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Voice Actor: Know The Triggers
To Really Communicate / Part 1
By Ron Knight
“Doctor, I don’t think I can stand it any more. My wife thinks she’s a chicken.”
“Hmm. Okay. So why don’t you leave her?”
“I can’t … I need the eggs!”
It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Seems obvious. We know that. We’re VO people.
But recently, what I’ve learned from a “couples therapy and communications skills course” seems to also apply to the world of voice-over.
Within every communication, people tend to dance on many levels or layers of thought, and we’re aware that the verbiage involved or spoken creates “soft triggers” in the listener.
In voice-over, we may think of this as the multi-level plane of communication on:
  • what’s being said,
  • how it’s being said, and
  • the intended emotive place left in the mind and heart of the listener.
Yet the intent you think you have implanted may well not be the one interpreted by the listener.
You have seen how in the hands of a producer the line you read that was so lovingly and caressingly delivered, became a line from “Mommy Dearest” - with a simple change in the M or E track and the flick of a mouse.
In the real world, you don’t know if a trigger is also affecting a listener, who might be reflecting on a personal issue.
Okay veterans of VO - you’ve been doing this for how many decades now? You’ve seen plenty of issues come and go.
While the beginner VO talent may be trying to figure out How to Win More Auditions, others who’ve endeavored media production for a while have seen the flavors, trends, media fashion, style and the inherent changes in personnel who make casting, buying and direction decisions come and go.
We've seen this ebb and tide of media trends - and once in a while we come to think about what We May Have Done Differently, as we look at What it Is that Lands us Where We Are.
And we reflect on what we’ve done to continue not only hitting the nail on the head for the audition, but also for delivery on the buy, and the aftermath of client relationship.
This does not go into the category of giving everyone a Kewpie doll for letting you win a gig.
It touches more directly on being insightfully aware at all times of the issues that may or may not be going on in the room during a session, over the ISDN, or following up with your agent, the director or the talent buyer.
Example: in a session, you read the word green. You know what green means.
And there you are, having read copy after copy, taken every possible training course. You know how to score your copy, and yes, you can sell your shoes off!
You underscore the USP. (Remember when you learned about USPs after eating donuts, donuts and more donuts in a hotel conference room where you studied voice-over and now you’re ready to go?) You even move into the Grid of Emotional Expectancy to play the Color Words and Graphic Visualizations Chart in your mind, to interpret How Green is Green.
You play the innuendos and quadruple double entendres, and what you think green is - or what the writer means, or what the producer and the client may mean or want. So all is fine and good.
Then you find the director in the room. Perhaps the client. Why is this not working?
First, you don’t know what kind of morning he or she has had. You really don’t know what green means to them.
Does it sound like money? If you're hitting the branding for Scott’s Turf Builder, doing Kermit, Gumby, Pine Sol Fresh - or for the young PA who’s been out last night and thinks it’s a Wintergreen breath mint - maybe green is the environment or saving the planet?
You don’t know if the director is going though a divorce, or if his or her best friend - who was the local chapter chairperson of Greenpeace - has just taken their previous “significant other” out to dinner. And so now green is sounding like Someone’s sautéed spinach soufflé. Sizzled.
The point is, you can’t know if what you're saying is hitting soft triggers for the decision maker, or what they may be thinking the imagery is doing for the client.
In many cases, you would have nailed it on Take One or Take Three. But here you are on the grid for Take 54 - mentally gasping for mercy when you know you nailed it back on Take Two, which was better than One, but they’re still debating Take Three, which was taken for safety just because someone should have taken Two and then called you in the morning.
It may all be because someone is not letting the cinema of the moment happen. It's the Control Factor. You're being directed up, down, sideways, or right into the trash bin on the desktop. All from reactions to soft triggers.
Here's what's happening: 
  • you're working the trigger in the mind of the psychographic target audience (ad-speak, marketing speak), but a second one has also been pulled: 
  • the trigger that hits the psychopathic triggers of the client, production team and director.
This releases all sorts of potential for personal issues. And opening that Pandora's Box can slow down any session.
Ron Knight is an advanced media voice-over communications coach and producer. He's been the voice of Nickelodeon, The Travel Channel, Sirius Radio, ABC Networks, Disney and Universal Resorts, as well as many regional and national accounts. His Knight Mediacom studios produce cinema advertising, production for soundtracks, interactive media “trigger spots” for national cable media, plus projects with new production techniques for Avatar Animation. Voice-over career consulting is available by appointment, and Advanced Market Voice-over Workshops are offered twice annually - as a preliminary Teleclass, then in-studio in Southern California.
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