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These 3 Voice Acting Ideas Can Change Your
Career - I Know, Because They Changed Mine
August 6, 2015

By Dan Hurst
Voice Actor

One of the keys to succeeding in the voice over business is setting oneself apart; being and delivering something that others don’t.

So, I offer three things that you can start doing today that will transform your voice over career. Or your career as a writer. Or you career as a creative director. Or your career as a … oh, you get my point.  

This is all going to sound so esoteric, but it really is life changing for your business.  

1. Volume Does NOT Speak Louder Than Words  

When you step back and look at this principle it makes total sense.  

When do people get louder? When they think no one is paying attention, or they don’t think they are getting through. Or perhaps when they are angry or frustrated.  

Any one of those reasons says more about the person speaking than the person listening. When you raise your voice to someone, you say more about yourself than you do about the person to whom you speak - and very little about what you are talking about. 

Generally when you raise your voice to someone, their natural reaction is pull back and pay less attention to you. Think about it. When someone raises their voice to you, don’t you think less about what they are saying and more about how to take control or get out of that situation?  

The same is true as a voice talent. The idea that you have to "project” is misleading. You have a microphone. You don’t need to "project.”  

What you need to do is "connect.” And yelling never connects. Intimacy connects.  

2. I Can’t Listen As Fast As You Speak  

I have to credit my Dad with that phrase. 

He was on a phone call with his stockbroker. He had put it on speakerphone so I could listen in. The guy just went on and on about why Dad needed to switch to whatever it was this guy was selling, and hold on to whatever, whatever and whatever. 

After several minutes of listening to him ,Dad finally blurted out, "Listen, I have no idea what you are talking about because I can’t listen as fast you talk.”  

Now, as voice talents this is an ongoing battle. We’re constantly given 40 seconds of copy for a 30-second commercial. And then they tell us that they really need it to come in at 28 seconds.  

But the truth of the matter is that space and time are as critical as the words you speak. 

Your listeners need time to absorb what you are saying. When you give them something to think about and then immediately give them something else to think about, and then grab them and essentially tell them to quit thinking about what you just said and think about a new idea, you just confuse them.   

I realize that’s not your fault. That’s on the client. BUT … when you are given that time and space … use it!!!  

One of my majors in college was music. Voice, to be precise. One of the things I discovered was that a rest is as important as any note. 

The same is true with speaking. Time is just as important as anything that you have to say.  Let your words and your phrasing breathe. And in doing so, let your listeners use that time to absorb what you are saying.  

3. Tell Your Story  

Clients become fans of "what” you do and "how” you do it. But they become believers in you because of "why” you do it. 

That "why” connects with something inside of them that lines up with their passion and drive. And it is often the "why” that creates long term, loyal clients.  

Several years ago I was the live announcer for a big sales convention. One of the speakers was the top salesman for that company. After I introduced him I sat there, mesmerized by his presentation.

It wasn’t a big "rah, rah, rah” speech. It wasn’t a "you-can-be-rich-too” speech. It was a simple heartfelt message that each of us has a story; a "why.” And at the heart of our success is connecting our story with our client’s story.  

I realized at that moment that even as a voice talent I need to connect my story, my "why,” with each of my clients.  It’s not that I need to tell them my story, but rather that I know their story – who they are, what makes them special, and why they do what they do.  

That simple realization changed my business.  

As voice talents it is really easy for us to get lost in the technique and delivery of the message.  But the truth of matter is that we need to get lost in the story!  

Watch tonight’s news and look for those stories where they interview someone who saw the accident, or the fire, or they are the victim of a crime. And notice how you are drawn in by their story. If the news reporter was telling the story, you wouldn’t be so connected, but when the person who has the story tells it, you are totally in it.  

That’s what I’m talking about.

When you get lost in the story you become compelling in your delivery. Even if the copy is weak and limited, make up the story in your mind and deliver it using their words. Let their story become your story.  

