Moving From Radio to Voice Over:
7 Ways Radio Experience Helps
By Randye Kaye
Voice Actor & Coach
"Oh, no - never say you were in radio if you want to be hired as a voice talent!"
Have you heard that?
I know I did when I left full-time radio six years ago.
Sure, I was a working voice talent before I became an on-air personality.
OK, so I began my career as an actress and singer before ever stepping into a whisper room.
Still, that was the advice when I left: Hide your years as a radio personality.
Well, I officially disagree.
Sorry, but I've never been one to follow advice without question, hence my departure from corporate radio, but that's another story.
LEARNED IT IN RADIO ...
So, here are seven things I learned from my years in radio that actually have made me a better voice talent. So there.
1. Cold Reading Skills.
When a piece of copy is thrown in front of you and you must deliver it - live, without a pre-read - with some semblance of understanding and expression, those skills get sharpened fast.
Sure, adrenalin helps, but you also develop the ability to read "laterally" with one part of your brain focused on the words you are saying and another part looking ahead.
You learn to phrase as you go, on the fly.
You have to read the same script many times, word-for-word. (Please don't even add a "the” without written permission - oh corporate radio, again.)
You learn to try new approaches within the reality of the copy, if only to keep your brain involved.
It's great practice for the inevitable VO "Five in a Row."
3. Think Fast
While that song is playing, you may have just a few precious seconds to give away the prize to the caller, edit the phone call down to some good cuts to use on the air, and have it all ready to go by the fade-out.
You learn to trust yourself and not overthink decisions. These qualities increase your confidence in the VO booth.
Most on-air personalities are given very specific timing requirements for newscasts, weather reports, breaks, and of course the commercials they often have to produce after their air shift.
You get to develop an inner clock for a 60-, 30- or 15-second spot that cannot be even a half-second over time.
That ability is very helpful later on, as your ability to change tempo and make it work is called into play for voice overs.
5. Production Skills
Back when voice talents usually left the recording studio waving goodbye to the engineer as we went onto our next job, without an editing care in the world, my experience doing radio production enabled me to make that engineer's job easier because I had great respect for - and some knowledge of - the job that lay ahead for him/her.
Now, of course, I use many of those skills myself in my home studio.
The fear factor was greatly reduced by my years in radio, getting cozy with Adobe Audition.
6. Acting is Reacting
My last seven years in radio were spent in the wee hours as the "second banana" on a morning show.
It reinforced the need for a combination of skills: preparation plus improvisation, technique and emotion, intellect and imagination, left brain and right brain.
Call it what you will, but you can't always know in advance how you will feel, even if what you will say is in print before your eyes.
Radio reminded me that I can't plan everything - that the other person in the "scene" always has an effect on the next moment. Yes, even in one-voice narrations where the "other person" is invisible except in your own imagination.
Acting is reacting, after you have started somewhere, with a clear POV (point-of-view).
7. Good Reads Come From Truth
Yes, you learn to believe that the Saturday morning promotional appearance will be great fun for your listener.
You do a morning radio bit with complete commitment to its value.
You read sports stories knowing that the scores matter greatly to your listener, even if you personally don't know a football from a volleyball.
And you find that different radio gigs require you to use a different part of your personality.
I play a specific character (i.e., a facet of me) when I now do fill-in work on a classical music station.
Morning radio allowed me to be snarkier than PM Drive did. You learn to find, and invest in, the truth of your situation, and of the copy.
So, former radio person, hold your head high. We have nothing to be ashamed of.
If you are in voice over, then I'll bet some of those radio skills have come in handier than you admit. And the new skills we've had to develop only make us better.
Thank you, radio, for the good years and the great lessons. I think I'll keep those radio credits on my voice over resume - um, down near the bottom. Just in case.
ABOUT RANDYE ...
Randye Kaye provides "Intelligent, creative voice-overs and more” for clients such as Continental Airlines, Priceline.com, Dannon, Hilton Hotels, and Kyocera, and remains an enthusiastic lifelong learner. She is also a VO coach with Edge Studio in NYC, CT and DC.
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