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Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Good is Never Good Enough in Voiceovers

How good are you at voice overs? Can you get away with being 'ok', 'not bad at all' or 'above average'? I want to explain why I believe not aiming higher is hurting your chances of success. 

I love trawling through the various voice over groups on platforms such as Linkedin and Facebook - they are full of useful titbits, helpful advice.... and bile. You may be aware of the recent harsh criticism meted out to the pay to play site

Contributors piled in to spit venom at the company's apparent lack of regard for its subscribers. People relayed tales of hundreds of auditions and little work to show for all their hard graft.

One malcontent said he had recorded over a thousand demos for potential clients, with an ROI that equated to less than minimum wage. A thousand? That is more auditions than hot dinners. 

The mob were angry - they had paid their money and deserved to see a return on their investment.


These complainers think they deserve to be rewarded with voice over work simply because they paid a fee? Where does talent fit in to this? Is there no room for skill?

As the posts and comments took on a life of their own, I decided to wade in myself and brought one interchange to a juddering halt. I'm not showing off by this remark you understand; I did not say anything earth shattering or offer a jaw dropping insight, I just asked a simple question.

When one voice actor complained about always being turned down for jobs despite having a great mic and his own VO booth, I jumped in and said:

"But what is your performance like?"

Suddenly there was no response. What had happened to the tales of woe? Why did he not respond with "I've recorded some cracking auditions, so that can't be the issue"? No one else piled in to back me up or knock me down either. You could see the tumbleweed blowing down the thread.

Performance really is the elephant in the room.

I moved on to a different group and there I quickly found another contretemps on the same subject: masses of auditions and no jobs. Suddenly I spotted an enlightening post from a guy who named an actual project he had been rejected for (along with scores of others).

He said he would have been ideal for the job in question as his voice matched the description the client was looking for and he had worked hard at perfecting the demo.

Then, underneath, someone else surprised all of us as he wrote that HE had been the talent who had been awarded this very gig.

He even included a link to the completed work which was available on YouTube.

Wow - it was a terrific delivery.

Engaging, stylish and conversational it certainly hit the spot.

Everyone in the post agreed and especially the voice actor who had posted the original comment and failed to secure the assignment. In fact he conceded that the successful candidate had provided a far superior delivery and deserved to be hired.

This example confirmed my theory that a lot of the voice over artists who moan about not securing work are missing the point. They are not getting booked because their auditions and demos are simply not good enough.

Upsetting isn't it?

Meanwhile back with the conversations on Linkedin, someone had posted 'isn't there a middle way?'. I interpreted that to mean 'can you get away with being mediocre?'. To me this epitomises some talents' attitude to their delivery skills.

They spend good money on their mic and marketing, read all the right books, but they ignore what they are there to do: provide a compelling voice over. If you aren't aiming for this, you are in the wrong business.

Go for gold

No one wants to be told their performance is below par, but always bear in mind that somebody is being awarded the work.... it's just not you. So what can you do to raise your game?

First, be honest with yourself - how good are your voice overs? What was your last audition like? Was it the best you could do? From my own experience as a coach, some hopefuls practice far too infrequently and when they do, they don't think carefully enough about the script.

When you are presented with a script, do the following:

  • Proof read the piece a couple of times. 
  • Imagine what the words should sound like. Can you hear the voice in your head? What tone and pace are present? Does the voice sound convincing?
  • Now have an initial read through and try and match that internal voice
  • Get under the skin of the script
  • Record and playback - what are your first impressions? You know it could and should sound better
  • Now record again
  • .... and again
  • Keep going until you have performed the best read possible

Remember you need to create a captivating performance, even if the script itself is quite mundane. You cannot expect to be hired unless you are exceptional at what you do. Put simply, you need to be better than the best.

You should also audition within your comfort zone; if the job spec requires the voice of a Medieval Knight, but your talents limit you to a Call Of Duty commando, leave well alone. 

Stick to what you know and do it well.


How do you make your performance better? Please let me know your thoughts.

Gary Terzza teaches the art of voice over at VoMasterClass 


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