Alexa, Help Me Land More Voice Over Jobs

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    As voice technology proliferates, the need for human voice over is also increasing. Alexa Skills (apps for Amazon’s voice activated Alexa device) offer an opportunity for exciting voice over jobs, including those with major brands and fast-moving tech startups, as they develop and release interactive apps, games, and more.

    Learn what it takes to become the voice of an Alexa Skill, as Host Stephanie Ciccarelli and Co-Host Julianna Lantz are joined by Producer, Director, and Owner of Lotas Productions, Jim Kennelly.

    About Jim Kennelly

    For over 30 years, Jim Kennelly, owner of Lotas Productions in the Flatiron District of New York City, has specialized in finding the right voice for all kinds of media. From TV and radio to podcasts and narration, Jim and his team have operated as one of New York’s premier one-stop shops for voice over casting, directing and recording.

    A staple of both the Big Apple and the ad game, Jim and Lotas Productions have learned to navigate and adapt to the rapid changes impacting the voice over industry. From the globalization of spots, to the Non-Union boom, and point-to-point connectivity technologies that bring clients and talents together worldwide, Jim has worked diligently to stay ahead of the curve and be a reliable business partner.

    Jim and Lotas Productions have long standing relationships with the top talent agencies in New York, LA and Chicago, and internationally in Canada, Europe, and the Middle East.

    When asked about what he sees in the future of voice overs, Jim says, “Despite how some may feel, there will always be voices to record,” and that, “embracing emerging platforms is the best way to stay a relevant part of this industry.”

    Learn more about Lotas Productions: https://lotasproductions.com/

    Hosts: Stephanie Ciccarelli, Julianna Lantz, with special guest, Producer, Director and Jim Kennelly of Lotas Productions.

    Want to try out the script? Visit Voices.com’s library of free voice over sample scripts:
    https://www.voices.com/blog/category/tools-and-resources/sample-scripts/

    Mission Audition is presented by Voices.com. Produced and Engineered by Shelley Bulmer; Scripting by Niki Clark and Keaton Robbins.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Hi there. Welcome to Mission Audition. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And I’m Julianna Lantz.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And today is a very special episode. I am actually at Lotas Productions on Broadway in New York city in Manhattan with my good friend, Jim Kennelly. Thank you so much, Jim, for having us here at Lotas.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Well, thank you, Stephanie. It’s a pleasure to welcome you guys to Lotas Productions. You have a great podcast going here. Mission Audition. I’ve listened to a number of the episodes, so I’m very happy to be on it.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So, Jim, why don’t you tell our audience a bit about yourself and about Lotas Productions.

    Jim Kennelly:
    I’ve been in the voiceover business since the 1980s. It’s been an exciting business to be in. At Lotas Productions, we cast, produce and direct voiceovers every day. We work globally. We hire announcers all around the world. We specialize in the globalization of spots in that we’ll take one spot and do it in 15, 16 languages. But we always try to create an environment here that’s pro talent. Talent drives this industry. So we’re always trying to level the playing field and hire people all over the place. And we’re always looking for new talent. So one of the reasons why I’m happy to be on the podcast today is to listen to some voices and maybe meet some new talent and get them involved in our productions.

    Julianna Lantz:
    So Jim, your points of view, they seem like they come from a lot of experience, a lot of background with this. Could you give us a little bit of insight into where you’re coming from and then maybe also tell us a little bit about why this style of VO is important for the future of the industry?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Sure. It’s a great question. We always like to follow the trends, follow technology here at Lotas Productions. It’s always been an interest of mine. I try to keep my geek side on the down low, but it’s there. And we’ve succeeded as a company or we’ve helped other talents succeed in that we always follow the trends. We look for advances in voiceover. Kind of what I pointed to, voiceover is always about people sharing their best ideas one to another. That’s a wonderful privilege that we have to be in this business. Whether we’re communicating a new drug or communicating bullying in school, or we’re communicating much simpler ideas like Tri-Valley Honda dealers have a sale on Memorial Day. Or you can buy furniture and their delivery is free. These are still your clients’ best ideas.

