Nailing Your Live Directed Session with Toby Ricketts

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    Thanks to technology, connecting with clients for a live directed session has never been easier—even when you’re located halfway across the globe from one another. Near, far, or wherever you are, a directed session’s success relies on how prepared you are to juggle various technologies while following remote recording etiquette.

    That’s why Stephanie was over the moon to chat with world-renowned voice actor and vocal coach Toby Ricketts from his home studio in New Zealand. In this episode, Toby Ricketts covers a range of topics that anyone working in the biz today ought to know: from what to expect during a directed session, to the best online tools for connecting remotely. Toby also leads Stephanie through performing with a non-regional, or ‘global’ accent. Listen to this episode for insight into the best practices for wowing your client and delivering a great live directed session. 

    About Toby Ricketts 

    In the last 20+ years of his career, multi-award-winning voiceover artist Toby Ricketts has managed to create a global client base of big-name brands and loyal customers. From his roots working on pirate radio in the UK in the early 90’s, through to the New Zealand Broadcasting School in the 2000s, Toby has gone from strength to strength, mastering 4 different accents and voiceover technique to lend his voice to brands from across the globe. Just a few of his impressive clients include Facebook, Netflix, Samsung, BMW, Audi, Spotify and Google – to name but a few. As well as lecturing on Voiceover at international conferences, Toby has been nominated for 3 SOVAS awards, and at the One Voice Awards held in London, he won 7 awards, including Male Voiceover of the Year in 2018 and 2019. He currently records from a small shack in the remote New Zealand jungle.

    Hosts: Stephanie Ciccarelli, with special guest Toby Ricketts. 

    Links:

    Inspired? Get your practice on with our voice over sample scripts.

    Read all about the technology for connecting remotely in this comprehensive blog post that covers ISDN, Source-Connect, ipDTL, and Other Technology for Recording Remote VO Sessions.

    Connect with Toby Ricketts on his website and his YouTube channel, and hear his voice on Voices.com. 

    Find the Pillow Fort Studio Gallery Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1114907705360731/

    About Mission Audition: Mission Audition is presented by Voices.com. Produced and engineered by Randy Rektor.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Hi, there. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli. You are listening to Mission Audition. We are all remote. No one is in the regular Voices.com office right now. It is COVID-19. I’m sure you all know that. But today, I’m recording with Toby Ricketts. Toby is in New Zealand. I don’t know what time it is there, but I’m sure it’s not dinner. What time is it, Toby?

    Toby Ricketts:
    It’s first thing in the morning, actually. The sun is just coming up. It’s lovely and misty.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, that’s glorious.

    Toby Ricketts:
    It’s all misty and yeah, it’s beautiful.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Lovely, yes. So Toby and I are here, and we’re just going to talk today about remote directed recording sessions. So a lot of people have participated in these. They don’t necessarily know what other options there are for doing a remote session, but before we get too much into that, I just like to introduce Toby again to you. I know he’s got a wonderful voice. You’ve just heard him. And if you tune in to our show, you know that Toby has already been on Mission Audition. He did an excellent episode with us that was about accents. So be sure to go back and listen to that.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Toby lives in New Zealand. Some of your clients, Toby have been Spotify, Microsoft, Samsung, Walmart, Google. There’s NatGeo which I think a lot of us are probably at home watching some streaming service and have likely come across your work in the last little while. But you also coach which is so cool. You’ve been with us for 10 years at Voices.com almost in October. That is fantastic. My goodness, Toby. That’s amazing. And let alone that, but you’re an internationally award-winning talent. So welcome again to the show, Toby.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Fantastic.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And we’re so glad to have you here.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Cool. Nice to be here. Thank you. Which accent would you like me to use today?

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh my gosh. So much fun. So many things to choose from. Well, you do specialize in New Zealand, Australian. I know there’s a British accent, the American. I think we’ll just stick with your normal kiwi today.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, the normal one. Okay. Fair enough.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I think that would be your normal one.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, my normal one.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Whichever that means, right? I know that you also have an accent and I’ll just harken back to it before we jump right into our main topic, that is like the accent from Nowhere. So that maybe for a future time we can talk about just that particular one.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Sure.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    But today, I think because you have just so much experience in this whole directive session avenue, being where you are, being so remote as I had mentioned a bit earlier, you actually… Not much has changed for you as you had said to me just before we started about your process, but that being the case. So much has changed for so many people who are listening to this right now, right?

    Toby Ricketts:
    That’s right, yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And so I would just love it, Toby if you could walk us through the basics of a live directed session and just also share with us like the differences between having one of those or not having one.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Exactly, yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So if you don’t mind, maybe just give us a little bit of a glimpse into why we would even need to have one of these sessions and what they are.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Sure, absolutely. So a live directed session is basically where you have the client or the decision-maker who is actually listening in on the line and they can provide as it is, live directed feedback so that if you say something slightly wrong or they want a slightly different inflection, then they can ask for that in the session. There are pros and cons to having this, to doing a live directed session. The pros being that it can actually take less time as a talent because you’re getting sign-off as you go along.

    Toby Ricketts:
    If you do the recordings on your own, often you’re doing three takes and they’re choosing the best ones and you’re having to edit three takes, but whereas if you’re in the actual session itself, then you can get them to sign it off as you go. This is particularly the case for very technical reads or quite long reads, because if there’s any sort of curly words that the client has in there, then they’re going to be able to tell you exactly how to read those.

    Toby Ricketts:
    You also build up client rapport. That’s another really good pro of this is that you get to meet your client and talk to them about what the weather is and how it’s all going with them, which is really good for future work as well, because you get a sort of sense to each other, whereas if it’s just email, that’s kind of cold. You also get a rapport if it’s being conducted at a studio. On the client end, you get to meet the studio engineer often and build a rapport with them.

    Toby Ricketts:
    And they are sometimes the guys that are actually, they know all the voices and sometimes the clients ask them who should I use for this? So it’s good to build up a good relationship with an engineer. And also another pro is that depending on what software you use and how you’ve got it with your client, no editing is necessary sometimes. You can just send them the whole session and they’re like, we’ll take the takes.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So those are some of the pros for doing a connected session. Some of the cons though is that you do have to be nailed down to a time and a place. So it’s lovely having gigs where you’re like, “I’ve got three voiceover jobs today. What should I do? I’ll go and mow the lawns and then I’ll do this, and then I’ll do my voice jobs.” This means you’d nailed down to a time a place, which can be a good thing as well because it’s kind of like a bit of discipline.

