Explainers

The Year of The Guided Session

There are a lot of things that will make 2020 memorable for the rest of our lives: living through a pandemic, the national election, the state of our country in general. As a long-time professional voice over actor, one of the trends I have noticed in the past few months as bookings have picked up again is that so many of them involve live sessions also referred to as guided sessions. Prior to Covid-19, I would say that I self directed 80% of my work, and the rest were live sessions. Now I have live sessions almost daily. Interestingly most of my clients prefer zoom, although often I am asked if I have Source Connect and specifically which version I have. I do happen to have the highly sought after standard version, but interestingly that is not what is most often requested by my average client when they want or need a guided sessions. How do I feel about this rise in live sessions? I love them!

Genres Using Them

I see this rise in live sessions occurring across genres, but in particular in commercials, in explainers, and in eLearning. I also have been booking a lot more work with NDAs for these sessions, and that seems much more common this year. Across the genres, I am booking a blend of covid specific and good, old-fashioned brand relevant content. I think the clients love the live sessions because they can really get the read they want when they want it.

Trends I Have Noticed

The major trend I have noticed is how many participants are in on the call. It used to just be one or two except when I was doing video games or mobile apps, then I typically had more. Recently, on almost all of my sessions except for a tv spot last week that was just one producer, there are huge teams of 7 or 8. They seem to like to bring on everyone from the person who cast me to the person who wrote the script to the folks from the brand to the creatives putting the content together. The teams are big. And what seems to happen now is that one person will give directions. Then they will tweak the directions. Then when they are satisfied they will ask for feedback from everyone else on the team. This can go on an on and it can be very amazing, depending on how patient you are. As I have been fortunate to have a lot of well-written scripts, it is typically easy to provide alternative reads, but that is not always the case. Most of the time the teams are on the same page and most of the people keep themselves on mute. I have been on a few calls where someone forgets to mute themselves and we have some issues later.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my clients ultimately ask for zoom even though I have Source Connect. I actually think this is related to the trend of included everyone in the live session. It is much easier to loop everyone in via zoom, when with Source Connect only the ones with the subscription can join.

Why They Are Great

Guided sessions are wonderful. Put simply, clients finish with what they need! It does not end until the client has what they need. If it does, they have to pay for a new sessions. I also happen to love the creative energy and the back and forth that happens in a live session. If you are lucky enough to get a good rhythm going, then you can really make something special together. Most of the time I too feel that the work that came out of a live session is different than what I would have submitted had I self directed. You just end up going in different directions based on where the client and the production team takes you. They have a specific vision in their head and you have this amazing opportunity to bring that sound to life. The collaborative process is incredible. Providing instant gratification, knowing that your client will end the session with the pristine audio they need to complete the spot is a really good feeling. There is no back and forth. There are no more takes. And working together as part of the creative team is so much more fun than doing it alone.

Just be Mindful of Time Zones

One quick note, as the voiceover industry is typically quite an international one, do mind your time zone conversions! It can be trickier than it seems! Years ago I had a session with a client in the South of France. I was coming back from the beach myself, and little did I realize I asked them to record at 10 PM their time. I felt terrible. More recently I had a new client in Mountain Time! I was so confused by this. I don’t know why, but it twisted my head in a pretzel. So, especially if you have multiple bookings in one day, try not to overlap them! The zoom calendar is super helpful that way!

It’s Not all Movie Nights and Puppy Snuggles

For those of us solopreneurs who have worked from home for years, some aspects of social distancing surrounding Covid-19 are not new. We are working from home. Well, as a full-time voice over actor I was already doing that. The new challenge is that my entire family is now here. While I am thrilled that we now have the option of spending all of this quality time together, I still am eager to provide the best possible customer service to both my present, existing clients and to folks now in need of voiceover services. To that end, so that you can fully understand the range of what is out there, I have put together this brand new Covid-19 demo for you. It is a multi-genre demo, thematically linked by our present situation. I hope that it supports your present needs. Here is how else I can help you:

New, Informative Phone Messages

Your phone messages are a great way to update all callers of the new changes. Hours, new policies, current procedures all can be added to both greetings, after hours messages, and on hold messages. I have always done a lot of telephony and IVR work and can help with script writing if need-be. It is very important to reassure all clients that business goes on, even if there are changes at the moment. Great phone messages are a huge help, and rush options are certainly available if you need them!

Engaging, Sincere PSAs

After years of doing commercials and PSAs, never did I anticipate voicing them for such a time of need. But maternal emotion aside, our moment has come. I will work with you and your team to bring the nuanced script to life and make your PSA stand out from the rest. Are you looking to emphasize hope right now? Perhaps you want to reassure your base? Maybe you have a solution to the problems your clients are having. I get it and I have the sincere, relatable voice to calm your customers right now.

Helpful Explainers

Explainer videos have always been fundamental to letting customers know what services you provide and how things work. In these uncertain times, now more than ever, updating explainers to make them relevant to today’s current corona virus situation makes sound business sense. Bulk pricing is available if you have a lot of content that needs updated.

In Store Announcements

Does your store have in-store announcements? Some play over the entire store. Some play at checkout. If so, they are likely to change now with the new and constantly evolving virus news. Further, you likely need a full time talent who is in the studio a lot and is available to keep up with the rate of change. I am there to support you in these endeavors.