    Jim Kennelly:
    So the new platforms that are coming, these home devices, right away caught my attention going back two, three years. It’s a whole new world of clients. It’s not a world of advertising agencies and marketing companies. These are new individual companies that create these skills. And a lot of them don’t understand the voiceover industry. They don’t know how to cast people. They are like, “If I send you some copy, you can get me 20-year old women who sound like housewives?” And I’m like, “Yeah. In an hour I can get you that. Before I leave this table, I can get you those voices.” It’s all of our responsibility to start to educate these people on how to cast voices and the difference in voices, how quickly voices can help them. Because this part of the industry is all going to be about speed. The data coming back from these prompts are going to be so quickly received by the brands that they’re going to reach out to the talents and be like, “You got to read these 10 lines right now.”

    Jim Kennelly:
    To create this new industry there’s going to be so many re-dos. One of our sayings here at Lotas Productions is, “If it wasn’t for re-dos, there’d only be half an industry.” So when you look into voice first skills, the learning curve to make it seem like a human being is talking to you and not a robot, there’s just going to be endless re-dos and re-dos. And in that we can all be successful. Learn a lot, but we can also be successful. So that’s why I jumped into AI and CUI and VUI and all those terms right away. It just personally interested me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So the episode is about something new. So if any of you have Google Home or Alexa in your kitchen or what have you, you’ll really love this. If any of you have been trying to find a way to get into this line of work, where you can be the voice of an Alexa Skill. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So many of us have Alexa or Google Home. And just thinking here that you need to understand what the purpose of these devices are and what the voices and the skills are meant to do. And they’re really meant to engage with people. So, as I talk about the spec here, just going to go in a little bit of detail, the company or the brand name that we’ve made up for this script is Family Feast to Go. And this is a service specifically geared toward families and individuals who want to order in larger quantities because, frankly, they don’t want to make lunch the next day either. They want to be able to bring it to work.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So you’ll notice as we go through the scripts that there are four, six, eight portions. That’s just how we’ve designed this. Now the brand voice needs to really connect with the audience. And this is a voice that is going to be talking to them. They will never have a situation where they’re talking to somebody from this company where they’ve walked in. This is literally you order for pickup or it’s a delivery situation. This is not a sit down. You don’t have that let’s build a relationship over years and bring the whole family in for dinners on Friday night. The main demographic, of course, are likely parents. So again, just to reiterate, Family Feast to Go is a company. We’re looking for a middle aged voice, male or female, the category is internet. Of course we know this is a skill for a device, a smart speaker. And the accent is general US.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I’m going to throw now to Julianna because she’s got all the details on that script. How about it, Jules?

    Julianna Lantz:
    Sure. Thanks Stephanie. The right voice for this Alexa skill is a friendly voice that appears to remember the customer each time the skill is launched. However, our brand voice also needs to embody our values and sound like our target demographic, which is elder millennials. Think two income households who are busy with work and want to give their kids a delicious family focused meal.

    Julianna Lantz:
    For this job, we’re looking for someone who’s middle aged, however, consider the age range to be approximately 35 to 45. And the tone of the voice should convey warmth with a caring smile and approachable down to earth tone.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s a tall order.

    Jim Kennelly:
    That’s an excellent description, though. So often when you’re auditioning for projects, you don’t get such detailed notes. You have to create a world yourself. But let’s see how these voices follow that direction. If they followed the spec, if they showed some variety, it might be very interesting.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    All right, well, let’s roll that first audition.

    Audition 1:
    Hey there, it’s good to hear from you again. Ready to order? Please choose one of following meals. The chicken meal, the vegetarian meal, the gluten free meal. Okay. Thanks for choosing the chicken meal, please let me know which serving option you’d like from the following list. Four servings six servings, eight servings. Great. I’ve got you down for eight servings of the chicken meal.

    Julianna Lantz:
    That was epic.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Okay, Jim. Well, there’s our first audition. What do you think?

