digital training

The Best of Things

The Unfathomable

On Friday morning I sat next to my son, in the midst of our grief stricken community, at a friend’s funeral. Tragically our friend had what is believed to be a sudden heart attack while traveling for work in Asia. Everyone was devastated, most of all his wife, his two beautiful daughters, his two brothers, his parents, and his grandmother who is a Holocaust survivor. Taken from his family at just 43, and listening to their tearful tributes, one after the next, the theme that came through is that there is no promise of tomorrow. If today is all that we have, are we making the most of today?

In voiceover, the rhythm of our days varies. Voiceover talents typically talk about our field being feast or famine. But sitting at this funeral, and thinking about the totality of how we live our life, forced me to take a step back and look at my career as a whole and not in microbursts. If today is all I have, then these are some of the reflections I am grappling with.

The Relationships We Build Mean Everything

While voiceover can certainly start to feel like a numbers game in terms of how many auditions an actor submits or how many marketing emails we send out, the building of real, inter personal relationships is far more important. Getting to know our clients and the producers who work with us means so much more than whether we submitted 10 or twenty auditions on Thursday.  Remembering to ask how someone’s son’s asthma is or checking in on how the toy fair went out of genuine concern, and letting these folks get to know you, is far more meaningful then submitting into the abyss.

Relationships with our fellow voiceover talents is also so important. I will never forget the first time I heard another talent say “the rising tide in the harbor lifts us all.” The sense of camaraderie in voiceover is incredible. I have blogged before about my womens’ accountability group. In addition to daily contact with these women, I look forward to our weekly meeting and that our is one of the most important hours of my week. It gives me a support, stability, and confidence. I am so thankful for the close relationships that I have built with other professional voiceover actors. I particularly love the women that I have met and am so thankful for this bond in my post sorority years.

Stand Tall and Be Proud

If today were all that I had, I would want my children to know that every single day, all the work that I do is for them. That every single booking, each commercial and phone message, each narration,  they all add up and they were all for them. As a momtrepreneur, I have done my best to show them that as a family we stick together and we take care of each other. That I am proud of all of my projects. I am proud of both the actual work that I have done and I am proud of what it represents. I am proud that I figured out how to work full time and get the laundry done and cook dinner, because believe me when I say that was not easy to learn and I still wish that fairies would come into my house and do it all. But nothing means more to me than having dinner with my husband and kids and talking about our day, and I guard that time like a hawk. So I am trying my best and somedays I juggle better than others, but when I look back I am so proud that I have at least figured this out for them. And as far as jobs go, working as a professional voiceover actor is a pretty cool one!

Leaving the Bubble

One of the biggest challenges for me when I went back to work was leaving the bubble which I pleasantly inhabited for the prior part of my married life. In that bubble, even though we live in a fairly diverse area relative to where I grew up in Pennsylvania, most people are from the same socio economic background, lived in NYC at one point, and are quite well-educated. Having attended an Ivy League University in the North East, when I first left the bubble, it was a bit shocking for me, meeting people from different parts of the country with very different lives. I very quickly learned that you could not make any assumptions about peoples’ backgrounds based on their last names, and that despite where we were from and where people went to college, I loved being around other creatives and meeting people who were so different than those around me every day was a joy and an inspiration. It opened my eyes to a new world and I have met so many amazing folks. Leaving my comfort zone was far from easy, but in my travels and at all sorts of industry events I am so thankful to have pushed myself to engage. This is an aspect of voiceover that a lot of folks don’t talk about but has been a big deal for me.

A Last Glimpse of Studio Life

Lastly, but certainly not least, I am so thankful that I spend my days in my professional studio with my dog Violet. Violet, a lovely and sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is the light of my life. She is the best companion a girl could ask for. If I had all the money in the world I would clone her like Barbra Streisand did with her dog. If tragedy struck today, I would be so thankful that Violet was on my lap or by my feet and brought me the greatest joy.

Yes, That’s Me in that Ad!

