Podcasts Mission Audition Dissecting Medical VO Auditions with Kim Handysides
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Dissecting Medical VO Auditions with Kim Handysides

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Stephanie Ciccarelli
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Medical narration voice over is known for being both lucrative and challenging, as it is fraught with hard-to-pronounce words and jargon. On this episode of Mission Audition, listen in as Stephanie, Julianna and special guest, Voice Actor and Coach Kim Handysides, put these medical narration voice over auditions under the microscope and prescribe advice on: knowing your audience, how to pronounce medical terminology for various geographies, and how to sound like you have a Bachelors of Science (even if you don’t!).

Hosts: Stephanie Ciccarelli, Julianna Jones, with special guest, Voice Over Actor and Coach, Kim Handysides

Inspired? Try out this episode’s voice over script: https://www.voices.com/blog/medical-narration-sample-script

Mission Audition is presented by Voices.com. Produced and Engineered by Shelley Bulmer; Scripting by Tanya Chopp.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Hi there and welcome to Mission Audition, I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli.

Julianna Jones:
And I’m Julianna Jones.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Julianna Jones. You’re usually Julianna Lantz but today you’re Julianna Jones.

Julianna Jones:
Yeah, I got married a couple of weekends ago.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Well, welcome Julianna Jones. So, so happy for you. This has been a great time of year for all of us here, especially you, and today we also have another friend in studio, it is Kim Handysides. Kim, we’re just so excited to have you here, this is about medical narration. A lot of people are really interested, they don’t know what it takes to be a great narrator for medical scripts, so welcome to the show.

Kim Handysides:
Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here, and congratulations Julianna, I’m so happy for you.

Julianna Jones:
Thank you.

Kim Handysides:
Medical narration is one of my pet loves. I’ve been doing it since 1996 actually. So a long time. And when I say since 1996, I mean at least two long form medical narration eLearning scripts a week. All during that last 20 some odd years. It’s an area of voiceover that I’m very familiar with, that I’m passionate about, making sure sounds good to not only yourself, but also definitely to the listener, to the learner on the other side. Because they’ve got all of this heavy duty stuff that they’ve got to learn. Whether it’s continuing medical education or it’s a sales rep who is familiar with a lot of the pharmaceutical terminology but maybe needs to know more about a specific clinical test or series of a new indication or something like that. So it’s a lot of fun. I find it a lot of fun, anyway.

Julianna Jones:
And it’s a huge growing industry on our website as well. We see a lot more jobs posted for medical narration than we used to a couple of years back.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Yeah, so you’ve got a lot of experience in this area, too. But did you want to share a bit more about your career, and just in general how you got to where you are today?

Kim Handysides:
I’m actually from near the voices.com area, originally. I went to the University of Windsor, School of Dramatic Art there. Then I got into television and radio production, and television and radio on cam and behind the mic, and worked in that genre for about ten years. Still doing a little bit of film, some theater, some TV, lots and lots of radio.

Kim Handysides:
What happened about halfway through that part of my career was I started doing tons and tons of commercials. And when I was a kid I used to play commercial. I don’t know if anybody every did that, but you’d be at the mirror, brushing your teeth but then you’d start talking to yourself about this hair, this hair product.

Julianna Jones:
Oh, that’s awesome.

Kim Handysides:
So I was doing that from the get-go, so I kind of just slid right into doing tons and tons of commercials, and then like I say from 1991 I went full-time into voice and was working just in my own city kind of thing. And then five years ago, sort of poked my head out of the sand and went, oh my gosh, there’s an international market. And I jumped on voices.com and got myself a booth and a great mic and learned everything I could about you guys on how to be able to best profile myself on the site. The rest is history. It’s been a beautiful relationship, it’s been a great, expanding evolution in my career. And I love it.

Kim Handysides:
I’ve had some amazing contacts come out of voices.com, including a commercial that I had that was nominated for a SOVAS award that came from your site. That was really great. And some really special things like an app where Kevin Costner is one of the investors. And a few other things like that, I can’t think of a lot of them off the top of my head, but those are two that come to mind that I went, “Wow, that was really kind of cool.”

Kim Handysides:
And my big thing this year that I’m really excited about is, I just narrated my first IMAX film, and that’s playing right now at the Kennedy Space Center. It was a collaboration with NASA and Lockheed Martin and yeah, it’s beautiful. It’s called Touch The Stars. Yeah, usually they go for a Hollywood A-lister but this time they said, “Hey, you know what? We’re going to just go with you. You sound great. We don’t need Sigourney Weaver,” and I went, “Yes!”

