How Voice Actors Keep Up with Trends and Showcase Their Relevance
In any creative service, be it voice acting, music production, audio editing, or others, success is often tied to one’s ability to keep their skills relevant and up to date. But what exactly needs to be on the improvement docket? Turns out, while it would often differ from person to person, our Voices Insiders are pinpointing the same areas of skill development! They’ve identified some top areas of concern when it comes to their individual focuses on skill improvement to stay relevant in their profession.
The Illusive Conversational Read – A Reflection of the Times
The high demand for a conversational read has most voice actors determined to hone their skills on this delivery. The challenge – a conversational read is subjective and impacted by the time and place in which it is requested. For instance, the stylings of a conversational read from the 1950s would sound too salesy and announcer-like for today’s interpretation of it.
Here is where a voice actor’s observation skills, time, and grace serve them best. While there are numerous ways to practice different reads, the Voices Insiders point out that taking a step back to understand trends in media and pop culture will be more beneficial than merely practicing. The shifts in trends can impact a voice actor’s ability to stay relevant, more so than the voice actor’s core abilities.
Tiffany Grant explains the importance of the ability to stay attuned to cultural trends:
“I feel the skills should always evolve because trends are always changing when it comes to what’s popular in a read. Right now everybody’s looking for conversational, and this can change from person to person. So it’s important to stay on top of your voiceover acting skills and how it affects your reads.”
Kristy Reed acknowledges these shifts and shares how she keeps an ever-evolving approach to understanding of a conversational read:
“As trends change in marketing, so does the style of read that people are looking for. I constantly listen to new commercials, audio books, and YouTube videos to see what styles are trending and selling.” She adds, “The conversational read seems to be the style of read that is the most asked for and one that is one of the hardest to do and get right. I tend to sound more commercial-y and stiff if I don’t get it right!”
Lenore Hume feels the same:
“Trends are always changing when it comes to what’s popular in a read. Right now everybody’s looking for conversational, and this can change from person to person. So it’s important to stay on top of your voiceover acting skills and how it affects your reads.”
In the vein of remaining timely and in demand, Sandra Osborne commented about becoming hyper-aware of the shifts in trends, not just over linear time, but the cycle and seasonality of the most sought after reads:
“I’m always looking to improve and evolve my delivery style. Just like with fashion, you’ll notice that a lot of commercial VO goes through changes throughout the year based on season or current events. A summer beverage commercial may sound relaxed and fun while a back to school commercial may sound more maternal and peppy (or even somber with current events of the world). I’m always working to adapt to make sure I can deliver whatever it is the client wants and also to make sure my auditions reflect the current trends.”
How to Work on Your Conversational Read
Many of the Voices Insiders mentioned the undeniable benefits to practicing with peers or coaches. Getting peer feedback is a great way to receive a variety of feedback, all of which could emulate unspoken client feedback without this extra practice!
Lenore Hume takes a mixed approach:
“I work with coaches one on one and also do regular voice workouts. Group workouts are amazing, it’s great to get feedback from multiple people.”
There is one disadvantage to peer-led practice in that it can be difficult to attend these group sessions live simply because life is busy. For the juggling-it-all voice actor, there is a next best solution in watching recorded webinars of these workout groups, as Lenore calls them, as well as recorded webinars of coaches working with multiple talent. While the participation is obviously not quite the same, the ability to listen to multiple actors delivering their conversational reads and working through feedback together or with a coach can still be extremely helpful!
This is exactly what Sandra Osborne does:
“I watch a lot of VO educational webinars. I try to do it on a weekly basis.”
Voices’ webinars often include these peer-led or coach-led exercises. If you’re strapped for time, use this bank of recorded webinars. Or, if you’re up for a live session, check the Voices Webinars page to keep an eye out for upcoming sessions that will include peer-led practices!
When it comes to nailing that conversational read, Voices Insiders have contributed extensively to the “how to” discussion in this post on How to Deliver An Authentic and Conversational Read.
Imagine taking the advice from that piece and bringing it into a peer-led workout group? Talk about the ultimate skill building experience!
Profile Updates to Reflect Your Ever-Evolving Skill Sets
It’s clear that staying relevant is a key to success for voice actors. Proving that relevance is where your Voices profile comes into play.
88% of the Voices Insiders reported updating their Voices profile monthly or every few months – and in doing so they make sure that prospective clients know where their strengths lie.
When asked what they update most often, nearly 100% of them said demos are at the top of the list items!
Kristy Reed says, “You can never have enough demos!”
If you find yourself unsure of how you could possibly be uploading more demos to your profile, consider the tried and true strategy of parsing your demos into smaller spots to showcase specific read skills. If your featured demo is a 90 second long file that includes 4 different styles or roles, you could break out each individual type into its own 20 second demo and upload it with specific tags that make it easily found by clients seeking those exact skills. Rinse and repeat for every style, accent, role, and voice age that you can confidently perform!
Melanie Scroggins brought the discussion full circle when she explained how an update to demos is her way of acting on her observations of trends:
“I like to go through my profile to see if it’s time to update my demos based on what I’m seeing in auditions or add any new client testimonials.”
Douglas Barron gave us a good chuckle when he responded, “My demos and my hair cut.”
We have to agree, though! If you’ve gotten a new look, you should consider updating your headshots, too!
Another ‘must update’ item for the Voices Insiders are their client lists.
Client lists play a large role in a voice actor’s business strategy as it communicates legitimacy and trustworthiness, but also says something about your style! The brands you work with hire you to deliver the reads that suit their scripts, sure. But really it’s about how you incorporated your unique style into the read that resulted in getting the gig. Over time these unique styles begin to paint a picture of what kinds of brand images you’ve been entrusted with and influence future brands’ voice actor selection.
Alexa Brown makes a point of updating multiple sections of her profile that all contribute this strategy:
“I add or update demos, add new clients, and put my favourite reviews on the testimonials section.”
It’s about owning your niche and not trying to be all things to all clients. Are you owning yours?
Continue the conversation and head over to our community forum to hear from your peers about honing styles and booking in a niche.