Laura Schreiber Voiceover Actor walking her dog! Come On, Just One Line

I was walking my dog and ran into one of my friendly neighbors working on her flowers. She asked me how my “whole voiceover thing” was going. Then she did what commonly happens. Krista said, “Can you just do one of your lines from a recent job?” This actually happens all the time, at dinner parties, doctor’s appointments, temple- folks ask to hear my work. They want it live, unscripted, in the moment. This is funny for several reasons. While I have been trained in improv, that is not typically part of what I do, especially in most of my commercial work. A very small percentage of both my auditions and my actual bookings ask for a voiceover actor who can improv. Next, all of my work is done with a script. I seldom memorize the script. There are often in-session script changes that require me to mark the script with the new lines as I go. So these impromptu performances? Well, they do not represent my actual work. But, it does get at the heart of what is really being asked: that folks I run into understand that I have found my passion in an exciting industry and I have the fortune of booking a lot of commercial work as a full-time, professional voiceover actor. I have found such joy in the 15, 30, and 60 second commercial spots full of emotional twists and plot turns and voiceover for commercial are my thang.

On the radio, ohhh on the radio

Since I started in voiceover, I have booked a lot of voiceover commercials. Perhaps this is because I am super expressive and radio is so different than tv. Without the visual for the listener to understand, as the commercial voiceover actor, all of the story is in the voice. The change for discontent to the solution to one’s problem, the shift from happy to vulnerable, it all has to be audible, and I eat those scripts up. From Am to FM to satellite to Pandora to Spotify, I enjoy all sort of commercial spots. Even the tags are fulfilling to me! I particularly love those fast-paced disclaimers that come at the end of ads. Whether it is a 15 second spot or a 60 second spot, I very much enjoy working on the script and figuring out what I am saying and why I am saying it. I get so much out of these commercial reads.

My Uncle Heard Me…..

Whether it is a one off or a campaign, local, regional, or national, I still get so excited to book television commercials at all levels! I have had the fortune to book a few campaigns in Florida where my Aunt Jody and Uncle Mark live, and they have seen the spots run which is extremely fulfilling to me. Often friends and family will comment that I don’t sound like myslef, or that they did not recognize me when I am on tv. I’m not sure if that is a compliment or not, but I am super happy and bubbly in my daily life, and not all scripts are written that way, so as a voiceover actor it is my job to play the role that I am playing in each commercial. I typically have a warm, conversational tone and I try to make each spot sound believable and sincere. As a professional voiceover actor in commercials, it is my job to bring the client their vision for the script and offer different options for the read. There are typically so many right ways to do it each time. I am so happy to be cast in each commercial, as long as the client is happy in the end that is all that matters.

Hello Again:)

In both radio and tv commercials, my greatest joy as a voiceover actor is the opportunity to work with clients again. Whether it is a producer or casting director, I love working with the same folks again and again. This does not mean I assume what they want or need on a project. But, I am always delighted that they are pleased enough with my work to use my voice for another commercial. Whether these clients needed guided sessions via ipDTL, Source Connect, or ISDN; or, they had me record and submit the work independently, their repeat use of me means they were happy and I more than met their needs. I am going for over joyed every single time I deliver the audio.

Staying in the Game

So, in this ever changing industry, with so many great talents going after the same gigs every day, how do I keep up? I believe the answer lies with on-going professional development. Just as doctors and lawyers must, so do professional voiceover actors.  I work with private coaches and I go to conferences. Often some of the rosters that I am on also bring in coaches who are top in our field to train us. I take advantage of all of these opportunities so that I have the confidence to know that every day I am bringing the best I can into my commercial reads.

Professional Voice Actress - Laura Schriber

Last year I made the bold and previously unprecedented move to fly to Atlanta for the annual ATD conference. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Anyone attending, literally anyone, was a potential client for me. Besides the enormous marketing potential that the conference venue gave me, I knew that I would also have an opportunity to learn so much about an industry that I already was extremely passionate about. I arrived at the Atlanta Conference center via shuttle on the first day of the expo and as I descended down what seemed to be endless levels of escalators to reach the expo level, my enthusiasm and anticipation grew. With my bag of information about my professional voiceover business  and swag for potential clients in tow, I was ready. On the way down, I stopped to get a bottle of water. I began chatting with a women who was also attending for the first time. She was also stopping to get a bottle of water. Over our shared thirst, both for eLearning and for water, we realized we had so much in common. As it turned out, my warm, professional sound was exactly what her company needed for their training modules and my water buddy has become a longtime client. Put simply, I am the solution that they need- the comforting, warm, relatable professional voice for an elearning narrator who is pleasant to listen to AND delivers my finished audio promptly.

