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Telephony Primer, Part 1: Press 
This VO Niche For Steady Work
 
By Liz de Nesnera
Voice Actor
 
When you’re a voice talent, as you progress in your chosen profession, you will probably find yourself doing more of one type of work than another:
  • commercials
  • narrations
  • promos 

    ….and for those of us that choose to: telephony.
 First, though - how do you SAY "telephony"? Click to hear it. That's "teh-LEH-funny" not "teh-leh-phoney."
 
YOU'RE THEIR VOICE

Ahhh yes ... telephony ... that which is dreaded by the rest of humanity but loved by those of us who record for it! The "Press 1 for Customer Service” work. 

We love it for one main reason: repetition. It’s consistent work.

No, it’s not the highest paying voice-over work, and most of it is non-union. But once you start in the telephony field and have your voice chosen by a client for their phone system, you’re in like Flynn.

YOU have become the voice of that system. And updates happen a lot in telephony.
 
GET LISTED
 
There are two main ways to get into telephony. The first is to get on the roster of an IVR or MOH company, which will in effect do the selling for you.

IVR? MOH? What’s with all this alphabet soup?????

Relax. Breathe.

IVR = Interactive Voice Response. These are the "Press 1, Press 2” type systems that require an interaction with you, a response from you, in order to get you to the right person or department.

MOH = Message on Hold. These are sales and informational messages that clients have us record, so that you know about their services or latest company happenings while you’re waiting on hold.
 
HOW THAT WORKS

An IVR or MOH company will present their roster of talent to their clients, and a client will (hopefully) choose you to record their messages.
 
At this point, the IVR/MOH company will send you a script, you record it, and you just send it back- usually as an mp3 or a wav file. The IVR/MOH company will handle all the production.

In this way, it’s pretty much like any other voice-over job.
 
NOW PRESS 2 ...

The second way to get into telephony is to work with clients directly.

Here is where many voice talents' eyes glaze over (or throats close up in fear) because there are so many different types of digital telephony formats out there.
 
Frankly, unless you’re familiar with these formats, when clients start saying that they need a Dialogic 8bit, 8K Mu-Law vox file - all you might be hearing is Ancient Etruscan.
 
MANY FORMATS

I seem to have fallen into this niche, and often get calls from other voice talents who are in a panic, saying "My client says he needs a vox file. What do I do?”
 
My first question is, "What type of vox file?”
 
…at which point I get another panicked, "There’s more than one type of vox file???"
 
Yes.
 
One of the most important aspects of being successful in this part of the business is knowing what questions to ask.
 
You will NOT appear stupid by asking these questions. Instead, you will present yourself as knowing what you’re doing - making sure that you give your client exactly the type of audio file he needs.
 
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING ...

Back in the old days - oh, like 15 years ago - before the advent and widespread use of mp3 files, people - mostly large institutions like banks - discovered that it was A LOT cheaper to have calls routed by a computer than by a human.
 
One study back in the day found that if a human answered and routed a call, it could cost a company over $4.00 per call.

If the computer did it via an IVR system, it only cost the company $0.25 per call.
 
Yeah, a no-brainer in the eyes of the companies. And a boon for voice-over talent.
 
VOICEMAIL JAIL
 
Many companies went IVR crazy, with 6, 7, 8 or even 9 options that people had to wade through with no way out. And thus, voicemail jail was born.
 
Luckily, things have changed a bit with "usability studies" and "Opt-out" features like pressing "0" for the operator. But back to history ...
 
What these companies found was that all this audio was taking up a lot of space on the "primitive” servers of the time. So different audio file formats were created to take up less space.
 
In the process, however, audio quality was often traded for file size.
 
 
Liz de Nesnera is a voice actor with years of experience, based in the tri-state New Jersey, New York, Connecticut area. Voicing commercials, narration and telephony in English and French, she also writes an entertaining and informative blog, A Frog in My Throat … or … Un Chat Dans La Gorge.
 
 
 
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