Julianna Jones:
Wow, what a compliment. Congratulations.

Kim Handysides:
Thanks.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
We’re going to go hear your voice down there. Good reason to have a road trip, hey Julianna?

Julianna Jones:
Absolutely.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
So we’re talking medical narration today, just want to keep us all on the same page. We’re going to learn a lot. I know that I know very little about this area, I’m very interested in hearing everything that Kim has or say, and that said, there will be like ten auditions today. Usually we have five, six, seven that we feature. But because this is an area that is pretty new to a lot of people and there are many nuances to how one might narrate, let alone who that audience is and who you need to be, we decided to roll all ten. So I will do my best to not say much and I know Julianna’s pretty supportive in that we want to hear what Kim has to say. And more than anything, we want you all to learn about how to be successful in this area.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
So without further ado, we’re going to talk about the project here. So what we’re looking for is a middle-aged voice, it can either be a male or a female narrator. The category is business and of course, this is a healthcare related narration. We want an engaging style of read, this person is speaking English, which I’m think we’re all pretty clear that that’s what we’re doing here today as well. And we’ve got the US general American accent that we’re looking for. You’ve got all Canucks here, right now, we’re all Canadian, but we’re going to be listening for the US accent. So I hope you are, too.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
All right. So the job description is as follows: HealthSci Explained is an agency that helps to create multimedia training material for the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and the life sciences industry. Some of our clients include major healthcare, research, and education institutions, as well as publishers of medical content. So this company, of course we’ve made them up, they take great pride in insuring that their training and educational materials are created with comprehensive thought, it’s all cohesive. It’s delivered in a clear, articulate method that fosters maximum learning.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
So this voice actor, what they need to do is provide the narration for this project that helps to explore the human voice. That all being said, this is a script about the voice, which is kind of cool. And Julianna, you’re going to share more about the artistic direction.

Julianna Jones:
So for this interactive training module, the narrator we seek must above, all else, deliver the material in a clear manner with proper pronunciation. However, performance-wise, while we recognize that this type of content is not of high interest to everyone, it is of high interest to our target audience. And we’d like the narrator to not only near this level of interest but also act as a leader. The more engaged you are, the more engaged our learners will be. Please take this into consideration.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
These scripts are often a mouthful, if not multi syllables, multi-syllabic type things, the purpose of this script though, is not to necessarily exercise the articulator’s four and eight syllable word, which I’m sure you’ve probably done, Kim for these sort of things.

Kim Handysides:
A few.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
But this is a pretty straightforward one, however it is technical. So we are going to roll audition number one.

Audition 1:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Julianna Jones:
Okay, Kim, what are your thoughts?

Kim Handysides:
While this person has an overall nice tone to her voice, I feel that she’s trying too hard. There’s too much music behind this without a lot of intention or any obvious intention about why she’s going up or down. The overall feeling that I get from something like that is that I am being sold to, or I am being talked down to. Which I’m sure is not the intention, but that’s what comes across.

Kim Handysides:
Her read was not bad, but her read was too musical. She needs to talk more like an actual person speaks when they’re explaining something. So what I would do, one of the things I do when I coach people in medical narration is I say, “Okay, take your first line. Look at it. Really know what it is you want to say, then turn that page away, and just tell me what you want to tell me. Just tell me the line.” The voice is made up of a voice box that sits in the throat with vocal cords, blah, blah, blah. That’s basically how I would explain that.

Kim Handysides:
And so then what I would further coach her to do is, record herself saying that and listen back to it. So she hears her own music. And when I say music it’s the up and down and the flows in the voice that we normally have. So when you get familiar with your own music, the tones that you use when you explain something, then you can more easily bring those into your narrations and your medical narrations.

Julianna Jones:
You could make it more genuine?

Kim Handysides:
100%, exactly. That’s the thing. Especially in the medical field, these people are smart. They have gone to school for ages. This is material they’re very, very familiar with. Perhaps one of the things, with this particular audition where maybe she went a little wrong is in interpreting that it needed to be clear and slowing it down. You don’t need to slow it down to be clear, you just need to make sure that your diction is pristine.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
I think the challenges with some of these medical narrations is that if the narrator doesn’t really know their role or who they’re talking to, then they can deliver that message in a way that isn’t suitable for the audience. So in this case, if it is a medical professional or a doctoral student or someone that you’re talking to is about to walk out the door with their MD, then they’re a different audience and they know this, as you say.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
But when someone is reading for medical narration, how obvious is it to the narrator who their audience is and then how would I determine how I then speak to those people?