    Jim Kennelly:
    All right, well, for me a little bit over processed in the recording. As I listened back to it, there’s a moment where I might think I’m not quite sure what this person’s studio is going to sound like if I move them out of that studio, put them in a different studio. Particularly when you’re looking at an Alexa or a Google skill, it’s a project that has great length, usually. So we’re going to be very concerned about the recording environment. For me, even though it was a very nice read, a talented person, probably a little too old for a family restaurant audience. But he certainly had the direct vibe. It didn’t really have a personality that might match the spec where it’s a family restaurant. But certainly a nice read, not overly delicious in any way, but a nice read.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    As I was writing just the script, I’m like, “If there was a problem that needed to be solved, what could it be?” And writing an Alexa skill is not easy. You have to think of who that audience is, what their pain point is, how you can relate to them and then give them all these options in a logical way. And he delivered the script very well. As you said, Jim, who is the audience who is talking to this? And I wrote this script thinking of just what do people who are trying to make it work for their family, what are they thinking? What are they feeling at that time and who is going to be that person generally asking Alexa for help? I’m not sure if it would be more women than men asking for help, but I know that I would use this.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Right. Very good.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So I thought about that. This definitely is a good read. Perhaps not the right voice for the skill, but we have to think, well, what is the brand, right?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Right.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Who is this company? And what is it that they want to share and who is that voice that they have in their head?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Right. And importantly, the question and response experience for Alexa Skill developers is the brand wants information. What questions are my consumers going to ask me? The creation of that script and then the delivery to make you respond more is key. And obviously if you’re creating a sonic identity for your brand, you want them to like this person, you want them to be attracted to this person because you constantly want to get more information out of them. So let’s see what the next voice sounds like.

    Audition 2:
    Hey, there, it’s good to hear from you again. Ready to order? Please choose one of the following meals. The chicken meal, the vegetarian meal, the gluten free meal. Okay. Thanks for choosing the chicken meal. Please let me know which serving option you would like from the following list. Four servings, six servings, eight servings. Great. I’ve got you down for eight servings of the chicken meal.

    Jim Kennelly:
    All right. A little closer to the spec, maybe. Again, a nice recording. No problem there. For me, a little on the dreamy, breathy side. Nothing wrong with that quality, but my Alexa friend may not be that person. For me, if I was auditioning for my clients, I’d be like, “Okay, let’s take this person, put her on the side. She’s really good. We’re probably going to send her forward.” So, I’m interested in what other people might sound like. But to me, I’d go, “That’s a winner. Let’s hold onto that one.”

    Julianna Lantz:
    Would you give her any feedback about how to take down the breathiness or what direction she could have taken this in to sound a little bit more like what you were thinking?

    Jim Kennelly:
    I think that’s probably more her style. It’s probably who she is. And certainly when you’re casting an Alexa Skill or a Google Action, you want the authentic person, you really want his or her sound. You don’t want to have to contrive it over a long experience. So I wouldn’t overly direct her in that, “Hey, you’ve got to take that breathiness out.” Or she could maybe be a little less dreamy, a little more like real person, a little more authentic. I’m sure she could make that jump as an actress. If we had the time to give people feedback, we might give them feedback. But in an audition world, the speed of the industry makes us like, “Hey, good try but pphht.” But same as you guys cast, we’re going to keep that there as someone that we like, and maybe we’ll find someone a little less breathy down the road, but we’ll give our client an option to hear someone that has a little different technique.

    Julianna Lantz:
    That brings up a good point too, is that you can’t look to clients to give you feedback. That’s not their job. However, you can work with a coach who can work with you with your audition so they can give you that feedback for you to not be breathy on this one and to think like that. So just keep in mind that if you’re struggling, the best thing to go to is not to look to clients to give you feedback, but it’s to go to a professional, like a coach.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Something I liked about her read, because it was more upbeat and certainly fit the spec a bit better, was that I knew that she was pausing. I knew that there was some answer in between her talking to the individual who’s using the Alexa. It was very exciting to know that someone could actually put themselves in that place where they’re having that conversation and anticipating the response.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Absolutely.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Let’s rock on.

    Audition 3:
    Hey there, it’s good to hear from you again. Ready to order? Please choose from one of the following meals. The chicken meal, the vegetarian meal, the gluten free meal. Okay. Thanks for choosing the chicken meal. Please let me know which serving option you would like from the following list. Four servings six servings, eight servings. Great. I’ve got you down for eight servings of the chicken meal.

