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Why You Need A Demo Reel – Now

As a voice professional, how do you market yourself?

Do you have a demo reel? If you don’t, what’s keeping you from making it happen? If you do, is it a one-size-fits-all package or have you more precisely targeted the kinds of work you’d like to do?

In today’s increasingly attention-challenged market, demo reels – also known as voice-over reels – are rapidly becoming your most important marketing tool. Read on for more information on getting the most out of your demo reel. Or reels.

Your #1 Priority

Think the audition is the most important factor in your success as a voice professional?

This may sound a bit provocative, but I’m going to suggest it isn’t. Because as critical as the audition is to your success in this business – and let’s be absolutely clear, it is – you won’t actually get the gig unless someone in a position of decision-making authority first sees what you’re capable of and decides you’re the right fit for a particular audition in the first place.

In other words, your demo reel – sometimes referred to as a voice-over demo – gets you in the door, while the audition subsequently seals the deal.

Act Fast

In many respects, your demo is your virtual business card, your one chance to show what you’ve got to a potential client or agent.

Thanks to a tech-infused media landscape that’s accelerating the rate of communication and challenging our attention spans more with each passing day, you’ve got between 10 and 30 seconds to make an impression before whoever’s on the receiving end – a casting director, producer or project lead, for example – moves onto something else.

A well-produced demo showcased online via your website or Voices profile can make the right impression, quickly, before you lose the opportunity for good.

So you’re going to want to give it the attention it deserves. This is not a time to skimp. It is, however, a time to consider your options. In the world of demo reels, there are three main types:

General commercial demo reel

These fast-moving compilations of commercial voice-over work should be built out of quick clips – no more than 10 to 15 seconds each – that illustrate your range on behalf of a variety of advertisers, and from low- to high-energy and everything in between. Edit it tightly to maximize flow, and keep it within 60 to 90 seconds total length to paint a picture of your vocal capabilities in the advertising space.

Narration demo reel

For more complex voice work, like e-learning, audiobooks, business presentations, pull together longer-form segments that highlight your range and consistency both within a larger project and across different narrative styles.

Animation or character demo reel

This is where you get personal, with characters that you’ve either created on your own or voice matched. Include, as applicable, segments that highlight your foreign language, dialect and character voice skills.

Of course, these are simply suggestions: You are not compelled to create one demo of each type. In fact, given the fact that we live in such a sound bite-driven, attention-challenged world, a 20-second demo that zeroes in on a specific accent, character, theme, language or voice will in all likelihood be a far more powerful means of highlighting your capabilities than a too-long, all-encompassing demo.

Keep it short, keep them wanting more, and make sure you never compromise on sound quality or production values.

Maintain a Tight Focus

As you’re selecting materials to include in your reel, consider how important timing can be. Put your best work forward, literally: Don’t force the producer or creative director to listen through multiple takes or clips before getting to the nugget that could potentially seal the deal. In today’s fast-paced business environment, producers responsible for listening to auditions often have mere seconds or, at the most, a couple of minutes, to listen to a reel before moving on.

With that in mind, if you have the ability to re-edit a given voice-over demo based on who you’re sending it to, consider taking the time to do so. This allows you to tailor the order to better fit the needs of the individual who’s listening. And if you have to stick to a one-size-fits-all strategy, keeping it short, sharp and representative should be more than enough to keep you in the running.

Your Turn

What tips have worked for you when pulling together your demo reel or voice-over demo? Drop us a comment and let us know.

All the best,
©Creative Commons/Flickr/Alejandro Linares Garcia

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  • Avatar for Maria Natalie Moreno
    Maria Natalie Moreno
    October 9, 2021, 11:11 am

    How can I train my voice to change into characters?

    • Avatar for Niki Clark
      Niki Clark
      October 12, 2021, 8:25 am

      Hello Maria,

      May I suggest working with a vocal coach? They’re phenomenal for so many reasons but especially for helping aspiring voice actors like yourself train their voices for character work. We have an online directory of voice over coaches that could assist you with your voice training goals.