Kim Handysides:
The questions that I ask myself when I’m about to do an audition for something are who, who, what and why. So who am I, who am I talking to, what are we talking about, and why is it so important that I tell this person this particular message right now?

Kim Handysides:
So, if it’s not provided, because it’s often not in a spec, then you create a couple of tools and you put them in your actor’s toolbox. And you say, “This is going to be my character one that I’m always talking to. This is going to be my character two that I’m always going to talk to.” And when I say character I mean build a character. Like maybe it’s someone who you know, or it’s someone that you make a composite of few people that you know and you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to call this person Karen, and I’m going to call that guy Joe, and I’m always going to be talking and teaching to Karen and teaching to Joe.” And maybe Karen is a doctor and maybe Joe is pharmaceutical sales rep.

Kim Handysides:
Then you’ve got a couple of references that are real, and you can make yourself and the person you’re talking to more real at the same time.

Julianna Jones:
Are there keywords in the job posting that would help you know if you were talking to Jor or Karen?

Kim Handysides:
Yeah, if they said CME, Continuing Medical Education, then you know it’s a doctor. If it’s pharmaceutical then it’s probably a sales rep. If it says patient journey, then it’s a sales rep because they’re learning more about how the drug is affecting the patient. If it says this is public facing, then that’s generally patients, your average Jane out there or whatever.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
These are personas. These are people that you know someone might draw up a spec around, like this is so-and-so, this is how old they are, this is the industry they work in, this is their job, here’s what they do. So I love that idea of giving them names and then saying, “Every time I’m read for this particular audience I’m just talking to Joe, because I know Joe. I feel like he’s my friend and I can say anything to Joe.” Like you’re having a coffee with Joe, right? Like you’re not just throwing your voice out to the ether, right? You have someone in mind, and that makes it very personal.

Kim Handysides:
Exactly. That’s exactly it, and I love that you brought in the whole thing with personas, because when I do business narrations I go, that’s acting. That’s awesome.

Audition 2:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Kim Handysides:
Okay, actually I was very happy with it. Good for the first few seconds and then there was something that caught my ear. And it was on the word harmony. And it’s interesting because yeah, on the word harmony, it was just a little bit too… Something didn’t ring quite true with it. While I would probably give her a short list, there are things about this one that I would like to pick apart just a little bit to be able to improve, okay?

Kim Handysides:
So yeah. She’s not selling it too much, she’s bright. There’s a little too much music, though, still. People don’t talk like that. In the old days, when I started in 1996 and we’d say, you know something like, “Welcome to the pharmaceutical blah, blah, blah of this and you’re going to learn blah, blah, blah,” that’s the way we would talk. It was very instructional, very top down kind of thing. And there was a lot of music that came on the voice. That’s not what people are looking for anymore, that’s kind of old school. In my experience, anyway.

Kim Handysides:
What helps you is to get to know what are the default musics that we use in certain genres. Like for example, if I started talking like this to you, you’d think oh, this person is… Perhaps she’s a reporter, you know? Or if I started talking like this, and I went in a very nice rhythm, I’d go along and you’d say, “Oh, she’s doing fairytales or rhymes to a kid.” There are musics that we use. And there’s the announcer voice. If is started like this to you, just naturally while we’re having coffee, you would think I was crazy. Wouldn’t you?

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
It’s almost like a different vocal costume, if you will. You’re putting on a different hat or a different outfit altogether. It’s a style, right? It’s stylistic.

Kim Handysides:
Yeah. And while this audition was close, I could still see the veneer of a lack of authenticity. She had a tonality that I thought would be okay for younger audiences, like teenagers learning about the vocal cords. But anyone older than that would feel perhaps like they were being talked down to. So that’s something.

Kim Handysides:
And that’s one of the things that we have to watch, the 18 to 25 year old of every generation dictate what the rest of us are going to do. Stephanie, I’ve heard you talk about this and write about this that the millennials have been sold to since the time they were born. And they don’t want to be sold to, they want to be told to. So we need to tell the story of this. So while this was a good one, and I give it a thumbs up, I’d like to hear something a little better.

Julianna Jones:
It’s funny you say that, because when I was listening to it I thought, oh, this sounds like what I would traditionally think of for someone who does medical narration. And it’s so funny, for so many times when it’s someone that’s doing an audition, they go into that default, what they think it’s supposed to sound like instead of doing the work to figure out. Like what you were talking about, who am I, who am I talking to, what is my persona, and I think that’s a theme we’ve seen recurring is that you can’t go into default, you have to put in the work for each audition to make it genuine.