    Jim Kennelly:
    All right. Again, another very good read it. Probably a little, not to judge too much, but a little older than the previous voice we just heard. I like the snap to her responses when she first starts in. She’s like, “Great, good news.” These are important because you want to stimulate a conversation. I think as the prompt moved along, it got a little more on the robotic side. Alexa Skills are robotic enough, so you don’t want to be robotic in your read in any way. So I felt like this person’s individual read got a little robotic as the sentences opened up. If it was my company, I’d be like, “Uh, maybe not.” But it’s certainly closer to where I’d like it to be as far as enthusiasm and a positive vibe.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Could you share a little bit more about why that connection is so important between the person whose voice is coming out of one of these devices and the individual they’re interacting with?

    Jim Kennelly:
    It’s important for brands because it’s in the home, it’s in your car. It’s such a personal experience, much like this podcast experience. People don’t listen to podcasts in a room full of 20 people. It’s a one on one experience. So, again, when you’re creating a performance, when you’re auditioning, you want it to be very personal. You want it to be direct. One of the wonderful things about being human is that we can build things together. So, as human beings, I’m in your house, I’m talking to you. Let’s figure you want to order dinner today. This is what this is all about, this project. How am I going to help you order dinner?

    Jim Kennelly:
    You got to solve this problem every day. So now we’re going to make shortcuts by being your friend. So you want to come across friendly. You want to come across positive. It’s as if the robot’s listening to you. These are difficult things to create. But this is an interesting moment in the industry because all of us together, we’re going to have an opportunity. The industry is just going to expand. It’s a wonderful opportunity to start to define what this new platform is going to be like. Again, it has to be personal. It has to be direct. You’re creating friendship with the brand.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I also liked that we’re solving a problem. There are entire tutorials where it tells you how to script conversationally and what to do and best practices. And, as you’ve said, everyone is learning right now. There are conferences that people are exploring these topics right now. So we’re happy to bring you this very timely and forward thinking podcast.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Yeah, it’s a great moment to be in the industry. It’s an expanding moment. We’re going to have the responsibility to develop this platform. Just like in the late twenties or early thirties, radio exploded onto the market. Everybody brought it into their homes, but they really didn’t know what to do with it. But there was a generation of men and women who came together and created ways to sell things, to entertain people. And we’re in the exact same moment right now. It’s a wonderful time.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Let’s listen to audition number four.

    Audition 4:
    Hey there, it’s good to hear from you again. Ready to order? Please choose one of the following meals. The chicken meal, the vegetarian meal, the gluten free meal. Okay. Thanks for choosing the chicken meal. Please let me know which serving option you would like from the following list. Four servings, six servings, eight servings. Great. I’ve got you down for eight servings of a chicken meal.

    Julianna Lantz:
    I almost feel like if I was really frantic trying to get dinner together because I just had a long day, this voice would calm me down and mellow me out. It was lovely to listen to.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I thought you were going to say, you just wanted them to get to the options. I thought it was funny. Personalities are different, right? You’re thinking, “Oh, she’s relaxing me. I can totally do this dinner thing.” And I’m like, “Tell me what’s for dinner. Tell me what’s for dinner.”

    Julianna Lantz:
    I know.

    Jim Kennelly:
    To me, it was maybe a little too cold. Food is something that people love food. So, as a brand, I’d want it to be a little more excited about my food. I’m still listening for someone to sell the food itself, to make the food sound appetizing. They’re reading a list of, do you want green A? Do you want blue B? And it’s chicken, it’s meat. You want to talk about it and make it sound a little delicious without going overboard. And everybody so far has been cold on the food. And so I’m listening as a producer who’s going to sell food and at least go forward a little bit.