A Relatable Narrator

First, my meeting was so fortuitous because I had the professional, corporate sound this new client sought in an eLearning narrator. My voice gave a vibe that was both warm and relatable. As a professional voiceover actor, sounding geniune is essential in all genres and especially in eLearning work. When I have the opportunity to meet a client and speak with them person to person, and they realize that the same warmth carries through when I narrate their eLearning modules, I am able to deliver a unique and desirable finished product that appeals to their employees. Why does it matter if I sound warm and not just sophisticated and savvy? They actually need the content to be listened to. Evert word. All the way. So I can sound like the ivy league graduate that I am, or I can sound like the hip millennial that you are happy grabbed the seat next to you at the conference table. The latter always wins out.

Next, as I narrate eLearning work, even though the modules I am given are often very straight forward corporate policies, I am ALWAYS playing a role or character. I learned this technique early on in my training. I decide who my client needs me to be, whether it is Susie in Human Resources or Kim in IT, and then I flesh out my character even further. What is their story? Once I decide who I am playing, I commit to the scene and you can hear it in my voice. As a professional voiceover actor, this technique absolutely makes me a stronger eLearning narrator.

It’s the Teacher in Me…

Lastly, as a former teacher, when I am with people in eLearning I fit in seamlessly. Whether I am talking to an Instructional Designer or an LMS creator, as an eLearning narrator I love the eLearning and Training community. I often say that I have found my people, and perhaps because I identify with them so easily, finding my voice in this crowd happened quite naturally. When doing what you love to do, and what you are passionate about, it is much easier to break down a task, analyze it, and deliver.

Keep Em’ Listening!

Companies hire professional voiceover actors like me to narrate their eLearning modules because these modules have an intrinsic value, the companies spend so much on the technology, and ultimately they want the voice to sound fantastic too. The voice can make or break the entire project.

Friends and family often ask me about my work. Sometimes they do not even know what eLearning is and I have to explain it. Sometimes they do. Recently we had dinner with a good friend of mine who is a Vice President at a major pharmaceutical company. When I told her about some of my recent projects, she said “oh- you’re the training that I play in my car and I skip right though?” Well, my answer is that if they cast my voice and the listener is connecting, then- no! With the right voice to draw in the intended audience, content should not ever be skipped. By using a warm, professional, connected voice as the eLearning narrator, clients should be delighted upon final delivery and employees should connect to the eLearning with ease.

So you’re a newbie. You’ve found your passion! Wonderful. The problem is, the pursuit of your dream doesn’t come easy and you want to work with the best in the business to get your foot in the door. Here are some ideas until you earn or save enough money to finance your private coaching sessions:

  1. Listen to podcasts of known coaches.
  2. Watch youtube videos.
  3. Organize a group of talents and create a class with a coach.
  4. Look for actual voiceover classes- there are so many of them and they are outstanding!
  5. Find a practice partner who is at least at your level or slightly better and work with them often.

Ultimately, if voiceover is the only thing in the entire world that you can imagine spending your life doing, than you will not let anything prevent you from achieving these goals. If having a coach and doing a demo is essential, then you will come up with the money. If your dream had been to buy a franchise of Dunkin Donuts and you wanted to make donuts, you would have found a way to invest. Well, in voiceover we need to invest in ourselves. There is no better way to build a strong foundation than with good coaching, and  if you do any of the above suggestions as preparation, any coach will appreciate that.

  1. Did your voiceover talent have coaching?
  2. Do they pursue on-going professional development?
  3. What is their studio setup/equipment?
  4. What it their policy on revisions/pickups?
  5. What is their turnaround time?