Kim Handysides:
Exactly, exactly. And that means exploring that genre a bit. Go on YouTube and watch some doctors and pharmaceutical people talk about what they know about, and what they love about. Because you’re entering their world. So learn from them, listen to their music. Listen to how they talk about… How they get excited about things. Because they do get excited about biologics and new molecules and stuff like that, because it is exciting because it means cures for people, right?

Kim Handysides:
And so some of them don’t present well. Some of them are not really good to listen to. So you do have to pick and choose who you’re going to emulate. But what you’re looking for is a SME, a Subject Matter Expert, that you can then say, “Okay, I want to sound like that guy, or that girl.” And what I do, and coach, is say, “Okay, you found your person, now tape them and listen to it over and over again.” Suzuki method it, right? Just listen to it until you can emulate that sound. And then maybe combine that with also your own music, the way you do it, and then you come up with kind of this hybrid of how you will sound delivering medical narration.

Kim Handysides:
And there’s nothing better than that. When you can inflect something that is approachable, that is engaging, that someone really knows what they’re talking about with your own blend of spices and treats.

Julianna Jones:
I think that’s what all clients are looking for. The genuine real you, not an imitation.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
All right, well let’s move on to audition number three.

Audition 3:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
As you say, some reads can feel forced or they just don’t feel natural. And that one, although I liked his voice, definitely the qualities of the voice wonderful, I think the delivery was not quite what we would expect for this kind of read.

Kim Handysides:
Exactly. This one has a beautiful vocal quality, but he’s not being himself. He’s being what he thinks he needs to be as a narrator, and he needs to get out of his way and just talk. Just talk to me, just tell me what it is. What’s happening is, it’s too slow. It’s feeling like the flow is off, and definitely I’m being read to, not talked to. And kind of talked down to, somewhat, which I know is not the intention but that’s what comes off.

Kim Handysides:
We need to steer clear of that kind of a read. It’s very interesting practice to learn how to not read when you’re reading. You know, so many people are like, “I can draw,” but they’ve stopped taking art classes in maybe grade 10. And the same things happens with people when they think, oh I can read. Of course you can read, but can you read and make it sound like you’re not reading? That is an art in itself. That is something that you need to learn and practice and find mentors, find coaches, find examples of how to be able to do that. So that when the words, when you see the words they just come dripping off your tongue as if they were newly minted in your head and they just come out like a beautiful little waterfall.

Kim Handysides:
And it’s interesting, because one of the tricks that I use in teaching is something I call brick wall waterfall, because that’s the way we talk. We talk in brick walls, and we talk in waterfalls. We stop, we gather our thoughts, and then the words just flow out of our mouths, just like blah, blah, blah. Like water. So that’s where, if you’re looking for pauses, that’s where I’d put them in. But this, there’s no connection to why, why is he pausing? Why? There was a big pause before the word pump. Why? Why would you put a pause before pump. It just sounds off, it just sounds like…

Kim Handysides:
And there’s a word that comes to mind with this kind of read, which I hate. I hate this word, but I’m going to use it. It sounds robotic. It sounds like text-to-speech because there’s no connection to the script. Why are you telling me? You’ve got to figure out the why, people. Who, who, what, why. Why are you telling me about this drug, this voice box, this piece of anatomy?

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
I think people just need a framework, right? You’ve used who, who, what and why a couple of times here now. And we should all adopt that whenever we’re trying to talk to someone or prepare a PowerPoint even, or when you’re developing a character. I really appreciate everything that you said.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
One thing I did want to ask, because I’ve heard some of these technical terms pronounced differently throughout, is there a right and a wrong way to say laryngeal, for instance? Obviously we’ve heard a couple of different version.

Kim Handysides:
I love that you brought this up. What I do is, whenever I’m about to start working with a client, part of my communication with them is saying, “I will default to Merriam-Webster, and I will default to the first pronunciation,” because sometimes there’s two or even three pronunciations in Merriam-Webster. So that is what I will default to, and I will like you to agree with me on that. People go to different medical schools all over the place, there are different regional pronunciations of all kinds of things. So having them agree upon what the pronunciation will be ahead of time just makes it easier and fewer pickups.

Kim Handysides:
It also gives you more confidence in your ability to use this. To increase your own Grey’s Anatomy vocabulary, right? And the one part that’s difficult in that are drug names. With drug names, the best thing to do is either go online and find a YouTube video of a doctor talking about that drug. Or if you can’t find anything, call the drug company up and ask them how do you pronounce this?

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
That’s a good idea.

Julianna Jones:
Because even on their website, they may have a little explainer video, perhaps, and they will say the product name on there, too, right?

