

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The Truth About Voice Over Demos

Demos!  You’ve gotta have ‘em and they’ve gotta be awesome!   So what does it take to get an awesome demo?  First, understand what a demo is and what it isn’t.  A demo is a critical tool, and without it, you’re not in business.  It’s your calling card; it’s what gets you in the door!  A demo is not just a bunch of spots thrown together and it’s definitely not something to skimp on or cut corners in producing.  Your demo reflects your level of professionalism, your range, and the value you have to offer the client.  It should provide just enough of a sampling to whet their appetite, draw them in, and leave them wanting for more, and should showcase your range and versatility.

All of this takes proper preparation and training.  No amount of producing or background music will cover a talent’s inability to effectively deliver a variety of scripts. Get proper training and coaching before you cut your demo!

Every spot on your demo should be unique with the goal of highlighting your range and vocal abilities.  Additionally, each spot should sound real, as if it were a paid gig.  Pay attention to detail in your takes, the client most certainly will!  The goal should be to make them want you!

Keep your demos clean and keep them up to date.  Your demos need to be an accurate representation of you and your abilities.   If your demos are outdated, the perception is that you are too!   Be authentically you and be your best!

Invest in professionally produced demos!   Work with a coach and director who is also a voice talent and producer, who understands the importance of a proper demo, someone who will be brutally honest with you, who is reputable, and knows how to produce awesome demos!  You should be able to listen to samples of their previous demos.  Is the music appropriate?  Do the spots flow well?  Does it sound clean or over-produced? Can you depict the versatility of the voice talent in the demo or is it just same voice, different background music?  Be critical!

Demo production is definitely an investment and much of the expense is due to production costs.  Licensed music can be very expensive.  The time to properly edit and mix the audio tracks of the demo and add the music is also quite time consuming. Producers who are worth the price are also voice talents and coaches who have earned the ability to command a decent rate for their services, as the opportunity cost is that of paid gigs they could also be doing.  This also accounts for the wide range of prices for demo production.

Look for the value not just the price!  You get what you pay for and the most expensive is not always the best.  This is an investment in your business that requires due diligence on your part.  Your demo speaks for you.  What is yours saying?

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Getting it Right

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Management guru Peter Drucker says, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Efficiency and effectiveness are paramount to voice over talents and both are dependent upon daily habits. You know, those little things that can make us or break us?

Here are some success habits that I came up with that I work on daily that may be useful to you:

•The habit of practice, practice, practice! Even if you don’t hit perfect, you can’t grow without it!  All successful voice over talent practice; it keeps a talent sharp and gives that competitive edge.

•The habit of going the extra mile. Giving more than is expected reaps really amazing results!   Simply giving three slightly different reads of script to a client can set you apart from the rest, helping you to become a go to voice over talent.

•The habit of smiling. This is huge for voice talent!   Smiling will come across in your read and will decrease plosives!  Tip: practice in front of a mirror or on your web-cam.

•The habit of learning. Always be learning something new!  No one is ever too good to get coaching or to learn new skills.  Learning is part of being a successful voice over talent and it makes you more marketable!

•The habit of listening. Listening to what other voice over talent have recorded, listening to creative directors, listening to the client, listening to what you just read…it’s all important.  Learn to listen and to implement!

•The habit of giving back. Blogging, posting valuable links and information on Facebook and Twitter, posting a voice over session on YouTube, volunteering your voice for a charity, these are all great ways to give back and to increase your value as a voice talent.

•The habit of being true to oneself. Be authentically you!  Allow who you are to come through in everything you do.  You are hired for more than your voice, let your personality come through.  Sure, emulate and learn from other voice talents, but be you!

Doing what it takes to develop these habits is sometimes easier said than done, but easier said than done still needs to be done!   Our daily habits become our character, our character becomes our reputation, and our reputation becomes our legacy.  What will yours be?

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The Value Of The Extra Mile

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The extra mile is a mark of excellence!  It discloses your level of dedication, your determination to earn repeat business, and your willingness to do whatever it takes to do it right.  It’s a powerful habit and a point of competitive advantage.  It’s the difference between waiting to hear back on the audition to see if you got the gig or receiving unsolicited referrals from people who believe so much in the quality and professionalism of your work that they will put their reputation on the line just to plug you!

The extra mile is revealed through our everyday actions and requires a defined purpose.  Is your purpose to increase the amount of job leads coming in, to land more gigs, to establish yourself as an expert in the industry, or to gain unsolicited referrals?  Whatever it may be, exploring ways in which you can implement going the extra mile is a critical element to your success in achieving your objective.

How much time and effort do you dedicate to marketing yourself?  Are you networking with other voice over talents, creative directors, and influential people in the industry?  Do you refer others? Do you give others a reason to refer you? When you audition or record the job, do you often give the client a variety in the takes to choose from?  What is your reputation in the industry? Do you have a voice over coach?  Are you staying abreast of the latest trends in the industry?  Have you taken an improv class lately?  Do you contribute articles, share tips, or videos on other voice over sites?  These are just a sampling of questions that may help reveal areas in which you may decide to apply the principle of going the extra mile.

Albert Gray, the author of The Common Denominator of Success, states it well, “The secret of success of every man who has ever been successful, lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” Going the extra mile will take a bit of extra effort; however, even picking just one area to apply the extra mile will help to set you apart from the rest.  It is a daily habit that leads to success.

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Directed Voice Over Session

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This is a directed voice over session that I recorded yesterday. The client was directing from New York and I was recording in my home studio in Minneapolis. If you’re new to the voice over industry, you should find this entertaining and educational.

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