VOICE OVER DEMOS
When Someone Asks You To Evaluate
Their Voice Over Demo, What Do You Say?
By Dave Courvoisier
Voice Actor & TV News Anchor
Lord knows it's hard enough to be honest with YOURSELF about your demos. It's even harder to be candid, yet diplomatic with your peers when they ask you for an opinion about THEIR demo.
And yet, the call eventually comes - that email with an attachment.
Someone thinks you're a sage, and that minute-long .mp3 is being proudly offered for final clearance from you - the expert in demos (not!).
More often than not, such a request comes from someone on the early end of the VO career spectrum. Maybe it's their second demo, but most likely it's their first, or their first SERIOUS demo.
WHAT DO YOU SAY?
Your approach could be different, but I think honesty and sensitivity are key.
After all, you're no REAL judge of demos (very few can claim that mantle, in my estimation), but you do know a few things, and they did ask your opinion, after all.
Hence, the sensitive art of evaluating a colleague's demo.
1. Find something good.
Sound psychological principles support you making a positive first comment. It could be:
Your VO peer just spent a lot of time and money on their audio calling card. Acknowledge something about their investment that's encouraging.
2. Be humble in your approach.
I usually give this prelude to my critique:
This lets you off the hook if they were hoping for a slam-dunk endorsement of their demo, and didn't really want to hear the truth.
3. Stand on facts.
Let's face it, there are some pretty hard-core essentials to a basic commercial demo, and if one of these aspects is missing, you're on firm ground to point out its absence. Like:
If all of these (maybe you've got a short list, too) factors are present, move on to #4.
4. Offer some meat.
Look, you're not a true friend or colleague if you aren't honest. Even someone who was hoping for a big A+ in a red colored-pencil on the demo will admit that it's not perfect. There's likely room for you to make a legitimate constructive observation.
It could be something that just happened to catch your ear:
5. Leave 'em thinkin'.
If it's a bad demo, and you know it, you've gotta save 'em from embarrassment by saying something to the effect of:
If it's a middling or even an excellent demo, you can always say:
Then after the "but" fill in the blank with something to the effect that:
DON'T SUGARCOAT IT
Obviously, most of these admonitions go out the window between old pros who just wanna hear the bald-faced truth, so please don't sugar-coat it. Chances are, you'd hafta really get picky to find something bad with the demo offering of a seasoned voice actor who knows where to go to get a righteous demo produced.
For everyone else - newbies or people you really don't know - I admit it: I hate to hurt anyone's feelings. I like being positive, but I also can't let someone off the hook if there's a glaring flaw.
Done with some sensitivity, a demo critique for a fellow voice actor can benefit you both.
Dave Courvoisier is a voice actor and audiobook narrator based in Las Vegas - and also an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, producer and morning TV news anchor on Good Morning Las Vegas at ABC affiliate KTNV, Channel 13 (also seen as live stream on KTNV.com). A former president and a founding member of the World-Voices Organization (WoVO), he also writes an informative blog of voice over adventures, observations and technology, and is author and publisher of the book, More Than Just A Voice: The Real Secret To VoiceOver Success, now in its second edition.
More Than Just A Voice - 2nd Edition
Your Daily Resource For Voice-Over Success