Kim Handysides:
Exactly. So I think that with this one, yeah, you can saw laryngeal, or you can say laryngeal. And I believe that, I can’t remember which one’s the first one, but one of them is-

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
I think it was laryngeal. I think I heard laryngeal.

Kim Handysides:
Laryngeal. And I think it’s laryngeal, is the first pronunciations.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Yeah, some time ago I went to a conference in Chicago actually, and it was a medical conference. And so I just remember hearing about the pharyngeal voice, so you know, I think pharyngeal, laryngeal probably the same thing. But maybe that was unique to Chicago, I have no idea.

Kim Handysides:
I’ve had clients where, in the same day I’ll be working for someone in Chicago, someone in Maryland, and they’ll want different pronunciations of capillaries, capillaries. You know, things like that. Yeah.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Wow, that is very different. Absolutely. Figure out what syllable you’re supposed to go on, and then make sure that it’s pronounced correctly to what your people need. No, that’s great.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
So let’s listen to audition number four.

Audition 4:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Kim Handysides:
What this guy has going for him is he has that kind of more natural rhythm. What is working against him is, first of all he said larynx, and it’s larynx. So again, you’ve got to make sure. It’s like saying Kick instead of Coke, you’ve got to get the product name, you’ve got to get what we’re talking about right.

Kim Handysides:
And then secondly, his diction is a little sloppy. Now, diction is something that we can play with for character creation, which sometimes does come up in medical narration, but it has to be pristine when you are the narrator. Which doesn’t mean you have to over-enunciate, that’s the other thing that sometimes people will do. The trend is more toward conversational, even in this genre, but the conversational will allow for a softer diction. But there’s a difference between soft and sloppy. And I’m not hearing him close his words enough to be able to… For example, for a non-native English speaker to be able to get this.

Kim Handysides:
And the other things that he has going for him is he has a lot of confidence in his read, but again, that inclarity in his diction sort of negates that. It makes me think, well, he’s confident but I don’t know if he really knows what he’s talking about because he’s not speaking clearly. And that’s unfortunately, because otherwise, it’s not bad.

Julianna Jones:
Is not speaking clearly a matter of something he’s doing with his breath, with how tongue, with his throat, with his shoulder placement, what can cause that?

Kim Handysides:
Diction is a difficult thing to work. And when I started, eons ago in radio, I was told I was too sibilant. And in those days, one of the things that they used to tell people was, “Cut your S’s like this,” because it cuts the breath behind the S’s, but that’s not what you should be doing. You should just learn more about what’s going on in your mouth as you’re talking. So, when you’re being to sibilant, you’re pushing too much air behind your teeth. So you just need to learn how to bite back a little bit on that air, and that helps you become less sibilant.

Kim Handysides:
What he’s doing is, he’s not closing his consonants at the ends of his words. So, he’s not pronouncing his D’s, his T’s. Now, we don’t do that as much, if it was British we would really pronounce those, those T’s and those P’s and those everything. We don’t do that, we do soften them. But his are too soft. What I’d probably do is, either work with a vocal coach. A vocal coach meaning different from a voiceover coach. But some voiceover coaches will be able to handle diction. I work on diction sometimes, but it’s not my forte.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
So a speech language pathologist perhaps?

Kim Handysides:
Exactly. Exactly.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
All right, that’s great tips. So what we’re going to do is listen to audition number five.

Kim Handysides:
Let’s do it.

Audition 5:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Kim Handysides:
I actually love her read. Her read is spot-on, and it makes me excited to hear her because she sounds like she’s just telling me the story, and I’m listening to her because I believe what she’s saying. She had the second pronunciations for laryngeal, which is accepted. A few pauses could be removed for better flow, but my main hesitation with this is the sound quality. The sound quality is not as good as what we’ve been hearing so far. And I don’t know whether that’s because she’s talking too far away from the mic, or because her room needs better treatment.

Kim Handysides:
But for me this is a sound issue, not a performance issue. Her performance is great. But I that there are great resources on the Voices website and also in the voiceover community to be able to tidy that up. So that’s not a main issue, but it is an issue that definitely needs to be addressed in order to be competitive.

Julianna Jones:
Well, if everyone’s looking for audio tips we did a two-part series with our talent success specialist a couple of episodes ago, that handle actually just the issue Kim was talking about. And if you’re having trouble diagnosing the issues yourself, you know it takes a while to have a trained ear, and you’re a premium member with us, contact support and they can put you in touch with Cameron and make sure that we’re getting any of those issues cleared up for you.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
All great tips. Let’s listen to audition number six now.

Audition 6:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Julianna Jones:
So soothing.