 Put simply, the answers to these questions will tell you a lot about a potential voice over actor! If you take the time to answer these questions before hiring a voice over talent for your next project, you will avoid a good deal of stress and uncertainty!

Why does it matter whether or not a voice over talent ever worked with a coach? Just as teachers have on-going professional development workshops, doctors go to medical conferences, lawyers must take CLCs, voiceover actors must continually work on their craft. This is in part because the needs and expectations of our industry are constantly changing and in part because we can always improve on our skills. Professional feedback and working with others is the only way to bring out the best in our performances. Voiceover talents who are willing to invest in their training are worth your investment. Voiceover actors who have not committed to their own practice are likely not worth your time either.

Does this voiceover talent pursue ongoing professional development? In a fast-paced, evolving industry that has so many new niches, it is so important for a voiceover coach to take advantage of professional development opportunities. In addition to coaching, there are on-line webinars, accountability partners, voiceover conferences, professional groups, podcasts… the list goes on and on. There are also professional organizations like the eLearning Guild and the Children’s Media Association that voiceover talents often belong to in order to enrich their learning and their networking opportunities. All of this matters very much!

The studio set up of your voiceover talent matters A LOT! While there is not one right microphone or or one go to interface, there are some guidelines that are important. It does matter that your talent have a microphone with an interface and not a USB mic. This all pre-supposes that the voiceover artist has their own studio in the first place which is, of course, essential. Rule out and talent who does not have their own studio. The easiest criteria is to look for WoVo approval of the studio.  WoVo is the professional association for voice actors. If the voiceover actor or voice over actress has gone to the trouble of getting WoVo certified, then audio engineers have vetted that talent and their booth is ok to use for your project.

All talents have a policy on pickups and revisions. There is not an industry wide policy, so if it is not made clear in your initial email or phone exchange, simply ask them what their policy is. It is very important that the voice over actress or actor be accessible if you have a last minute script change or if you need a pickup and you need to find out in advance what is included in your initial price and what is not. I cover all performance errors.  The cost for revisions varies depending on how much was paid for the job upfront and the size of the revision. It is also always only considered a revision BEFORE the work has aired. Once the work has aired it is a new job. Still, all of this needs to be fleshed out at the start of the job so that you know whether or not you are within budget.  The GVAA rate guide is a great way to understand industry standard rates, and from there the talents’ policy should make more sense.

Lastly, you should find out what the voiceover talent’s turn around time is. Some voice over actors accommodate RUSH jobs. That means you will have your finished audio delivered within four hours. Typically, unless you are doing a large eLearning module, a 24 hour turn-around is standard. Still, you should never assume anything. When sending out a job, it is best to tell the talent what you need and ask the talent specifically if they can accommodate that.

The best recipe for success is open communications! While there are no guarantees, voiceover actors are typically friendly, outgoing folks, so the more specific you are from the start, the better your project will be!

Say What?

Some things just role off the tongue. Some scripts, or pieces or copy, are music to your mouth. You open the file on your computer and you smile because you know that it will be a joy to work with such a script, either because it is so clever, or because it is so beautifully written, or sometimes because it is just so fun.  Other times you think, ok, no problem. Then sometimes you remind yourself that this E-learning content is important and you have to bring the meaning to life regardless of how it is written.

So, what happens when there is some very tricky vocabulary in the copy (that’s voiceover jargon for script.)  Sometimes we get lucky and there is a pronunciation guide.  Sometimes we are even luckier and someone has thought to attach a recording, especially if there is a regional dialect that effects how the word is pronounced. Other times we are left to figure it out. We can use the dictionary or the internet. Youtube videos can be amazingly helpful.

Occasionally I have submitted a project and been confident that my pronunciation was spot on only to be asked for a pickup for that word. The answer is, the client is always right! However they want you to say the word is how it will be in their project. At the end of the day, it is most important that the client is happy.  I have never had a scenario where more than one pickup was needed on a specific pronunciation, so it always gets taken care of.

I guess the point is, no one has seen every vocabulary word or name or place, so we are bound to run in to something in our career and need to know how to say it. As long as the voice talent is pleasant and accommodating, it should always end with a job well-done!