Working a Session: Defining Service

Talent generally believes that auditioning well is the primary skill in being a voice actor. But one voice over secret is that how a talent acts consistently in sessions is even more important than giving great auditions. Automatically, most performers probably think I’m referring to performing the copy for the producer but, in fact, I am calling attention to a performer’s behavior and their service within a session. For years I have made the claim that voiceover is no longer a “talent” business, but rather a service business whereby plenty of amazing talents are unsuccessful yet very few talents who give great service make the same claim.

So what does it take to provide great service? Whenever I think of a great service provider I first think of Four Seasons Hotels. Every Four Seasons is exquisite in it’s own way and for that everyone is paying more than most high-end hotels. What separates Four Seasons and allows them to charge great sums is how they treat their guests.   To the smiling faces greeting you when you check in to the maids nodding pleasantries as you walk by, every employee graciously treats you with dignity and respect without fawning or being over enthusiastic.

A similar grace with creatives is necessary when performing a spot. Here are some hallmarks of good service that can be applied to most sessions.

  • Offer Help by Asking Questions. In essence a performer’s entire job is to “help” the creatives find their voice and point of view. An actor can very easily frame their work by asking pertinent questions and making the creatives’ lives better or easier by demonstrating their willingness to aid in the process.
  • With questions come answers and really listening (instead of pretending) lets the producers know you are committed to the project.
  • Keep chit-chat to a minimum. Of course, there may be down time in which you realize you share commonalities, but generally everyone is very busy (including the actors) and by keeping the focus on pleasantries and project itself, you are demonstrating your appreciation for their time and energy.
  • Give Praise Where Appropriate. Everyone enjoys a little extra acknowledgement, but keep it short, precise and about the producers. For instance, a good piece of direction can be reacted to with a one word response; “nice, “excellent,” “that’s good,” The end of a session can be responded with a “that was fun” or “thanks for making my job so easy.”
  • Be sincere. None of the above is effective if you are “faking it.” Creatives have an uncanny knack of knowing when others are trying to “sell them something.” Instead, be genuine and do your job.

I will end this by making an audacious guarantee. If talent can provide all these five things every time they perform a session, I guarantee they will work more often and make more money.   Can I prove this? Of course not, but it is human nature to seek out others who are like-minded and provide consistent assistance. Four Seasons Hotels are successful because their guests consistently believe that their staff is collaborating on how to make your hotel experience better. You too can make an experience better and that is in the voice-over booth.