    Toby Ricketts:
    There also time zones involved. I had definitely been known to have to stay up until like 2:00 in the morning to do specific sessions when the client can’t do any other time, it’s a really big gig and I’m in New Zealand. So it’s basically the opposite of everywhere else in the world. So that can be a bit of a struggle. There’s social interaction. We’re used to being in this controlled little bubble of our own studios where we have a very controlled environment and this does add those kind of extra social dimension which works great for some people.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Some people love the ability to reach out, but some people not so much. And especially for us in the creative field, it can really bring up this performance anxiety. Especially, if you’re a beginner and doing your first directed session, the feeling that you have to nail it in the first take is overwhelming and makes you nervous, which makes it less likely that you’re going to nail it in the first take. So it does bring up this kind of performance anxiety stuff. But the good news is that the more you do it, like with anything, the easier it gets.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, that’s wonderful. There’s so many different factors and you touched on a couple of them that I really, really do want to hit on as we are going through. The first stop though, Toby, will be on the technical side, if you don’t mind. So there are so many different ways and tools that people are using to connect these days. I know that Zoom in particular has had a massive user adoption increase given everything that’s been going on, but if you could walk through some of these technologies, your preferences and pros and cons as a voice artist using them.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Then how would you describe these technologies and how you use them but also why and when you might use certain ones.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Absolutely. Okay. That’s fair enough. So I’ll start at the kind of the most basic and the most familiar of ones and probably the lowest quality and then we’ll sort of go up to the professional tools from there if you like. So we’re all very familiar with phone calls. Everyone’s made phone calls all the time and this has been around for a long time. I mean, I remember when I started in radio in the ’90s and there was that little box that sat on the sound rec there called the phone patch and it was actually quite difficult back then to get like a phone signal into a mixing disc in the right way. So it’s been around for a long time.

    Toby Ricketts:
    And it’s literally just plugging the phone into your audio gear so that you can hear them, they can hear you and you can record them, et cetera. But now it’s a lot easier with phone patches because you can use things like Skype, which are all inside your computer anyway. You can actually just use your cellphone on speaker if you like and you can just mute them when it’s your turn to do the speaking so they don’t get on your microphone. I use Skype to make a Skype out call so that my microphone that I’m using to speak on this podcast here is actually it’s going straight into the box and that’s being sent to them, so you don’t need one of those phone patch units like you used to back in the ’90s.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So the phone call is the most basic. It’s super easy to do. You usually dial into a conference line, so you can have up to six or eight people sometimes on this conference line. This can get challenging in terms of hearing direction and someone goes, “Does anyone have anything else to say?” And like eight people will start talking at once. So the pros are it’s easy. The cons are that it’s quite low quality. It’s quite difficult for the client to hear sort of what is actually going on. There’s no way they’re going to be able to record you at the other end to actually do the recording there.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So you have to record on your side. That’s the key thing with these low technologies is that you record on your end and then your voice is just there for them to make sure all the words are the right way. So a phone and Skype, I kind of put on the same level. Skype is a bit better. You’ve got a bit of FaceTime. You’ve got the slightly better audio quality, but as everyone knows with Skype, there’s delays and there’s bits where people freeze and get dropouts and all kinds of things.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So quite often in the Skype sessions, you’ll have the client saying, “Oh, you just missed a word in there,” and you’ll be like, “Well, I didn’t. It was just dropping out.” So there’s this thing of… It’s a bit of a disconnect, the time shifted, which you don’t get with phone actually. So phone is good in that regard. So we’ll move up the layer to Zoom. I put Zoom above Skype. There are fewer dropouts. The latency is a bit better.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Again, it’s super easy to use. It’s a little bit harder I suppose that people have been more familiar with Skype on the phone. So Skype, you do have to download an app but once you get into it, it’s actually very easy. It’s like I said it’s better quality and has fewer dropouts.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Next, we get into a whole new tier of products, which came along with the Chrome browser made an interesting extension to their product where they they incorporated all these communication tools. And quite a few people hopped onto this and started making live broadcast quality voice apps. One of these is called Source Connect Now. Now, it’s not to be confused with Source Connect Standard which has been a professional tool for a number of years. Over 10 years, I think.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So Source Connect Now is like an offering that they had recently, where you can just use a browser. You go on and if your microphone is plugged into the computer, you select the mic from the drop-down list of audio devices and then you can send this broadcast quality audio to anyone who you send the link to. All they need is the Chrome browser and headphones and then they can listen to you in broadcast quality, and you can talk backwards and forwards.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So the benefit of this is it’s great quality. It’s free, which is pretty amazing and it’s got relatively low latency as well compared to sort of Skype or Zoom. So latency is basically the delay between your voice going into the microphone and then it reaching the other end. If it’s two seconds then that’s when you get crossover and people starting sentences at the same time and all that kind of stuff. So the latency is much better with the Source Connect Now.

    Toby Ricketts:
    And some studios are able to sort of port it into their mixing desks, but most really professional studios will insist on a different version of Source Connect, which is Source Connect Standard, which I will go into now. So Source Connect Standard is the first of the kind of professional level voiceover tools. So if you are a working voiceover artist, it is definitely worth getting on the bandwagon of these especially in times like COVID because studios, a lot of people are now working from home and you basically have to be working from home in order to be a voiceover under these current circumstances.

    Toby Ricketts:
    But it also means that if you’re in a remote location like I am in my little booth here in New Zealand, it’s literally like I can turn on Source Connect, connect to a studio and it’s like I’m in their booth. Like they’re so low latency and the quality is so good, and it’s going right into their mixing desks. So it even comes up in a channel in their mixing desk that it is just like someone is talking in their booth, but there’s actually no one in there.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So that was the idea behind these professional tools is that you could have a cable via the internet that made it sound like you’re in a studio booth somewhere. So it is the industry standard, the Source Connect Standard. Broadcast quality, it means that they can record on their end and you don’t necessarily have to record in your studio as well although I usually do just as backup.

