guided session

Why are live sessions a Great Opportunity for Clients and Talent alike…

Out of the gate, I’ll say it: live sessions, also known as guided sessions, are awesome! If you are not familiar with the term, it is when your client live directs you. You hear them in the ear of you head phone while you record. I usually do one ear on, one ear off, and they direct you through the recording of the script. This is typically done for commercials, YouTube pre-rolls, and character work, but now I am even having some eLearning sessions live directed. When there are so many ways that a script can be interpreted, this guarantees that the client has exactly what they want at the end of the session. You can blow their minds with your amazing voiceover performance, they walk away confident that they have the exact audio that they need. The live/guided session is a win/win for all involved. So, the specifics. What is my favorite way to connect? Without being coy, I am happy to connect in whatever way is easiest for my clients and I offer a wide variety of options to accommodate everyone:

Different Methods

There are so many great ways to run a live session. Do I actually have a favorite and a least favorite? Sure, but really as long as the client is comfortable I am happy to oblige.

ipDTL/ISDN Bridge

IpDTL was the first method I ever used to connect. My very first coach, Anne Ganguzza, used ipDTL for all of her sessions. So, I was very comfortable with this when I launched my business and proud to offer this to my clients. Around the time that I opened shop, I had two agents who said they would sign me if I had an ISDN line. I learned that it was no longer possible to get regular ISDN lines in my part of New Jersey. So, I use an ipDTL bridge to ISDN. I have my own direct number. Initially I was thrilled. I always test connect before a session. I have had more than one snafu. To his credit, the creator of ipDTL is very available via facebook and tries to address all issues. There is, however, a considerable time lag as he is across the pond and he never figured our why my hiccups happened. I have been fine with my regular ipDTL service but I am less than confident in my ISDN service. I will say that when I send my clients an ipDTL link and they have never used it before, they are always very impressed with how clear the connection is.

Source Connect

I have been very pleased with my Source Connect service. The funny-not-so-funny story is that I had to sign up for it when I had a session scheduled and my ISDN line would not connect! The producer was very kind and said it happens often and that we should try this. I work with a lot of producers now who love Source Connect and it is easy.  Last week, I had a commercial session for a TV spot. There were four talents on the line at the same time. The producer had the clients in the studio with him. He actually sent as a Source Connect Now line. It was great. If you have never used this before, just don’t be shocked that if the others are not muted you will hear a slight echo. Once they mute the echo goes away and it does not effect the recording. There are also not typically latency issues with Source Connect which I really like.

Skype/Zoom

I have some clients who love to use Skype and Zoom. I link them together, I suppose, because anyone could use them for anything, even outside of VO. If you are using them for voice over, be mindful to check your settings and be sure that you are coming through your pre-amp. Both of these are easy to use and for zoom if your session is under 45 minutes they are free. Skype is free as well. I find that my clients in Europe and Asia LOVE Skype and love to message on Skype! So, if you work with folks on Skype, remember to check your messages from time to time.

Phone

Funny as it sounds, I have some older Baby Boomer aged clients who just want to be on speaker phone! They do not like anything “high tech” and they want to keep it easy. If you are like me, your mobile phone may not work in your booth. That’s ok. I have a Magic Jack line for my office and that gives me a landline phone that I can bring in my booth. It is inexpensive and reliable.

Case Study: eLearning Session

So, I mentioned earlier that my live sessions used to be primarily for commercials and now I am even doing them for eLearning. This is fantastic! I’ll share a great example. I have an opportunity to work with a new eLearning company. To clarify, they are not new, jut new for me.  Unlike most, they record all audio by guided session. I connected with Shelley, the director, via Skype. Her feedback was fantastic- very specific in terms of tone, pacing, which words to hit, and how to change whatever the last line was. We moved through the demo script and developed a wonderful rhythm and flow. I cherish the feedback as often when we self direct we miss things or hear them differently. The session was a true joy

Final Thoughts:

Remember, regardless of what your revision policy may be for self-directed work, when you give a live session, all audio is final delivery. This is industry standard. The session should not end until the client has what they want. If their needs change, then they need to pay you for another booking.