Kim Handysides:
She has a soft voice, a very pleasing timbre. She would kill it in medication stuff. But she has a couple of distracting mouth noises. I occasionally do audio books as well, because I love long form, and I heard the best tip for, I thought, for anti-click, other than some of the technical things which is drinking a lot of water. And this was from Scott Brick who’s one of the masters of the audio book world. He said he doesn’t start his day of eight hours of narration before having had two liters of water before he starts-

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Oh wow.

Kim Handysides:
… and then another four that he sips through the day. So staying hydrated really, really helps. But apart from that, so soft, pleasing timbre, distracting noises, I still feel like I’m being read to a little bit. It’s almost that maybe it has to do with that somnorific kind of a tone, but I don’t feel like I’m being included in the conversation.

Kim Handysides:
And this is something that’s really interesting. When we work as narrators we often think well, I’m alone in a booth by myself and it’s a monologue. It is not a monologue. It’s a dialogue. Even though you can’t see the person, you can’t hear them, they’re not with you right at the moment, you have to imagine that they are with you. The pauses that you leave are pauses where you are connecting with them, even though they’re not there, so it’s really in your own mind. But you’re connecting with them to hear back from them, to get feedback from them. Like we do all the time when we’re talking to people. We look for cues of agreement, you know, nodding and smiling et cetera.

Kim Handysides:
You have to be able to allow time for a person to understand. So that’s what I’m saying. This, to me, sounded like it was a monologue not a dialogue. There was no connection with the other person.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
We’re going to listen to audition number seven now, and see what this Voice talent brings to the table.

Audition 7:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
All right, auditioner number seven. What do you think, Kim?

Kim Handysides:
Okay, larynx stops me dead, that’s like okay, if you’re hiring for medical, you have to be able to speak the language. So, start building that medical vocabulary. I think it’s a really great idea to start listening to medical professionals talk about things, create your own vocabulary list. Once a week, over a coffee in the morning, if you do coffee still, I limit myself to only one a day because I’ve got to get that water in, then go over those vocabulary words.

Kim Handysides:
If medical narration is one of the things you want to do, you’ve got to have a good medical vocabulary. And larynx is a fairly simple word, so larynx, that stopped me dead. So that would be like I wouldn’t even listen further past that, which is unfortunately because she has a nice timbre. But on top of that she also has… It’s a pretty voice, but I don’t feel any intention in the voice. I don’t understand why she’s emphasizing certain words over other words.

Kim Handysides:
You’ve to understand, this is part of script analysis actually, when you’re looking at your script, look for what is your power word. If you have to break that line down into only one word or two words, what would those words be? Those are your choices as the actor, as the messenger. That’s what helps build intention and connection, understanding why you’re saying what you’re saying. And that’s part of script analysis.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
So if you are somebody who has come from a medical background or pharmaceuticals, then this is going to be a lot easier for you. I know that we have any number of professionals I’ll say who have come from that background, and so that would nail medical narration, it would just be almost like the language that they’ve been speaking. Not for their whole life, but you know, for the most part.

Kim Handysides:
Exactly. It’s the playground within which they’ve been playing all this time. So why not play in a different medium, in voice work.

Julianna Jones:
Well that’s why we see voice actors from so many different backgrounds do well on the website. You don’t realize the skills you bring to the table sometimes. And that happens a lot with nurses and teachers and comedians even, that we see them doing really well because, especially in their genre because it’s so easy for them to give the kinds of reads that we’ve been talking about. They don’t have to think about it. That being said, they need to then learn these skills for other genres. But it’s a good way for them to get their foot in the door and start booking some work.

Kim Handysides:
You hit on something that I think is really valuable. When I first came to Voices, I listened to a podcast from somebody else on the site who said he was trying to find his niche. Trying to get in booking that first one, two, three, four, five jobs. It really helps to say, “Okay, I’m good at this, I’m going to go for these auditions.” This particular guy said he had a really cowboy kind of feel, and so he went for cowboy accents and cowboy related stuff and he started booking like crazy.

Kim Handysides:
And once you get in, you start to have more confidence, you start to really ease into much more work on the site, too.

Julianna Jones:
Yeah, absolutely. We see that happen a lot.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
I think we all need to go get ourselves a lexicon for whatever it is that we want to work in, right? Like have all the words that you need at your disposal, because it will make a difference, obviously, with whether you book or nor. And these terms are just like a product. Like you were saying earlier Kim, if you don’t know how to say the name of the product or at least how to sounds like you are familiar enough with it to be able to speak it properly, you’re going to be a really, really audition to cut.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
So speaking of which, we’re going to move on to our next audition, audition number eight.