    Toby Ricketts:
    The technology has got to such a point now where if there is a drop out for some reason over the internet, then their version of Source Connect can ask for the missing pieces from your Source Connect and so there’s actually no breakup. It’s called find and replace, I think or queue and replace. So that technology has come quite a long way. The cons of that is that there is a cost to Source Connect Standard, but I think they do monthly plans and they do free trials and all that kind of stuff. So you can hit their website to look it up.

    Toby Ricketts:
    There is a technical setup involved. Sometimes it doesn’t work on all networks because unlike the other things, it doesn’t sort of use the normal internet and just sort of sit on top of your normal browser. It has actually its own program and kind of tunnels its own little portal if you like through the internet and in a standalone app that sits on your desktop. It can also be used as a plugin inside your digital audio workstation or door so you can actually load it into a track.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So you can send it or receive it right inside your DAW. So that’s why most of these major studios use it is because it’s like having a piece of gear in this studio. You need good internet for this as well, two megabits minimum which most people have these days. But when I had a 2-megabit connection out here in the wop-wops, before I upgraded, it was a bit touch-and-go sometimes with the sessions and you’d sometimes lose them for a bit and then come back and it was a little bit of a white-knuckle ride for everyone.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh my goodness.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So that’s the professional tools. There’s also very similar ones called ipDTL which stands for Internet Protocol Down The Line, which was an ISDN replacement tool, which these all are really and SessionLinkPro is a German company that has a similar offering to Source Connect Standard. And then there’s tools like Source Connect Pro, which voiceover actors don’t really need because all the tools in the Source Connect Pro are really for Studios.So the studio buys the big package and then the voiceover actors just have to buy the little one that connects to sort of the big package if you like. So that’s a bit of a roundup of all the tools available.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wow. I hope people were writing that down. If you weren’t, then make sure you go back and just listen to all of these amazing tools that Toby has mentioned. I really did appreciate hearing the difference between the various ways of using Source Connect. I had no idea that you could have little, I guess, bits and pieces of sessions put together on various ends depending on what you needed to patch up. That’s really cool.

    Toby Ricketts:
    It’s also with it as well. If you need to do dialogue replacement that Source Connects like they can link Pro Tools sessions basically so that again like you’re in the booth, you’re actually watching the video that you are doing voiceovers for in real time as well. So it’s video locked and transport locked with another Pro Tools session. So it’s like one Pro Tools session that’s working in two different countries, which is quite amazing.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So we’ve been talking about these technologies and you’ve worked your way, Toby from the least expensive lowest quality versions, all the way up to the Source Connects and in ipDTL and for some people, the top of this list absolutely has to be ISDN. Anyone who is familiar with ISDN is probably like, yes. This is the tool that Don LaFontaine made possible for people to have home studios working from home. It wasn’t possible before ISDN was available. They would go from Studio to studio wasting several hours in the car everyday.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So could you talk about ISDN, kind of what it is, how important it was and obviously, it spurred on other technologies, but just where it is now in the echelon of technology for voiceovers.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Absolutely. So ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network, firmly enough. It’s a technology that was developed before digital technology and computers and the internet could link everything together. So it’s basically used to encode voice and send it down a dedicated phone line, so you’d have this box that would squish your broadcast quality. It would go into a digital signal, compress the digital signal and then send it down a single phone line like a single copper pair right to the other end where they’d have another box that we decode it into broadcast quality sound.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So obviously we know the phone systems, they restrict the quality of the voice call so they can get as many voice calls through as possible, like they only want you to be able to talk to each other. But this ISDN line gave you this broadcast quality option. It has obviously been made fairly redundant by these new technologies that use the internet to do exactly the same thing, because the thing with ISDN was you didn’t need a dedicated phone line. It didn’t run along your phone line like DSL connections do.

    Toby Ricketts:
    This actually needed its own line and it actually needed a special route through the exchange, I think as well, which is why they charge you two, $300 a month just to have one of these lines. And then use the installation cost of getting a second phone line. The decoders at each end, you need it to be a top flight Don LaFontaine level voice artist to even consider putting this in because it was only for the really big gigs in there.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So if anyone requests an ISDN session these days, it still does happen. There are still some people that have invested in this technology and want to keep using it as long as they possibly can. There are things called an ISDN bridging service, which is where you can use Source Connect Now sometimes. You can use the free version of Source Connects or you can use Source Connect Standard and connect to an ISDN box in a kind of a server and that will connect the ISDN with the studio.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So you can actually use an ISDN, but just do a Google search for ISDN bridging service because there’s quite a few places that offer that. But I wouldn’t be running out and buying in the ISDN natural hardware at this point because it’s definitely a vestigial technology that’s had it today, and I think they’re actually removing support in a lot of countries for ISDN lines. They’re actually stopping supporting them the next year I think so it really has reached the end of its life.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Because when we say like Don LaFontaine helping people to basically have home recording studios because of it. We’re talking the 1980s. So right now it’s 2020, right?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah. 30 years.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So when we think about it, whoa, that’s a long time in technology land. That’s like…

    Toby Ricketts:
    40 years.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    40 years, right?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So when you think about just how long actually the ISDN technology did reign though, it had a really good run and people were still installing them up until probably, I don’t know. You don’t really question it maybe 10 years ago. People were like, “Yep, still need ISDN. It’s absolutely crucial.” Maybe five years ago, there was a lot of questioning of do we really need this because now there’s Source Connect or all these different options started to come along.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So thank you for taking us on a tour of what ISDN was and certainly there are people who have… If you have an ISDN line, I want you commenting on this blog post. You can tweet at us or something with the hashtag Mission Audition.