Talking about it all at Sunday Brunch

My friends often remark about how much time my family spends together, but it is something I look forward to all week. Actually, when I travel for work, I have FOMO from being away from my family because we all have so much fun together and are so close. When I say my family is together, I am talking about me, my husband, our twins, my parents, my sister, my husband’s parents, my husband’s sister, and her family. That is a lot of people!  Our time together often involves lengthy conversations about where we should eat, and you can imagine with so much input it is hard to make everyone happy.

Anyway, last Sunday we were at a new South Orange hotspot opened by a well-known Brooklyn restauranteur called the Fox and the Falcon for our brunch. I was in my glory because I got to sit next to my four year old niece Emilia and she is quite precious.

As a small-business owner and professional voiceover actor, people in my family and in truth random acquaintances alike are always making “helpful”suggestions about potential clients I should pursue. So at brunch my dad said, in his heavy Philly accent, “Hey Laur, I was thinking. It would be really great if you could do a car commercial for Mercedes.”  Really dad? I am not a sarcastic person by nature, I am pretty much all rainbows and lollypops. But did he really think it never occurred to me that doing a television or radio commercial for a luxury brand like Mercedes would be a dream come true? Or that I did not already have such ambitions? There is only one way to make such voiceover dreams come true: to pursue them with all the ambition I have in me.

Delivering For Our Clients

The single most important thing to remember is that our clients have a dream. Perhaps vision or goal is more appropriate. They may have a personal career dream, but for the specific project we are supporting them with, they have a vision and it is up to us to bring that vision to life. Any voiceover actor who has had a live session recently can tell you that you will give multiple versions of the same line until your client hears what they need. They know what they are looking for and they want us to match what they have in their head. I have been told over and over that producers don’t know what they want but that is not my experience. We have to give them exactly what they want only better so that they are overjoyed when our session is over. We not only leave our clients feeling over joyed by providing amazing reads, but our studios must be broadcast ready and our sound has to be perfect. That is how we deliver their voiceover dreams.  We make it feel effortless to them so that they are delighted and thrilled and then we thank them for casting us. It’s that simple. We have to be a pleasure to work with and they have to have exactly what they need at the end of the session. So making our client’s dreams come true is entirely about the service that we provide for them.

 

How Do We Make Our VoiceOver Dreams Come True?

Making our voiceover dreams come true is a lot more complex! First, you must know what your dreams and ambitions are. The idea of “success” is far to vague. For me, I have always been extremely passionate about commercial work, so I cast a broad net in other areas of voiceover that were tangentially related, including radio imaging, promos, and telephony. That strategy has worked well for me. My dream is not just as vague as having consistent, sustainable income in this genre. Like my dad suggested, I do dream of specific clients and have been fortunate enough to work with them.

Roll Up our sleeves and work hard: Cold Calling and Cold Emailing

The only way to add new clients to our roster continually is to make cold calls and cold emails regularly. Yes you will have a lot of rejection, speak to a lot of morons who have no idea what you do, and feel like you are waisting a ton of time. But for the past year I have done countless phone messages for Whole Foods Markets. And guess what? That was the result of cold calling. I have been on Pandora Radio’s roster for several years. That was the result of cold emailing. I have more than 15 agents. All of them were from cold emails. Every day I typically email between 30 and 100 radio stations in hope of getting them to sign a retainer for ratio imaging. All of the stations I presently work with I have found this way, and with over 12,000 stations in the United States alone there are a lot to go after. It is imperative that you actively pursue your dream and if you are not willing to do this then you must question how dedicated and determined you really are.

LOTS of auditioning

Auditioning will also help your dreams come true. Whether they are for pay to plays, direct from clients, or for agents, this is your chance to showcase your abilities. I have heard other industry people say that the audition is the job and I could not agree more! You cannot audition too much and if you have a poor audition ratio than you likely need more coaching. Your auditions are a microcosm of your actual work, so you cannot fear auditions.

Sitting and waiting never helped anyone!