Audition 8:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Kim Handysides:
Yeah, I mean right there is nice flow, nice rhythm, nice tonality, but he bummed on the word larynx. So I would stop listening at that point. And that’s really sad because he, otherwise like I say, nice flow, good rhythm, nice tonality. But yeah. Lost marks on that vocab word, and I’m out.

Julianna Jones:
Well, it’s good for talent to be hearing this because this is how critical clients are when they’re listening to an audition. And a lot of the time you hear talent say, “I spent this time on an audition, I put all this work into it,” and they do deliver nice reads but it’s little things like this that cut you from the running. And don’t ever assume, do a little bit of homework because that little of homework, double checking that you’re saying that word correctly, could be the difference between you getting the job or you not.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Yeah, I think it was in the episode with Jim Kennelly, but basically everyone wants you to do well. Casting directors, these people, they want you to do well. But if you are not bringing to the table what they need to hear, they’re going to move on. And he says, “Yes, we listen to every single one, but we may not listen very long.”

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
So just always bear that in mind that you need to know what your audience needs to hear. And you have to prepare for it, otherwise you will not be rewarded. It’s tough love, but it’s what people need to hear. And I think that’s part of why people listen to this podcast, is because you know you’re going to hear things that you will not hear from people. Because either they are not in a position to tell you because it’s not part of their job, or they have no time, frankly. Or they say, “Oh well, the talent should be figuring this out on their own.” Well, you may never know unless someone says something in an environment that is very safe, like this one, but I do want to recommend that if anyone is wondering about how to get into this area, that you do seek out coaching, that you are doing everything Kim said. Because you need to sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Okay, and here’s audition number nine.

Audition 9:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Julianna Jones:
What do you think, expert?

Kim Handysides:
Okay, I think he has a lovely, pleasing sound. It’s a good read. It’s little slow. It’s a little musical, but I understand his intention. I understand the thought behind the music which makes this one believable. I like this one so far, I’d start… And this is like my other major thumbs up right now. If I were going to move forward with him, though, I’d want him to just pick up the pace a good 5%, 10%. Just speak a little bit more naturally. But so far, so good.

Julianna Jones:
And he had that age to him that makes him sound like he knows what he’s talking about.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Well to keep on pace, we’re going to listen to audition number ten.

Speaker 13:
The human voice is generated when the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx or voice box, and the articulators work in harmony. The lung provides the pump. They send airflow, as well as control air pressure to the vocal folds, which then vibrate, creating audible pulses that form the laryngeal sound source. Pitch and tone are fine-tuned by the muscles of the larynx, which adjusts in both length and tension.

Kim Handysides:
Okay, so larynx, so no, he’s done. But even before that, there were too many pauses in between each small word grouping for me to understand why was he making that pause there. It’s not believable. We because pauses when people put them in places for intention, and it can be that they’re looking for their words, and then they’re giving you a really good performance because they’re feeling and acting like they are in the moment. It can be for emphasis, so that you have time to grasp what it is they’re saying. And they leave a nice pause in there for you to do that.

Kim Handysides:
But when you put in pauses with no intention it just sounds weird. It just sounds off. I shouldn’t have said weird, that’s maybe too judgemental. I’m sorry. But he’s got a nice voice, but in this industry it’s always more than a pretty voice. You have to have all of the other stuff behind it. So many people will say, “I think I want to be a voice artist because everyone tells me I have such a nice voice.” But that’s just like, okay, you see you’ve got a car, now what are you going to do to learn how to drive it.

Julianna Jones:
Yeah, I agree. Absolutely wonderful voice, but you need to know how to use it and how to intuit what the script is requiring of you.

Kim Handysides:
Yeah. It’s voice, it’s understanding the script, it’s delivery, it’s audio quality. What else is it, ladies? I mean, those are the main things that I can think of.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
It’s almost like, are you going to be the right person to deliver the message?

Kim Handysides:
Yes.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Are you a good advocate for this? Do you believe what you’re saying? Are you passionate about helping these people who you’re sharing this information with? I think that does play into what’s going on as well, because believability is huge, but in order to believe what you’re saying, you have to also understand what you’re saying. And that I think is a big part of this medical narration, that while you may not actually have gone to med school yourself, or you’re not a pharmacist or what have you, you need to have enough of an understanding and appreciation of what’s being required, that people do trust you. Because this is another area of voiceover where yes, trust is always important, believability is always important. But this is like a whole other level of it, in a certain way. In a kind of more technical believability because this is serious stuff. You can’t mess around with it.