    Toby Ricketts:
    I love my ISDN.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. Who knows, revival. You can have a whole ISDN party online. So some questions to follow up on this, I guess is are you finding that there are certain kinds of companies that you work with or types of clients who prefer certain tools and what might those tools be?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Absolutely. So I really do split these into two different categories. So there’s the ones below sort of the Source Connect Standard. So things like Source Connect Now, Zoom, Skype, all the free ones basically. Most clients especially the sort of self-service and day-to-day clients will be absolutely happy with this. It’s good to familiarize yourself in all of these because it’s your job to be the professional and know how to use these tools. And your client will probably only use one of them. So they’ll have chosen, say, Zoom instead of Skype or whatever.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So it’s good to get Zoom and get familiar with it and how it works with your audio gear. Source Connect Now as well. You can start offering that to your clients as a better solution than say Zoom or Skype. But the other side of the coin is when you’re starting to do bigger jobs, which is like a national campaign or a TV advert where it’s not someone doing it and then maybe internally in a small company, but they’ve gone to a video production company who’s getting audio post-production done at a big studio, and the budget is quite high, is that they will require Source Connect Standard.

    Toby Ricketts:
    This is usually very clearly written in the jobs themselves on Voices.com where it says Source Connect required. Many talent think, “Oh. Well, I’ve got Source Connect Now. I can just do that.” No, they don’t. They absolutely do not connect with each other at all. So you do definitely need to investigate Source Connect Standard.

    Toby Ricketts:
    And they say as well like you can download the product, you can try it for 14 days and connect with even other voice artists or you can connect with me if you like on there just the check that it’s all working. Then you can buy it on a weekly basis so you can go on and just get it for one session, which I think costs $25 or something just off the top my head. You can add it as a cost of doing that particular job. So it’s not something you have to necessarily invest in a huge amount of technology for.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s awesome. A lot of these tools are free or they do come with your phone like a FaceTime call for instance or a Google Hangout if you’re a G Suite user. A lot of these are accessible tools absolutely. Obviously, you’ve broken these up into two different areas. There’s going to be your more professional. It’s probably agencies, production houses and so on are using the Source Connect or some other variation of that. Just an assumption on my part, but I highly doubt anyone is installing ISDN lines right now.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    For so many reasons they’re not doing it, because they just don’t do it anymore in a lot of cases, but like it would be next to impossible probably to install something in somebody’s house when you’ve got physical distancing and social distance going on. But the beauty, I guess, of these live directed remote sessions versus being in person with people is that you can do them from anywhere as you said at any time of day.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, exactly. Or night.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. And it’s just so funny. I’m just thinking how your environment not only affects the audio quality that you can produce, but now because it’s a live directed session and people will have the option to either see you or not see you, and they’re going to want to see you probably because why wouldn’t you? This is now available, right? I mean, there are many reasons why you don’t want to necessarily go on camera as a voice actor. But just like how can someone wrap around all of that, I got to get my environment looking decent. I have to run this session or at least I join someone else’s if they set it up and now, I’ve got to choose how I come across physically to somebody when I’m really just used to them hearing my voice.

    Toby Ricketts:
    I actually say at the very start that there’s no pressure. I’ve never felt any pressure that I have to have a camera, that they have to see me at all. I feel like it’s nice to have for them, but I don’t think it’s required at all. I mean Source Connect doesn’t carry video for a start and Source Connect Now doesn’t. These other technologies, it’s very easy to just unplug your camera or just put something over it. So it’s just a black screen or something. I don’t think anyone will be necessarily judged for that. I’ve definitely never felt pressure to have video.

    Toby Ricketts:
    But it’s nice to be able to see your clients and have a face-to-face because that builds the rapport. So it’s nice if you can do it. But I wouldn’t lose any sleep over how you look or how your space looks at all. Probably, the more important thing is to try and make yourself as comfortable as possible. When you’re doing live sessions the thought that… Yet, like you say like your two-year-old could come and bang on the door with pots and pans is probably that anxiety is overwhelming.

    Toby Ricketts:
    What if it starts raining or a car goes pass or a plane flies over, they’re going to hear and you’ll get this impostor syndrome, which all of us creatives kind of feel at one point or another to varying degrees, which is part of being a creative. It’s part of like, “I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be doing this.” But it’s important to get over that because you are meant to be there because they hired you for this job and you are doing an absolutely amazing job as you are.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So the fewer things that you can assure to go wrong. So maybe you can get your partner to take you to your old for a walk or something and maybe have some standby soundproofing just in the wings in case there’s a loud noise or something. I always keep a few baffles just outside my door because if it does start raining really heavily, I’ve realized that the noise level increases and if the studio here is saying, “Oh, the noise level just went up.” I can quickly grab those and just build like a cave with in my sound cave.

    Toby Ricketts:
    It usually solves the problem. It’s getting rid of those things that cause anxiety, but it’s not like a regular Zoom meeting necessarily because they’ve hired you for your voice, so they’re not hiring you for anything else. You’ve just got to give a good performance. If you focus on giving that good performance, then I think you’ll have low anxiety and you’ll nail the gig.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I think we need to write an article and put that on the blog. So many people would be delighted to hear you say that because I think that there is a ton of anxiety for voice actors, even from the debate of should I have a headshot? Should I not have a headshot? Just going into that. And that was a pre-existing issue from decades ago of people trying to figure out how do I want to be seen and perceived?

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I don’t want to limit myself. I can be a chameleon with my voice. So why would COVID-19 or any other circumstance that warrants this sort of different work arrangement because now the whole world is having to figure out how they connect better. That doesn’t mean that you have to be on camera. So that is a huge comfort so thank you for talking through that with me.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Cool.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And I love what you said, Toby about needing to basically brief your family. Like okay, look, I’ve got this session. It’s going to be at this time. I can’t have any interruptions. I know we’ve all seen that video from over a year ago of the fellow and the BBC interviewer. There was a British interview and his kids come walking in. They’re having the best time and everyone is like, “Oh my gosh. What’s happening? It’s the end of the world these children have come in.” No, this is like normal. Everyone is that guy now, right?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Exactly, yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    There’s a lot going on I think that our industry is just we are just so well positioned in this time, but it’s like in some ways for those who have already been in the mix of doing voice over for so long, this is as you say, not much has changed. You’re usually working from home. So there’s some comfort in that. I guess it’s routine. It’s just that now all of a sudden everyone is doing this including your clients and they’re just going to be there. So to understand on the flip side that the talent may have someone walk in and kind of be like, “Oh, mom. I need this.” But the client may very well have the same thing happened to them.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Exactly, yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So have you experienced anything like that where life has basically started happening in the midst of a recording session that you’ve been part of where the client said, “Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry, Toby. I told them not to come in.” Is there been even anything where you just been like, “Yeah, I can see how they’re trying to cope with this too.”