    Jim Kennelly:
    And in the session, I might pull you back, but at least I know you can go forward. So sometimes in an audition world, it’s okay to be a little bigger than you might want to be. Because as a producer, director, we all know, okay, I can bring this actress back. But I’m not quite sure if I can push her out. So sometimes you might do one or two takes. You might have one take that’s a little farther out to show like, hey, my range,

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    What you’re saying then, Jim, is to encourage someone to do more than one take. Because we live in the fast paced world of auditions, too, as we said earlier. So someone might not give a talent another chance to be called back, so to speak, in the online world. But I think that there is opportunity if someone has ears like yours, Jim, and they’re like, “I totally know I can bring this person out of their shell. It’s going to be awesome.” I guess it’s when you hear them going overboard, doing a little too much that you know you can pull them back. Right?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Yes.

    Julianna Lantz:
    So in that case, if you are taking a bit more of a risk, then take it on the go bigger or go home, not on the I’m going to hold back.

    Jim Kennelly:
    What happens a lot, when you go right in the middle, there are 10, 20, 30 auditions that are right in the middle. There’s so many talented people in the voiceover business. So what you’re trying to pop out of that audition, you’re trying to give something a little extra. You can’t improv on a Alexa Skill, but you can show that your personality has some range. So you should always audition a little broader, a little bigger, because most people know they can pull an actor back.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And to give you a tip from a site process, if you want to do two auditions, you need to let the client know upfront that you’re doing two. So you need to slate two takes and then read 10 seconds of the first audition, pause, read 10 seconds of the second audition.

    Jim Kennelly:
    But be certain they’re different one from the other.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yes, definitely.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Because, to listen to two of the same takes doesn’t help me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    No, all in the same file. Sorry. I just want to make sure everyone knows that when we say two auditions, it’s two takes within the same file because you can only upload one.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And remember too, from what Jim’s talking about when you’re a little bit extra, that first couple of seconds is your opportunity to catch the client’s attention. So you can’t build up to that intensity. You’ve got to start and then come on down so you keep them listening and you pull them in.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Exactly. Right. All right, let’s go to the next.

    Audition 5:
    Hey there, it’s good to hear from you again. Ready to order? Please choose one of the following meals. The chicken meal, the vegetarian meal, the gluten free meal. Okay. Thanks for choosing the chicken meal. Please let me know which serving option you would like from the following list. Four servings, six servings, eight servings. Great. I’ve got you down for eight servings of the chicken meal.

    Jim Kennelly:
    So now here’s the fun part in casting. And maybe if you’re playing at home, that was really good. And when we cast here at Lotas Productions, we always talk it’s like a vibration, like a chord. You just hear it. You know it right away. Human beings are all about vibration. Audio is all about vibration. I really think casting is connected to that. You just hear the voice and people just know it in the room. It just pops out. It was pleasant enough. It had my attention. The voice seemed in control to me. It wasn’t like I’m dealing with someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to delivering chicken to my house. But it was also, it moved along. It wasn’t dragging in any way. So here is an efficient, but pleasant, positive sounding voice, and still authentic. Not too robotic in any way. Not to gush too much, but wait, there’s more, but what did you guys-

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I was going to say, Jim, getting ahead of us here.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Somebody else could top that. What did you guys think?

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I loved the read for a lot of the same reasons you did. I could hear her saying that over and over and over again to me, which I think is another good skill that it’s a listenable voice, but it’s also not obnoxious. It’s not something that you’re going to be like, “Oh no, I’ve just launched the Alexa Skill for my hungry meal restaurant. Whatever. My goodness do. I hate using that thing, but I love the food it brings me.” So you don’t want to go there. And this is another one of these places where for better or for worse or right or wrong, data shows, and certainly anecdotal experience is showing that this is the realm of the female voice. So what are your thoughts on that?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Well, I think it’s exactly right. Women get cast in these roles over and over and over again. We see it in e-lessons. We see it in tutorial work. We just see the casting of female voices over and over again, obviously. That’s a trend that has been going on for a while. It’s certainly, it’s a trend that I think is great. But I think it goes back to the nature of growing up as a child. If you had that experience where you had a mother talking to you in your home or some sort of female in your home that helped you, whether it’s a grandparent or someone else, an aunt, there’s a calming reassuring value that comes out of a female narration.