These three simple ideas can change your career. I know. They changed mine.
Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business now extends internationally, with clients including Maserati, Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, McDonalds, Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada, Walmart and many more. When he’s not working, he spends his time cheering for losing sports teams and getting kicked off of golf courses.


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Comments (11)
Paul Henry
9/11/2015 at 11:14 AM
Ohhhhh Maaaaaan that was beautiful!!! It is all those things that deep down inside I know but to read your words just brings them to the surface and lets me know that I am not alone in this struggle. And it is an internal struggle to be so professional that we forget to be...

Paul Henry
Mark Eaves
9/5/2015 at 3:17 PM
Thanks Dan for your insight. I once worked on the staff of a church in Dallas with a well known pastor. He was very flamboyant in the pulpit. He was powerful and effective while he was preaching, but my favorite way of listening to him was not on Sunday mornings. On Wednesday nights he often lead an intimate Bible study. His speaking style was not as loud, not as hurried, and it communicated the depth of his love for God's Word. As a listener, I was drawn into his message and had my attention captured.

I agree the same can be true for voice over.
8/9/2015 at 9:19 PM
Thank you, Dan, I am working on some voice over because I want to do this along with my Acting and Modeling and know I need to build up my voice over. All of what you shared is so very helpful and gives me more confidence to work on it so that when I audition for it I will be ready.

Thanks, Peter, for the reminder of the great BBQ's in Kansas City. My daughter lives in Wichita KS and I tell her she will have to meet me in Kansas City because I watch the Food Network because I love to cook and BBQ and saw Gates BBQ and hope to come that way soon and give them a try and check out the car auctions as well.

Thank you again, Dan, for sharing and have a grand day.
Moe Rock
8/7/2015 at 5:38 AM
Brilliant! I'm on the Dan Hurst cheering committee! :)
dc goode
8/6/2015 at 4:20 PM
Well Dan,
Now you've gone and "given away the store" again. :-)
Great advice as usual.
Hope all is GOODe with you!dc
Kent Ingram
8/6/2015 at 1:06 PM
Dan, of all the pieces of advice I've read over the years, yours probably hit home the best! It's simple, to-the-point and, yes, it's how we should deliver our VO projects. Add to that the necessary emoting at times. I am a natural slow, more deliberate speaker, so a hurried delivery is very difficult for me to accomplish. Thanks for a great eye-opener!
j. valentino
8/6/2015 at 12:31 PM
Good stuff.
J. Christopher Dunn
8/6/2015 at 11:39 AM
Thanks for the article, Dan. Not only do your points apply to VO, but life in general. "If you want to attract someone's attention - whisper ..." Those were words used by Coty for Nuance perfume in the mid-70s and they sum up your three points nicely.
Don Reece
8/6/2015 at 11:08 AM
Don't 'project' - Let it breathe - Tell your story. Excellent advise/reminders, Dan. This one is a keeper! Thanks.
Lisa Rice
8/6/2015 at 9:01 AM
One of my favorite speakers/authors, the late Elizabeth Elliott, would begin her radio program "Gateway to Joy" with a soft, hushed voice that wooed the audience to lean in. Her style perfectly demonstrated each of these points, which is probably why I enjoyed listening. The delivery was valuable. The content was priceless. Thank you for these points, Dan. Each is worthy on its own.
Peter K. O'Connell
8/6/2015 at 8:43 AM
Many readers of this post might know of Dan and his great talent but I'm going to assume the majority of you haven't enjoyed the good fortune of spending time with Dan and getting to know him while also learning from him firsthand.

Well I have and I mention that not to be boastful but rather to offer this insight into the above post - there is no hidden agenda in what you've just read. It is sincere, tested advice from a successful voice-over talent whose experience behind a microphone dwarfs most of us folks because of his life learnings on performance, client management and business issues.

So read and then study what Dan has written here. Maybe not all but I feel quite sure that at least some of it can immediately and positively impact your current and future career objectives.

Plus, he knows all the great BBQ places in Kansas City, which is really what life is about anyway.

Best always,
- Peter
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