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, totally. I mean, it’s actually kind of… I know it’s the same with Zoom corporate meetings. It’s kind of nice that the curtains drop now a little bit and you can realize that your clients are actually just human beings as well. And I think you connect on a different level with people because you’re both sharing in this kind of like the hardship of children walking in the background of your Zoom calls. So everyone has realized that we’re actually all just human.

    Toby Ricketts:
    When that stuff does happen, and I have had children walk in the background of like when I’m doing a big video voice-over or something. And it’s fine because everyone just has a laugh about it and goes, “Oh, yeah.” And you talk about your kids suddenly. Suddenly, it opens this door into kind of like knowing these people as real people. Those are the clients actually that I feel a lot closer to and I’ve done subsequent work with. So I think it actually can be an opportunity in that sense.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Awesome. Okay. So typically in a directed session and this is our own, let’s just see what to expect, but the client is in charge, right? The client is telling you, “I would like you to read now. We want to do this.” But are there times where let’s say the client is like, “I don’t normally do directed sessions because this is new to me.” How can you as the voice artists step in to either help them get through one of these sessions or to possibly, I don’t want to say take control of the conversation, but at least be able to keep the session on track.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, exactly. Because you do come across a huge spectrum of skill levels because it really does take skill to run a voice session efficiently and to direct the talent. And most people think it’s easy to direct a talent. Just tell them what you want. But it’s so not the case because you’ll get the best out of talent when you… Well, I’ll go through the whole list if you like.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So I mean, first off, sometimes in a room, especially in the big sort of high-level agency situation where you’ve got maybe eight people in the room. You’ve got a creative director and you’ve maybe got some creative writers or something. You’ve got a client. The account manager is probably what the clients like. An engineer. Sometimes a backup engineer. So they can be like this really big full room.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Really, there should be someone who steps forward and takes control. It’s usually the creative director or the creative, or the director of the commercial if they’re there. They haven’t got any creatives and it’s just the director who’s responsible for it. And really they should discuss amongst themselves and then one person should give you the direction that you should be taking.

    Toby Ricketts:
    If it does that coming from lots of different people, especially if there’s different clients, stakeholders in the room, that can get quite challenging because sometimes the direction will sort of cancel out as well or it will be different. Which is not necessarily a bad thing because lots of people think, you either do a voiceover right or you do it wrong and they say how to do it. That’s not the case necessarily.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Especially in live directed sessions, they’re exploring options often. So they’ll say, “Do this,” and say you’ll do it. And they’ll say, “Oh, it doesn’t quite work. Okay. We’ll, do something else.” It’s not that you’re getting the read wrong and people often misinterpret this that you’re actually like, “Oh, I failed. I didn’t get it in one take.” It’s like no. That’s not what this is about.

    Toby Ricketts:
    You are the sounding board for their ideas. And often, especially in those big situations, they’ll have a script and they will have something in their head, but they just want to try out some ideas. So they’re like let’s try happy. Let’s try somber. Let’s try doing these different inflections. And they’ll be very subtle sometimes. Whenever, you’re given direction, it’s not that you’re failing. It’s just that they’re trying something else out and there might be something better in there. So that’s something to really keep in mind.

    Toby Ricketts:
    In terms of like if a client gets kind of difficult, and by difficult I mean what they’re saying you can disagree with, which is fine because you can disagree with them and still do the work. That’s fine. If they want to start giving you line readings is really tricky because… And I had a client the other day that sort of was like, “I’ll just read the whole script for you and you listen then you can do it like that.” And I was like, “That’s not going to be helpful, and I’ll tell you why because you’re doing so many things with your voice that you don’t even realize you’re doing, and I’m going to copy those as well. So suddenly, I’ll be doing an impression of you doing an impression of me reading the script and then all bets are off and no one knows what’s going on.”

    Toby Ricketts:
    So the best thing that I usually say when people are having trouble directing is instead of telling me what I’m doing wrong and how to do it right, tell me the concept you want to achieve and I’ll figure out how to do that as a voice-over artist because tell me why I’m not meeting the concept that you’re after rather than the specifics of the things you’re trying to change.

    Toby Ricketts:
    I found that works a lot better in terms of like you’re both doing your own job then. You’re not trying to direct how the commercials should sound and they’re not telling you how to be a voiceover, but instead they’re telling you what they’d like the commercial to sound like and you’re saying, “Well, I can offer this as a voiceover. I’ll just help you achieve that.” So that’s a lot better way to make that work.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So you were saying and I absolutely agree is that everyone should be doing their own job. You shouldn’t be trying to be something you’re not or doing something that you weren’t asked to do. But how appropriate is it for a talent to offer a suggestion to a client because that’s kind of eggshell territory? I don’t know if anyone wants to tippy-toe on that. But is there ever a good time for a voice artist to suggest something?

    Toby Ricketts:
    I think there is. I think definitely with different writers, some people write more for the page than for the ear, as in the right words. When you’re actually the one reading it, it can sound better another way or maybe they want this really natural way of speaking. But how they’ve written it is not natural for you to speak. So definitely don’t criticize the creative and say, “Who wrote this piece of rubbish” for example. But just say, “Could I just put this word in here and just sound it out and see if it sounds better?” Just offer it as a kind of a, “Here’s an idea,” rather than, “This is what you should do,” obviously, because they’ve they’ve spent time on the script and if the creatives in the room, it can get quite awkward.

    Toby Ricketts:
    I mean, like when they’re giving you direction. They’re not saying, “That’s wrong. Do it my way.” They’re saying, “Let’s try this.” I think as a voice-over artist, you can do the same and say, “I’d like to try it this way.” Just to feel more natural if I do that. It does happen quite often where you get over the pleasantries and everyone says, “Right. We’re all here. Okay. All right. Okay.” And there’s just silence and you’re just like, “Well, what’s going to happen.”