    Jim Kennelly:
    If you’re a young woman or a woman who has a little more experience in the business, it’s your time and you can do really well. And obviously my experience in voiceovers is a little longer. And, I started in a world that had these deep, strong male announcers and they ruled the show. Their day ended quite a while ago. Women have been popular in voiceover for a long time now.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Every year we put out reports on what we’re finding from the massive amounts of jobs and the data that’s being posted on our site. Last year, we put out a report called The Future is Female because we’ve noticed a rise in the number of female jobs. Not that there’s a decrease in the number of male jobs by any means, but there has been far more female jobs posted in the last couple of years than before that. We’ve got over what, 15 years of data, Stephanie, that we are going back over. So it’s really cool to see that happening. The future is female.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    This really is the area where female voices are dominating. When you think about the first time you would have heard the female voice coming from a device, for a lot of people who are listening it very well may have been Siri. This trend is definitely skewing more female. Ladies, you should be auditioning for these and you should definitely be learning about them. And coaches, you need to be training people on how to be relatable and how to really maximize their voices for this space.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Read books about AI. There are books about how AI began. You can go back to the early beginning of a myth. Human beings have always had myths of statues talking to human beings. Humans have been fascinated with these machines talking to us and giving information. And now’s the moment that we’re going to create it. Besides being a woman and getting a nice job, this is a unique opportunity to be involved in something that human beings have been telling stories about these things forever. And now we’re going to live it. We’re going to create these things and they’re going to work for us and make our lives simpler. It’s a huge challenge, which is great. It’s great to have a huge challenge. But here’s an opportunity to do something to make people’s lives simpler.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Okay, well, let’s hear audition number six.

    Audition 6:
    Prompt one. Hey there, it’s good to hear from you again. Ready to order? Please choose one of the following meals. The chicken meal, the vegetarian meal, the gluten free meal. Prompt two. Okay. Thanks for choosing the chicken meal, please let me know which serving option you would like from the following list. Four servings six servings, eight servings. Prompt three. Great. I’ve got you down for eight servings of the chicken meal.

    Jim Kennelly:
    All right. So now we have a guy in. Very good. Again, a nice read, nice recording. You could use a male on this project if it’s more like a personality, if it was Uncle Mel’s Chicken Shack and basically you’re the voice of Uncle Mel’s Chicken Shack. And they might choose a guy to be that. This gentlemen had a very nice read. He has a character vibe in his read, but otherwise I think we would probably go back towards a female voice.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah. I just felt like I don’t know who this guy is. There’s no personality there. It was just like he was reading the words off the paper and that’s the whole point of voiceover is that you bring these words to life. You’d have to put yourself in it. I was like, “Okay, let’s keep going. Next word, come on. Let’s get me through this. I’m bored.”

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And he read the word prompt. I know. It’s one of those things where it’s like if it said, “Person one and then person one talks.” It’s just one of those little oversights that if you’re new to the business and auditioning, then understanding where it says a role or a step in a process is different from actually saying it out loud. It’s just a learning curve and perhaps I could have scripted that better. What I was trying to show though, was that there is a need for a pause in between. And perhaps if anyone here is posting a job for an Alexa Skill, think about how that voice artist might interpret your script.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    If you have one of these devices in your home, find a skill and then you can interact with it and you practice with it and see what happens. Like, oh, you want to talk to it? And you say something. Well, what will it say back? There’s a huge tree of all kinds of different phrases or words that someone could come back to, especially if it’s a synthetic voice, which is different from what we’re doing here today. This would be a voice design with specific prompts for a brand. They may update these every now and then because their menu will change.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    But for the most part, what we’re looking at is just, okay, here’s your script human. Maybe there are 50 different prompts for an Alexa Skill because it’s like a choose your own adventure, right, Jim?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Right. Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Someone might not pick the ideal straightest path that they could possibly take, that’s easiest to get through the skill. They might have a number of different options or menus or preferences that they then go ahead with. So just be aware that although you’re hearing 15 seconds or so, these could be really big projects, as you had said before.

    Jim Kennelly:
    They use the word utterances. These are scripted utterances because they’re reactions. Just the way we’re having a conversation here between the three of us, these are quick comments that people share between one another. Obviously, there’s no visual on these skills, on these home devices. It’s actually a growing field. It’s a field that I think lends itself natural to talent. And you might put that in the back of your mind.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, I think we are now at our seventh audition, so let’s give it a listen.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Let’s see if he or she tops the charts.

