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How To Be Effective In A Live
Voice-Over Recording Session

By Tom Dheere
Voice Actor & Coach

Effectiveness is everything in your voice-over career, especially in the booth during a live session.

Here's an example.

Recently I had a recording session for a commercial demo spot. That's when they semi-produce a commercial and test it before they decide to fully produce it and put it on TV. I booked it via a representation-generated audition, and we recorded it in a studio in NYC.

I had a great time, and both the producer and engineer were a pleasure to work with.

I'm not at liberty to discuss the product in question, but I do want to talk a bit about the process.


The session was an hour long for a 15-second spot (about five lines of copy).

We did roughly 10 takes of the entire spot and some ABC's of a few lines. "ABC" is when they ask you to do the same line three times in a row, each time a little differently.

One nice thing was that the audio engineer was editing my takes to video, so we could see the finished product as we were going. The music and Foley (sound effects) were edited in, too, and that's always a big help for me to determine tone and pace.

Another nice thing about this session is that it quickly turned into a collaboration instead of a line-reading clinic - where the client tells you exactly how to say each line. Some voice talent find that line-reading infuriating while others don't mind. I used to hate it, but it doesn't bother me that much anymore. If giving me a line-reading gives them exactly what they want, everybody wins.

Anyway, the session went smoothly, and even though we were focused and working hard, everyone had a good time.


Effectiveness is the degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result.

How do you demonstrate effectiveness during a live session? Listen, listen, listen.

Good voice talents are good listeners.

Your opinion of how think the copy should be read does not matter. Your job is to focus on what the producer/director tells you to do, and by extension seek the author's truth.

That means getting out of your own way, internalizing their direction, and channeling it into your read.


Also, give them options. A huge part of effectiveness in the booth is to be able to deliver a variety of reads on command. There are an almost infinite variety of ways to do this. You can:
  • speed it up or slow it down (spot time permitting),
  • alter the inflections (upward, downward, circumflex),
  • add a "wink" or a bit more smile to a given word or line,
  • and much, much more.
Your opinion only matters when they ask you for it. Do not share what you think of the writing or your takes unless they explicitly ask for it.

And for Pete's sake, don't react to your takes! In other words, don't sigh, heavily exhale, or make any other noises that express your dissatisfaction (or satisfaction) with a take.

It's their job to like or dislike your takes, not yours.

Effectiveness is achievable if you remember your training, stay calm, and use common sense.
Over more than two decades, Tom Dheere - AKA 'The VO Strategist' - has narrated thousands of projects for clients in over a dozen countries and voiced more than 40 audiobooks. He is also a voice over business consultant, a coach at Edge Studio, was the marketing consultant for the Voice Over Virtual online conference, and is also writer/producer of the sci-fi action comic book Agent 1.22.

Agent 1.22


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Comments (1)
J. Valentino
9/18/2019 at 1:01 PM
Very helpful information for anyone who is brand new or trying to break into to the VO business. People who do this for a living already know this stuff, thank goodness.
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