    Toby Ricketts:
    So it’s good to have a practice like a plan B in case there is no creative director and the client is just waiting for you to perform and they’ve never done the call before. They don’t know if they asked you to do it or how it works. So come up with a way. I’ve got a game plan that I just execute. As soon as I detect that no one is in charge, I’ll go, “Okay. So here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to give you one big full read-through. You can give me all the feedback, and then we’ll do another big read-through then we can take it line by line.” Or something like that.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Whatever works for you, you can come up with your own game plan. But often clients are so pleased to see it here that you’ve got a game plan. It also shows that you’re a consummate professional and you’re used to doing this time and time again. And they’re just like, “Oh, well, I’m just happy to be along for the ride.” Which is a good position to be in.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. Do what you do best, right?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So what is the appropriate amount of awkward silence, Toby before someone decides to execute their plan.

    Toby Ricketts:
    I just think play it by ear. Offer, “Would you like me to just give you a read-through to start off with?” Maybe you could just start with that as soon as the small talk runs out.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That sounds friendly.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That sounds actually pretty friendly. “Oh, would you like to hear just the first read that I have?”

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, exactly. Or even just offer to read the first paragraph just to make sure you’re on the same pace or start up with like, “You listened to my audition. Have you got any notes from that audition or would you just like me to give you the same read as I did now? I’ll give you a take to start with.”

    Toby Ricketts:
    Another thing that’s important to stipulate in these sessions is it’s nice etiquette for your clients and whoever else is on the call to mute their microphones while you’re recording, so if something like that does happen during the session like something happens in the room or their kid comes in, it doesn’t affect your read. You say, “Right. Well, I’m going to read all the way through.” And you read all the way through and you can do it and you’re completely in the character or you’re completely in the zone in terms of reading a corporate script or something.

    Toby Ricketts:
    And that’s just good to get from their point of view too. So if they’re not familiar with doing these sessions, then it’s good to just say, “It would be great if you could just mute your microphones while I’m reading. And unmute if you want me to go back and redo anything. Just unmute and say it, and I’ll go back.” In the same way that someone wouldn’t leave the studio door open while you were recording and have a conversation.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. Some of that etiquette coming in again. Just like the usual, what would you normally do in this instance?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So I just want to take it in a Voices.com direction just for a second.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Sure.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So sometimes people have live directed sessions that they’ll have with clients that they’ve booked to work with through Voices and are there any tips that you have for people to have a successful live direct with a Voices client that would be different from how you would do just a live direct with one of your own clients that you found from elsewhere.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So I think the only difference probably would be they’ve set up the call and there’s a conference line that you can call into. So if there’s anything that they discussed in terms of payment or invoicing or stuff, that you just say, “The account manager can take care of that. No problem. Or contact Voices.com for support.” Which is kind of nice and that all you have to deal on that call is the fact that you’re doing the best job that you possibly can as a voice.

    Toby Ricketts:
    There’s no logistical things you have to figure out about invoicing or how to send the files because they’ll get the files through the platform once you upload it afterwards. Because Voices takes care of that, I think it’s good that you can just focus on the performance.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah, I think so. And if you’ve already agreed to terms like you’re not going to renegotiate with people just on the fly and decide you’re going to change something especially if there was an actual agreement in place. So use the platform, make sure that you’re doing everything whether it’s the direct messaging that’s within the account or what have you.

    Toby Ricketts:
    I think I can offer something as well in that sense in terms of like the two things in terms of that agreeing on the job terms is that make sure that they’ve awarded the job within the Voices system before you hop on the call because then you’ve already agreed to the terms everyone’s clear via the messaging system. What is being expected of both parties. And the other thing is don’t talk about money on the call.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Money should not be part of this conversation. Once, you’re at the stage where you are actually in the live directed session, all the money stuff should already be agreed and behind you. That’s not the time to sort out any kind of things you have. All this live directed session is about is getting the right read for the project.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Exactly. Your studio session or the live direct, that comes after the business has been discussed. That is, you’re in agreement. You’re just being asked to be an artist. Just put that hat on. That’s who you’re being paid to be right then and there, but it’s also where your passion and your drive and you’re getting into that script and you’re pleasing the client and meeting the needs of the audience. That’s what you’re supposed to get your head space into.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Totally.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    This is showtime. This is not trying to figure out all the other things.

    Toby Ricketts:
    And build a relationship as well if you can. Talk to them about their day and what they do and stuff. Not for a long time obviously. Maybe spend two or three minutes getting to know them at the beginning and end of the session. And just put the best foot forward and service them the best way you can.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Right. And part of that, Toby is knowing what language they are speaking. And by that I mean jargon.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Right, yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    There’s a lot of terminology and language that people use. What sort of things might somebody say that the talent will be assumed to know during a live direct be it like you’re in person with them or you are using a tool like what we’ve talked about?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Okay. So some of the terms might get a bit technical on some of this, but when you’re setting up the session, you might agree with the engineer about what sample rate you’re going to be recording it and that’s a new audio hardware about what the file type is going to be, what the deliverables are expected and what quality are recording them and what sample rate, et cetera because they might have standards around that kind of thing.

    Toby Ricketts:
    When you’re actually in the session itself, you can expect to hear about doing pickups on a certain line. It’s fairly obvious what that means, but it basically means go up and just do a little bit that might be wrong or we’re going to try something else. So pick up as when you go back and just redo a line for example.

    Toby Ricketts:
    I’m going to talk about takes a little bit later and how to deal with takes that might come out of the session. Talkback is a studio term for when the engineer wants to talk to you and he might just push a button and come in your ears and then go off again. So that’s what talkback is. Feedback, obviously is when you’ve got something going out of your microphone, into your speakers and then sorry, add your speakers into your microphone and then it repeats and so you get this kind of loop or squeal kind of effect going on, which is why I was going to mention everyone should wear possible to bring headphones on all these calls because it really solves a lot of that feedback issue.

    Toby Ricketts:
    That’s pretty much it. They’re usually fairly straightforward. And this is a really sort of top-level session. Clients are very happy to… You can say, “Oh, what do you mean by that? Can you just…” They’re just people as well so they’re happy to explain usually.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. And even something like take it from the top. It means like start from the beginner, right?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah. Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Just little things that someone might not… Especially, if they’ve not come from a music background for instance. Sometimes people, the very simple things that we think we know sometimes we don’t. So I just wanted to make sure that I did touch on that.