    Audition 7:
    Reading for Family Feast to Go. Hey there, it’s good to hear from you again. Ready to order? Please choose one of the following meals. The chicken meal, the vegetarian meal, the gluten free meal. Okay. Thanks for choosing the chicken meal. Please let me know which serving option you would like from the following list. Four servings six servings, eight servings. Great. I’ve got you down for eight servings of the chicken meal.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    My dear audience, you are not actually hearing the entire read. We’ll just be very open with you about this right now. The voice actress slated her name. And as we know, this show features anonymous auditions. So we’ve gone ahead and we’ve cut that slate off at the beginning. But Julianna, what else was happening that we should be telling people about?

    Julianna Lantz:
    That’s a great point to address that she introduced herself in the script, and to be quite frank with you, that is not necessary. And, in fact, introducing yourself like that can throw clients off. Because if you think about it, they’ve got a list of auditions and they’ve got this play button and they’re going, boom, boom, boom, boom, listen to each one. And they’re trying to hear you say the same words one after the other to really find the one that matches the voice they pictured for this project. So if you throw them off kilter by doing this big intro, you really do take yourself out of the running. So best practice, jump right into the script. Lots of energy to get started. No spaces, no slates. What did you think of the read, Jim?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Maybe my second favorite. It was also very good. I thought it was maybe a little too driven, but it’s certainly very good. Overall, as a casting director, they lack the nuance, I think, to create a one-on-one vibe, which is important for these skills, these home devices. The voices felt a little removed from the situation. Like in any project when you’re doing voiceovers, who am I speaking to? What’s the market? Try to understand the product that you’re talking about. What’s the gender? What’s the age of the person you’re speaking to? All these small things come into your heart and then your mind and then you deliver your audition.

    Jim Kennelly:
    And whether it’s an Alexa Skill or it’s a commercial or an e-lesson, it’s the same basic lessons of being an actor or an actress in voiceovers. You have to bring this character to life. They want you to help them successfully share their information, to share their best ideas. The tenets that you know from all the other parts of voiceovers are definitely going to apply to Alexa Skills and Google Actions and all the smart speaker work that’s coming our way right now.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Would you say that sounding too driven comes from the pacing, the tone, the breaths? What do you mean by that?

    Jim Kennelly:
    A little too driven in that it was, you’re really right on it, like, “I’m talking to you now pay attention to me.” To me, that’s driven. That’s really how much voice you’re using. This person had a very nice studio, had a nice recording, but these microphones are fantastic and you can use a nice, small, very forward voice, very popular style right now. It’s a very calm voice. And not that like, “Listen to me and order some food right now.” Again, it’s how much voice you’re using, how much you’re projecting.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So this is about relationship really, right?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It’s about having that level of engagement with your listener, but just thinking that you really need to be in tune with who you’re talking to and you have to make them want to like you. But there’s also an element of presence in someone’s voice. And so you may or may not be the right sort of voice for this kind of work. Of course, they’re all different sort of skills and different brands. But oftentimes, in just an audio book narration, there are genres, and your voice will fit into a certain genre better than it may in a different one. How might this play into this great world of voice first and AI and smart speakers, Jim?

    Jim Kennelly:
    It’s going to go across all markets. There’ll be pharmaceutical work. There’ll be banking work. There’ll be publishing work. There’ll be food and entertainment work. No matter what your generic style is and who you are as a talent, there’ll be a category for you. Every brand is going to want their own personality. Even it’ll go deeper. When you go into a Best Buy is a superstore here in the United States, and Best Buy will have a generic voice, but then there’ll be a voice for speakers. There’ll be a voice for telephones. There’ll be a voice for equipment. So as you drill down, there’ll be more and more opportunities for talents because everybody’s going to want their individual touch. Because again, we’re creating personal experiences with these devices. Brands are going to have to experiment and work on what’s the right voice, what’s our audience. And so they’re going to be looking for announcers to take them on that trip.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I know in different languages, there will definitely be opportunity because they need to localize, they need to do that. But do you think that this will also affect accents? So regionalisms. How granular do you think we can get with this? Or does it start to lose its sense of identity if you have too many voices representing the same brand through a device, a smart speaker?