Kim Handysides:
Exactly. I got a huge compliment from one of my clients. I said, “I just want to know, why do you keep coming back for me?” Because I was mining them for information that I could perhaps use with other clients, and they said, “Well, Kim you know what you’re talking about. You’ve got a bachelor of science, you get this stuff.” I don’t have a bachelor of science, but I work hard to be able to make it sound like I do.

Julianna Jones:
Because you were talking about the script earlier and what you’re supposed to pull out of it. When you’re looking at a script, do you use highlighters, different colors, how do you do your script analysis?

Kim Handysides:
I used to do that. Should I reveal my age? I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years now. I work every day. I work eight hours a day. I work hard at this profession, and I love this profession. But the first 10 to 15 years, yes, I printed everything, I used highlighter. I had my own little set of notes that I would use, kind of like an underline, but a curved underline for this. A line to represent staccato for pauses. I broke it down like an actor breaks down a movie script. And when I coach actors I say, “Look, it’s all the same technique that you used as an actor.” It’s all the same stuff, but it’s just in a different framework.

Kim Handysides:
So adopt the framework, get to know the framework, whether it’s commercial, whether it’s medical narration, whatever it is that you’re doing, and place all that information into that framework. For someone who’s coming from a medical background or pharmaceutical background, you’ve got the framework, you just don’t have the acting ability. Yet. But that can be learned. Those are the two approaches I take when I work with people. What’s your background? Let me fill in the blank.

Julianna Jones:
Well, those are great tips and awesome insight. Now we’ve come to the point in the show where we do need to say who won. So, why don’t we turn that over to you now, Kim. Out of everyone we’ve heard today, all the voices and wonderful ways that they’ve interpreted the script, who is going to walk away as winner of Mission Audition.

Kim Handysides:
Well, I would have picked number five, because I love her read. But I don’t like her sound. That’s the only thing that’s keeping me… If I can say to her, “Hey, can you fix your sound in 48 hours?” And if she could then I’d give her the job. But I don’t know that she’s capable of doing that, so I would pass on number five and I would go with number nine. Because although I still thought he was too slow, I really liked his read. And that’s what it comes down to. Oh gosh, that’s what it comes down to for just about everything, right? It’s how do you deliver it? How can you deliver this message? And he was able to deliver that message best. I still thought he was a little musical, I still thought he was a little slow, but perhaps with some direction back and forth he would be able to give me exactly what I need. So number nine’s the winner.

Julianna Jones:
Yay. Good job.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Awesome. Well, that’s the show for today. Before we go, I want to make sure that everyone knows how to get a hold of you, Kim, because you’re just so wonderful and we’d love to see others learn from you. And just on a personal note, I love you, Kim Handysides-

Kim Handysides:
Ditto.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
… you’re just so amazing, and you have been a great friend over the years and it’s just such a pleasure to have you on today. So for those of you who also want to build a relationship with you, too, what’s the best way for them to find you online?

Kim Handysides:
Go to my website, which is just kimhandysides.com, or kimhandysidesvoiceover.com and you can drop me a line there and I’ll get right back in touch with.

Julianna Jones:
Well, and you can find Kim just by going to our coaches directory, which www.voices.com/coaches. And she’s there.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
That’s another great place. We would love to see more of you succeeding in however you do that. Just make sure that you keep listening to the podcast. And as you know, all of the scripts that are on the show are found on the blog, so if you want to go to voices.com/blog that’s where you can find scripts.

Stephanie Ciccarelli:
Also, if you are not yet subscribed to Mission Audition, I’m really having trouble figuring out why that is. I know that we would love to have you joining us each and every time. So you can find us literally wherever you listen to your podcast. So until next time I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli.

Julianna Jones:
And I’m Julianna Jones. We hope you enjoy taking these tips back into your studio. Happy auditioning everyone.

Stephanie Ciccarelli
Stephanie Ciccarelli is a Co-Founder of Voices. Classically trained in voice 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. For over 25 years, Stephanie has used her voice to communicate what is most important to her through the spoken and written word. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, Stephanie has been a contributor to The Huffington Post, Backstage magazine, Stage 32 and the Voices.com blog. 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®.
Connect with Stephanie on:
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Comments

  • Misty
    September 3, 2019, 4:21 am

    Best advice ever! I really needed to hear this as I have been struggling with not sounding like I am reading. I even practiced reading the summary of the episode and then did it again while not actually looking at the words and it was mind blowing how noticeable the difference was. Thank you guys so much.

    Reply
  • ปั๊มไลค์
    May 29, 2020, 2:23 pm

    Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      June 1, 2020, 7:59 pm

      Thank you!

      Reply