    Toby Ricketts:
    I can take you through before, during and after the session, tips and tricks if you like because there’s a few things which we haven’t covered at all which will come up in this.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Please do.

    Toby Ricketts:
    My tips before the session and the etiquette is obviously getting the time right is sometimes harder than it sounds because you’re dealing with time zones. I know in North America, you’ve got four different time zones to worry about than if you’re working with Europe. And then if you’re working in New Zealand, I’ve got to worry about days as well because often I’m working yesterday in the states.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So I met you a day in the future which is kind of confusing and there has been the odd time when I’ve been sort of like walking around and suddenly my agent is going, “They’re in the session. Where are you?” I’ve done the date calculation twice and it’s actually put at two days ahead when it should be one. But that kind of thing. So make sure you get your time zones right. There are great apps. For example, I use Time Buddy which is like it converts all the times for you.

    Toby Ricketts:
    When you actually rock up to the session you obviously have to be on time. That goes without saying. Maybe even slightly early, but be ready. And by that, I mean don’t log onto your computer and log on to the session and then open up your audio software and check your mic is working. That should all be done. You should spend half an hour before the session making sure everything is working perfectly.

    Toby Ricketts:
    You’ve briefed your family. Maybe they’re going out for a walk. You’ve got water which is super important. You have to have water on your desk and just make yourself really comfortable because if you rock into a session with two minutes to spare, you’re going to be flustered. You’re not going to be ready to give your greatest read. So give yourself some space. Half an hour at least.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Do a test with whatever of those technical mediums that we’ve been discussing. Do a test with, I don’t know, a family member. Just call them and say, “Can you hear me okay? Is it clear. Can I hear you? That’s great. Okay.” Because you can Zoom call them or Skype call them or whatever. If you’re using Source Connect Now, you can just send an email link to any of your friends and just say, “Can you hear me okay?”

    Toby Ricketts:
    Source Connect standard offers an echo service so you can connect to one of their servers which it’ll echo back whatever you send to the microphone after two seconds straight back to you. So you can hear how clear your audio is, which is really useful. I’ll do that every time before I go into a Source Connect Now session just to make sure that I’m going to be heard. If it is a really big session with a new studio, you’re not used to working with, then organized for a time maybe an hour before, maybe probably a day before just to make sure that your systems work together and that you’re both on the same page and it’s going to work.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Check your gear beforehand. I had one of my students got his first gig through Voices.com and he did a live direct session the other day which was fantastic.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, amazing.

    Toby Ricketts:
    But he had some kind of weird problem with his gear like a loose connection and after the session, he realized that there was this clicking throughout the whole thing that was like, “Oh, no.” And so do lots of tests beforehand with exactly the same conditions. It turned out it has something to do with a loose connection on his headphones or something. So you need to go back and redo it, which was absolutely fine. And then the client was fine with it. But it does pay to really check your gear beforehand and make sure everything is going perfectly because you don’t want it going wrong in the session.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Getting a copy of the script before the day is super useful. If you’ve done your agreements in Voices.com and they’ve awarded the job then that will automatically happen. But sometimes it doesn’t necessarily happen. Sometimes there’s blank scripts that come through and they’re like, “They’re still working on it,” with five minutes to go before the session which is a bit unprofessional in their part.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Sometimes you do have to do cold reads as part of the session, but often you can get it beforehand. But don’t over read it. I think a novice talent make the mistake of getting a script and reading it like 50 times out loud. And the trouble with that is, is that there is something about reading something for the first time, for the first take that you don’t get, again, in subsequent takes. It’s like a sparkle and it gets worn down the more takes you do because you could become familiar with the words and they end up sounding contrived and kind of like you’ve thought about it too much.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So I usually get the script. Just have a little glance over it, see what story they’re trying to tell, pick out any words you like. That’s a funny word or that’s a bit unfamiliar. And maybe just read that bit aloud and then you can check pronunciations as well when you first get into the session. If there’s any unclear words, you can say, “Oh, how do you say this word on the third line?” Because it shows you’re prepared. It’s good etiquette to be familiar with the stuff you’re going to work with.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So when you actually get into the session, during the session be joyous. And I say that don’t be happy, but be generally pleased that someone’s hired you for a voice-over gig. It never gets old for me the fact that someone from across the world has hired me to be the voice of their product and they’re willing to pay me to just use my voice to promote their services.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So try to sound joyous and try not to sound nervous. I know that’s like saying, “Don’t sound nervous is going to make you sound more nervous.” But try and lighten up and think like, “It’s not the end of the world, but we’re both human and I’m going to try and do the best job.” Try and have fun in this session. Let’s focus on trying to have fun and do a really good job.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Remember that you are the expert here. They’ve hired you. Out of all those talents under the 100 or so that audition for it. You got the gig because you did a great job. Just do it again. Just do what you did in the audition. Do it with the same head space.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Like I said, be aware of the imposter syndrome but realize that you’re not an imposter. You are the one that they’ve hired for the gig and they’re hiring you for this. Keep a record of who is in the room. Have a big sheet of paper and usually what happens… I used to do gigs and I didn’t have piece of paper and I try and remember the names and you get them wrong and all this stuff.

    Toby Ricketts:
    But just write down who the creative director is, who’s the client, what’s their name, et cetera and you can refer to them by their name, which is not only really useful in audio environment to be able to say, “Oh, Brian. What did you think of that take or whatever?” It actually picks out the person in the room who’s making the decisions, but it also builds familiarity.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Only one person should direct which I think we covered a bit earlier in the podcast. But it’s really useful if they can talk and they can elect a leader in the room and then that person gives you the direction.

    Toby Ricketts:
    As we’ve said, don’t discuss money or criticize the creative. You can suggest stuff though. Here’s a really big one, and we haven’t gone into this at all. Keep the session to a maximum of 16 minutes at a time because using your voice for 60 minutes, I’ve found for me is about the limit. It doesn’t get better from that point and damage starts to occur from that point.