Updated eLearning

Often companies have spent years creating content libraries that represent their strategy and business practices. In light of current virus concerns, this content is not irrelevant, it just needs tweaking, updates, and revisions to reflect new corporate procedures. With so many working from home, everything from time sheets to pay role to team check-ins is now different. I am here for all of your content needs and can get them to you as soon as you need them. For large eLearning projects, if there is a bulk of work, I offer retainer agreements.

Full Service Production with Industry Partners

This can be an overwhelming time when so much needs to be recorded all at once! Don’t worry, I have you back! Over the years I have built fantastic relationships with industry partners. If you know what you need, your budget, and when you need it, I have a fantastic team who can offer full production. From script writing to video and audio, I can coordinate the entire project for you on time and within budget.

Live Sessions in Broadcast Ready Home Studio

As always, I record everything in my broadcast ready home study on my Neumann TLM 103, Avalon M5 preamp, Steinberg UR12 Interface, and Macbook Air with Twisted Wav. I offer live sessions with flexible hours as I am always in the studio full time via Source Connect, Zoom, and Skype. I am always happy to self direct too, but for jobs over $250, I always offer the option of a live session, so that you have what you want when you want it. Audio recorded in live sessions is final delivery, as is industry standard. I never end a live session into my clients are thrilled with the audio.

 

Making Lemonade

This time of social isolation is hard for everyone, even those of us that work in padded foam booths. It is not easy to stay apart from those that we love, to avoid our favorite people and our favorite places. Most of us have never been told to do something like this before and that our lives depend on it. It is in this most unusual setting that as a working creative I still see meaning in my work, usefulness, and purpose. As a working mom, I am often juggling my home life and my professional life. My son asked my for help with an essay he has to write about Kate Chopin The Awakening. Jack had to read some articles of commentary and react. The articles talked about how Chopin creates a reality that is both a utopia and a dystopia at once. This resonated with me and had so much meaning in light of our present pandemic. I can still do what I love. I am surrounded by the people I love. I have these to precious dogs who I love. Everything looks the same, but everything is different. In the face of this, I prefer to make lemonade.

What triggered these thoughts?

Since Thanksgiving, I have been working out regularly with my 15 year old son Jack. Jack and I have been work out buddies before, but never with such regularity. So what motivated me, a full-time working mom of 2, to stick to my routine this time? Well since 2016 Jack has been on growth shots. He was not producing enough growth hormone and was so small he was not even on the charts. Now, with the help of Nutropin, after just two years he has grown more than two feet and is bigger than I am! But, as with all strong medications, there are terrible side effects and one of them is that Jack’s blood sugar is quite high. The doctor suggested that losing weight would help. 

Jack and I joined the Max fitness challenge and have loved it. As a professional voiceover actor, I spend my days in a padded foam booth. Getting out every night for out 7:15 class has not only helped me reach me health and fitness goals, but has been invigorating in so many way.  Often others in the class will comment about how great it is that Jack is there and ask why he came. Not thinking any thing of it, I would answer honestly and explain about the growth shots and Jack’s sugar. Often as busy mom’s we won’t make a change for ourselves, but for our kids we will move mountains, right?

Well one night this week Jack told me that he would prefer that I “tell the truth” when asked why he was there. I was blown away, as I thought my reply could not be more honest. Jack said he was going to Max Fitness because he was looking for a harder, more challenging workout. That was it. He objected to my response because it made him sound like a “lazy schlub.” This really got me thinking. Two truths. Two sides of the same coin. But Jack’s perspective was surely the much more optimistic one. Jack’s outlook was full of hope and did not focus on any possible negative outcomes. This had me reexamining so many facets of my life. That very day I had been complaining that I had such a tough day, when actually four great things had happened. Instead of focussing on the great things as my kid would have, I was sweating the small stuff and letting everything that did not go my way define my perspective, and I realized that was ridiculous!

Just in Time for Grattitude Day

My conversation with Jack gave me a lot to reflect on. It turns out that Friday was National Grattitude Day. For someone who spends a lot of time working as a professional narrator, narrating other peoples explainer videos and projects, it was time to change my own narrative! Ironically, I am often chosen for projects because I sound hopeful, but I continue to be so hard on my self.

Well, this grattitude day marks the begging of a conscious choice to celebrate my successes instead of fixating on my own shortcomings. It is an irony of life that I am often specifically hired for the vocal qualities of being upbeat, energetic, and happy while internally I am measuring all of the things that I did not finish or the additional jobs I had wanted to book or the blogs that were never written or the friends that I never saw. After so many years of wanting to accomplish so much, it is easier to maintain this pattern of self scrutiny when we set the bar so impossibly high.

When the reality is that we are working more than 8 hour days, booking work in a super competitive industry, and somehow still managing to feed my family, help my kids with their homework, do the laundry, workout, and see friends from time to time. When I look it at that way it seems that working mom’s everywhere should not only be celebrated by our families, but we should be doing a heck of a lot more to remind each other  how proud we are!

This is My Fight Song…

A lot of times when candidates run for office they have a song for their campaign. When Jack and I are in our gym class every night, and I am just breathing and trying to make it through, a lot of times it’s the music that helps me get through. I focus on the song. The beat, the rhythm, the lyrics all help me pass the time and survive what our trainer has us doing. On Thursday the old song “Get Ready, Cause Here I Come” was playing and if there ever were a song that captured the spirit of how I feel, it is that song! The lyrics do not fit exactly, but boy does it get to the heart of how I feel. I feel like I am still just at the beginning of life’s journey and the world better be ready for me, because here I am:)