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TV Promos: Train Like An Olympian
& Know Lingo For Gold Medal Reads
By David Alden
Voice Actor, Coach & Director
Now for some of you this may be a little basic, kind of like Television Promos 101.  
But from time to time, whether you're a seasoned promo guy or gal or fresh off the voice-over training boat, it's important to be reminded of the fundamentals.
Just to clarify and get our lingo on the same track, I am talking specifically about television on-air promotions. You know, the "commercial" that promotes your favorite TV show: "Tonight on 30 Rock" or "Next on Survivor, so and so takes it one step too far".
Usually these promos end and sometimes start with a tag that tells you the name of the show, what day and time it's on - and most importantly, which network.
These are far different from radio imaging, radio promos or even movie trailers, which by the way, is a whole other article!
I have directed thousands, upon thousands upon thousands of promos, and have had the unique opportunity to work with the top names in voice-over promo business. Such as Don LaFontaine, who I miss dearly; Joe Cipriano, the voice of the most recent primetime Emmys; and Tress MacNeille, Tony Rodgers, Rino Romano, Beau Weaver, Jonathan Cook, Scott Rummell, Vanessa Marshall, Ashton Smith, Ben Patrick Johnson, Roger Rose and so many others.
If you are an aspiring promo announcer, I encourage you to know these names and get familiar with their work.
Google their names, go on You Tube, go to Voiceover Universe, go wherever you can to learn from the very best!
In my estimation, and from my personal experience, these people, these creative talents, are the "Voice-over Olympians" of promo announcing.
Think of the recent Summer Olympics in Bejing.
If performing audiobooks can be likened to running the marathon, then performing On-Air TV Promos is like running the 100 meters.
Promo has a style and pace all its own. You want to start strong and finish right through the tape.
In other words, if you give up too soon (throwing away the tag for instance), it could be the deciding factor for you not getting the job. And although a TV promo exec may not be able to put their finger on it - they just know "something's missing".
Just ask the guy who lost to Michael Phelps by a fingernail. His decision not to take that final stroke and instead, to "float in" cost him a gold medal.
It was that "something missing" that made all the difference!
To be an "Olympic" Promo Announcer and to perform at the highest level possible, takes ... say it with me "PRACTICE".
And it takes all those other motivating words as well:
  • determination,
  • passion,
  • love,
  • joy,
  • dedication,
  • preparation, and
  • focus.
To the jaded few, those words are just clichés, but to me, and hopefully to you, those kinds of words are the basic building blocks one must embody in order to perform and behave like a true "Olympic Voice-Over Champion".
This Fall is a great time of year to really dig in and learn about promos right from the comfort of your own home, because it's when the big four networks and some cable networks launch and really push their new and returning shows with, yes, you guessed it - promos!
Watch them, record them, dissect them - and as I mentioned earlier, learn who's announcing them.
Now is when your "Inner Promo Voice-Over Olympian" kicks in!
At this point you might be asking, "So, how do I practice and get the experience it takes to be a top promo announcer?"
Well, like any other discipline, study, study, study and practice, practice, practice.
Get into a voice-over class or workshop or study privately with someone who really knows and focuses specifically on promos.
In fact, start or join a voicover promo group!
With today's technology, the opportunity to practice and learn how to do promos has, as they say, never been easier.
Getting onto a network's promo rotation, on the other hand, can be a bit more challenging.
But it can happen. I've seen it manifest in so many different ways, time and time again.
First, to Go for the Gold, you must know the lingo and what to expect.
Here are just a few questions you should answer for yourself long before you step into the booth for a promo session:
  • If you go to CBS, NBC, ABC or FOX, do you know how to read to picture?
  • If you're in the booth or hooking up via ISDN, are you familiar with "the beeps"?
  • Do you know how to adjust your read to make it fit in time?
  • Do you even know the questions to ask before you start a promo session?
And do you speak "Promo-ese"?
That's right, in the TV promo world there is a script structure that sometimes defies all the proper rules of the English language.
It's almost a language unto itself, and I encourage you to learn it, and all you can about the culture of on-air promos.
Like an Olympic athlete, learn all about your event - in this case, On-Air Promotions. Have a disciplined approach (practice every day) and work smarter not harder (find classes / coaches / mentors specific to promos).
Before long, you'll be giving Gold Medal reads!
David Alden has nearly 30 years of experience as a trained and seasoned actor, voice actor, voice-over coach and director of on-air network promos. For many years he also voiced theatrical trailers. He has directed voice-over sessions for approximately 50,000 promos and trailers, and continues work today with the top voice talent in this field. As time allows, he offers voice-over promo coaching in private sessions and as a guest at workshops and master classes.
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Comments (1)
Joana Garcia
11/7/2018 at 7:27 PM
Great article. I will definitely take your advice and put it into action. Thanks, Joana
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