Voice-Over Directed Sessions: How To
Prepare & Perform When Clients Listen In
By Daree Allen Nieves
Voice Actor, Podcaster & Life Coach
Yes! Your audition was chosen and your voice-over directed session details are set. Congratulations. But now what?
If you're not used to having an "audience" when you record, this can be a little nerve-wracking, but I got you.
There are times when the production team (creative director, art director, project manager) and client like to come together to participate with you in the creative process of the video or commercial they are developing.
They have likely spent weeks or even months working on this project. If you can have a short meeting with them prior to the session to understand the concept of the piece they're producing, it goes a long way to understanding their vision, and where you fit in as the voice talent to contribute that vision.
They will also appreciate that you care enough to ask!
Here's how to prepare and deliver your best performance for a client-directed session.
A DAY OR TWO BEFORE THE SESSION
Hopefully, the client has given you at least one day of advance notice.
Avoid soda and milk in the 24 hours before recording, and drink plenty of water instead.
Prior to the session, there may be some changes to the audition script. If so, the client will provide you with the updated script. Read it and see what has changed.
Also, as you read it aloud, note any typographical errors or grammatical mistakes (such as missing punctuation) that might throw you off and cause you to stumble as you read. Email the client in advance if you see mistakes, so they are aware and can make corrections.
PRACTICE & MARK UP THE COPY
Give the copy a workout by practicing it a few times.
Play the role of different characters so you don't get stuck reading the script the same way every time. It's guaranteed that in a live session, the client will ask you to read lines in different ways to see what they like best.
Print the script on paper and mark it with pencil, or use an app like iAnnotate to mark it up with notes.
TEST YOUR TECH
Double-check and set your tech.
If you're doing this session from your home studio, then it's crucial that you and the client can hear each other clearly, with no static, drops or other issues that can cause delays and frustration.
So whether you're using a phone patch, Skype, Source Connect, ipDTL or another type of connection, make sure you can get it up and running prior to the scheduled time.
If you're unfamiliar with the tech, or you have a new setup (new internet provider, new home studio), then do a test run with a fellow voice actor and/or the studio you're working with.
Also, advise your contact ASAP if you feel a sore throat coming on, or otherwise get sick in the 48 hours before your session is scheduled. Your voice won't sound the same if you're not feeling your best!
THE DAY OF THE SESSION
Eat about two to three hours before the session.
You don't want to go into the session when you're starving, nor when you have just eaten - the mic picks up stomach noises and burps, and you don't want embarrassment to add to your nerves.
Don't wear any noisy jewelry or clothing that could make noises the mic will pick up.
If you're doing the session from your home studio, launch your tech at least 30 minutes before the session begins. If you're doing this session from another studio, prepare accordingly and give yourself extra time to get there, especially if it's a peak traffic time or you're unfamiliar with the area you're traveling to.
Bring two bottles of water, tea bags (or whatever you prefer to soothe your throat), your tablet (if you have one), and a hard copy of the script as a backup.
DON'T TOUCH THE MIC ...
Speak to everyone you meet in the studio, and follow their instructions.
When you get in the booth, don't touch the mic! Let the audio engineer make the adjustments you need.
If you choose to use paper, lay it on a music stand - don't hold it. This is voice acting, so you want your hands to be free to move as you read and perform the copy, and you don't want to hear noise.
Once you're in the session, be professional, but also relax and have fun. This is what you came to do!
DELIVER WHAT THEY ASK
Listen to the direction you're given for each line or page of the script, and deliver whatever they ask. You've practiced many "A, B, C" options, so you're ready!
After you've given each read (or "take," as in "Take 1," etc.), wait for comments from the production team before you speak again. It's important to wait for a moment of silence while the client and other decision makers decide what to do with what they heard from you, before you start talking again.
If they ask you to make an adjustment such as changing your tone, sounding like you're talking to a friend, or an "A, B, C," do it. But don't think too hard about it or read into it.
Sometimes it's hard for people to describe exactly what they want from you in the read, and the words may not translate well. So it's ok to ask for clarification if you're unsure of the direction, but do so before you give a line, not right after.
DO. NOT. ARGUE.
Never, ever argue with the client about what they are asking for in the read.
As a professional voice talent, you are there to provide a service. If you'd ever like to work with them again, or get a recommendation to work with other future clients, treat everyone in the session with respect.
They will remember if you didn't act right. If you're hard to work with, it's one and done for you.
Have fun and let me know how it went!
Daree Allen Nieves is a voice actor, technical writer, podcaster and life coach who hosts a monthly Twitter chat called #VOLifeChat.
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