In any industry, have you ever heard of anyone who just sat home and waited for success to find them? That never works. In an industry filled with go getters and lots of legitimately talented folks, you must pursue your dreams with all of your ambition. Your dreams can come true, but they can only come true in voiceover with hard work, perseverance, and determination.

from ipDTL to Source Connect and Everything in Between, Laura Schreiber Talks about her preferences

So You Want to Direct Me…

The answer always is, and should always be, great!  I always want to make my clients very happy, and this is just another opportunity to do so! As a full-time, professional voiceover actor, I have been set up to provide my clients with live/guided/directed sessions since I opened shop. One of my coaches used ipDTL for every session, so I felt very comfortable on that platform from the very start. I remember my first directed session like it was yesterday! It was a video game session with a German director. He wanted to use skype and their were 3 others on the other end giving me feedback. I loved working with them because I was able to give them specifically what they needed and wanted from the character that I was playing, a teenage badass called Jes, in the moment they needed it! There was no need for revisions because when the live session ended they had every line just as the wanted it. I put so much energy into each take and gave them multiple options. Having feedback as I recorded was so valuable.  I was not nervous, I loved every minute. Another advantage of live sessions is that it is much easier to get to know your clients and build relationships with them when you actually work directly with their team. I learned that early on too. While you can certainly get to know clients from back and forth emails, there is nothing like actually speaking to them and working with them to make them happy. Guided sessions are fantastic and that is why I offer so many options to accommodate my clients!

ipDTL and the ISDN Bridge

I love using ipDTL. As I mentioned earlier, I started using it during my coaching many years ago and loved the clear connection and the ease of use. As I try to be a client centered service provider who makes everything as easy as possible for the folks I work with, I like that this as a service that I provide my clients free of charge for them. I simply send them a link and we are ready to go. I have never had issues with my ipDTL connection and my clients always comment on what a clear connection it is. Here is a brief video where I show how user friendly it is: 

I also have a direct ISDN line with my own Los Angeles phone number through an ipDTL bridge. Several of my agents said they would not sign me without an ISDN line, so this was the easiest way to solve that challenge as Verizon stopped installing new ISDN lines in the winter of 2015.  I have been pleased with this as well although I have had some hiccups with the ISDN service. The owner/founder of ipDTL looked into it and found no problems with my line, so I was left befuddled.

I do also like the ipDTL facebook group. It has helped answer a lot of questions over the years! It is free and a great asset for those of us who use ipDTL often.

Source Connect

To be totally transparent, I actually signed up for Source Connect in a state of total hysteria when my ISDN would not work and I needed to connect with a studio in LA for a big commercial at that moment! Thank goodness it was up and running quickly and Source Connect saved the day. I did not initially find it as user friendly as ipDTL and needed a lot of directions and help from others. Since installing Source Connect, quite a few producers have wanted to use it which is great. The connection is extremely clear and it is also easy to use, once you know what to look for!

Skype

It seems that a lot of my overseas clients still want to use Skype. Skype is fine. It is not great, it is fine. There can be a frustrating latency issue, or lag. I also find that there can be a lot of hiccups when there are software updates. It makes me nervous to use Skype in lieu of ipDTL of Source Connect, but when a client strongly prefers this I will always accommodate.  Perhaps when they are comfortable with the format this drives their preference.

Speaker Phone

I have had a handful of clients demand to use the speaker phone in my booth! My mobile phone does not work in my studio as it is so sound proof it blocks the signal. I do have a land line there instead and I can use this upon request.  This is the worst option as it does not go through my pre-amp and microphone, so clients cannot hear the actual audio quality and sound. There are nuances to the recording that they will totally miss. Again, if the client is most comfortable like this I will oblige.

Sum Up

Over the years I have had a chance to do countless guided sessions.  Across genres, for all sorts of projects, I have had clients direct me for everything. While most commonly they are used for commercial sessions, I had one helluva narration session where the client was paying for an hour and she intended to use every minute of it! Boy did she have me jump through hoops, it was somewhat shocking! Whether it is for commercials, narration, IVR, video games, or promos, there is one thing in common: every session should end with a very happy client!