    Jim Kennelly:
    Well, I think individual brands will make that choice. Some markets will really drill down and you’re going to have to sound like you’re from the Pacific Northwest. And then they say, “Well, we’re really opening up a new market in Miami. So we want something that has more of a Cuban or Venezuelan accent.” Again, no matter who you are and what you’re doing in voiceover, there’s going to be opportunities that are just going to roll out and roll out.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah, I think that that’s awesome feedback. Anything else from you, Julianna, before we get to who the winner is?

    Julianna Lantz:
    Ooh, I’m just excited to hear what Jim’s pick is.

    Jim Kennelly:
    Well, number one, it was great to listen to everybody. And whenever people audition, it’s important to remember that the clients do listen. They listen very carefully. They may listen quickly. They may decide very quickly, but they are listening to you. So sometimes in this industry, there’s a feeling of auditioning in the dark. But there is a very active part on our end. And when we talk to our clients and they give us interesting feedback on every read and the people that we send to them. So slowly, slowly, we build the type of voices they are looking for. Who’s the winner? I did really like the last voice, but I would go back maybe three or four. I’m not quite sure who that person was, but the one that I said struck a chord and really caught my attention right away. I’d say that’s the winner.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Can we cue that up so we can all remember who it is. Number five.

    Audition 5:
    Hey there, it’s good to hear from you again. Ready to order? Please choose one of the following meals. The chicken meal, the vegetarian meal, the gluten free meal. Okay. Thanks for choosing the chicken meal. Please let me know which serving option you would like from the following list. Four servings six servings, eight servings. Great. I’ve got you down for eight servings of the chicken meal.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Number five did a great job.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It was so wonderful to have a thought leader here with us today in this new emerging space of AI and voice first and CUI, VUI. Am I getting all that right, Jim?

    Jim Kennelly:
    You have it down perfect.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Perfect. All right. So, that said, no doubt there are going to be people saying, “This Jim guy is awesome. I want to go to Lotas.” What is it that you’d love to help people with and how can they get ahold of you?

    Jim Kennelly:
    I don’t mind if you reach out to me. I know you’re just trying to be successful. I come to work and run my business to be successful. So it never bothers me when actors reach out to me. You can contact us at Lotas Productions. Lotas Productions is spelled with an A. It’s L-O-T-A-S. More importantly, if you want to see what we’re up to, you want to get the vibe of Lotas Productions, you could follow us on Instagram, which is Lotas Productions. And very much you’ll see people working in our studio or people working in other studios around the world. So you’ll get a vibe on the type of people we hire, who we hire. And if you follow me on Twitter, again, on Lotas Productions, on Twitter, I tend to talk about where I see the industry going. Check us out on Instagram, check us out on Twitter. And if you ever have a question and you think we can help you in any way, just send it to me. Eventually, I’ll try to get back to you.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Anything that we’ve mentioned of any substance whatsoever, including Jim’s contact details, how to get ahold of Lotas Productions, you’ll find that in the show notes. And the script that you heard read, that will also be out on the blog. So there’ll be ways to find that via the show notes as well. For those of you who are like, “Where are the shownotes?” Voices.com slash podcasts, plural, slash Mission Audition. So you just go there, you can find the episode that you’re looking for.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Thank you so much for tuning in. We really hope that you enjoy this. If you did, you know the hashtag it’s Mission Audition. Go out on Twitter, go on Facebook, go on Instagram, wherever you’re going to go, just go and tell people about this because this is so much fun and it’s really about community. We just love you guys. So, thanks so much for listening and, Julianna, any last words?

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah. We really hope that you take these lessons to heart and have a great time playing around with them in your studio. And of course, if you need any help with your auditions or processes on the site, please reach out to us. We have our talent success specialists who’d love to sit down with you and give you a personalized walkthrough of your audio and your auditions.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, that’s all for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And I’m Julianna Lantz. Happy auditioning guys.

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    Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.

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