    Toby Ricketts:
    It’s reasonable to request a break after 60 minutes especially if it’s kind of a full-on script. At least 15 minutes if you can. And usually clients are happy like, “We’re just going to take 15 minutes.” And they’re probably wanting a break too. So it’s good to at the outset just say, “I’ve got 60 minutes booked for this. Do you think it’ll take any longer?” Or that kind of thing. Just set some parameters around it in terms of time. Because you shouldn’t be expected I think to use your voice for more than 60 minutes at a stretch.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    No, not at all and someone might be drinking a lot of water or coffee.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So you might have other reasons to take a break.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    In advance of the session, you could say, “We’d like to schedule a bio break this time.”

    Toby Ricketts:
    Exactly, bio break is nice.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Right? You could almost plan for it.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, totally. Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah.

    Toby Ricketts:
    And often you’ll be done before that, but just in case it does… It’s awkward to bring it up if they’re really trying to get something done later in the session. So it’s good to put those parameters around it. Remember to record on your end always. None of these technologies I would completely trust. Sometimes Source Connect Standard like you can get away with not recording but I would still just record in your end just in case something goes horribly wrong, because there’s nothing worse than walking away from a session having done an amazing job and then say, “Oh, we haven’t got the audio,” and you’re like, “Well, I haven’t got the audio. I didn’t record it.” And suddenly you got to do the whole session again. There’s nothing worse than that. So always record on your end.

    Toby Ricketts:
    My big list of things to have when going into a session, headphones of course absolutely critical quiet ones that means closed back headphones or in ears because you’ll get bleed on your recordings sometimes if someone’s talking or there’s noise going to headphones that will go back into the microphone. So closed back is good. Water is absolutely critical of course and a clean sheet of paper for notes and take slates.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So I always keep a record of what takes that we’re doing in the session because sometimes it gets up to like 50 or 60. And sometimes you’ll be going through and beyond the 38th take and the like. So back in the 24th take, you did this and you’re like, “Oh my god.” But if you’ve written down, if you just write like take three a bit brighter, for example. And it gives you this really good idea. It kind of submits in your memory where you’ve been and where you’re going with the performance, and then you can also, when they start selecting takes and saying that take was really good. You can star it for your editing purposes later if you’re providing edited stuff later.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Complete takes are usually called like one, two, three. So you’re like I’m recording for this project. This is take one. This is take two. And if you do pickups or if they’re like, “Can you give us three in a row?” You do take three ABC. And it’s really clear which parts of the audio are useful and which parts aren’t when, they’re giving the feedback at the end of the tag. So yeah, that’s my list of do’s and don’ts. Hopefully, I haven’t missed anything.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    No. I don’t think you did. That’s quite extensive. I can remember parts of what you said for sure. But there’s just so many good bits I hope we don’t lose them. Is there a way that we can get that list from you, for our listeners, and they can enjoy that. That and also, I think it was your session notes.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Absolutely, yep. So I’ve got a PDF of each of those things to bear in mind like a checklist, if you like, and to go through before and establishing your session. I’ve also got what I call my session notes, which basically just has the date and the time zone, the client, the director, the creative. All fields for everything that you could come across during a session, so that you don’t remember to forget to ask what audio spec they want for example. It also has a whole list of takes with a comment box so you never lose track of the text when you’re in the session. So I’ll make those available free for download through you guys.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you. Oh my goodness. On behalf of the whole community. Thank you, Toby. That’s amazing.

    Toby Ricketts:
    No problem. And anyone out there that also wants more free advice and tips and tricks, I have a youtube channel which is at youtube.com/tobyricketts. That’s T-O-B-Y R-I-C-K-E-T-T-S. I’m starting a video blog there about my day in the life of a voiceover. So I’ll be full of tips and tricks and stuff about decisions, but also gear and all kinds of other different stuff. So go along and subscribe to that today.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. Well, I think that anyone who listens to this show will feel a lot better about their next directed session regardless if they’ve been doing them for years or if they’re brand new to them. So thank you, Toby. That’s a whole lot of awesome in one episode.

    Toby Ricketts:
    No problem.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So if there was one big takeaway for the talent who are new to a whole directed session, what would that be?

    Toby Ricketts:
    My big takeaway would be have fun in the session because as soon as you get out of the session, you’re going to want to go straight back into another one because they’re so fun.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, yes. You got to love what you do, right?

    Toby Ricketts:
    You do. Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And I know that you absolutely do. Not only are you a performer, but you also coach and you train people to do exactly what you’re doing. So what is the best way for people to get a hold of you?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Best way to get a hold of me is through my website probably, tobytickettsvoiceover.com. And my email is toby@tobyticketts.com.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Fantastic. I know Toby you have a Facebook group, which I think is a bunch of people with home studios possibly pillow for.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yeah, exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Can you talk a little bit about your group?

    Toby Ricketts:
    Absolutely. I used to travel sometimes and when I was on the road obviously having to set up little pillow forts in hotel rooms and wherever I was staying, in Airbnbs and from my time on the road and going to conferences, I met other voice artists who had just great techniques. I remember meeting Joe Cipriano, the legendary and he had the most best idea for pillow forts which is using the ironing board that’s always in motel rooms. It’s like your frame and then hanging the duvet over that, and I thought that was just genius. I thought there’s got to be other tips out there, which people are missing.

    Toby Ricketts:
    So I set up this Facebook group called The Pillow Fort Studio Gallery and it’s a place where voiceovers can post their kind of temporary studio setups including the duvets and pillows and anything else they’re using to get. Some of them are just so inventive and so creative. So there hasn’t been a lot of posting recently, which I’m surprised about because of the whole COVID thing. So I encourage people to get on there and join and post pictures of their temporary pillow fort studios.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So it’s called The Pillow Fort Studio Gallery.

    Toby Ricketts:
    That’s right.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    You can find it on Facebook.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Yep, exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Toby Ricketts.

    Toby Ricketts:
    Cool.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    You’ve been amazing and thank you, Randy Rector. You are amazing too. And we just had such a blast. You’ve been listening to Mission Audition from Voices.com. Be sure to check out our blog if you’re looking for scripts to practice with and of course, if you love this episode, we would absolutely be so thrilled if you would go and rate the podcast wherever you find it and subscribe if you haven’t done so already. Thanks so much for joining us. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli for Voices.com. We send you love. We hope that you feel well and we will get through this together. Until next time.

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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®.

    2 COMMENTS

      • Hi Earl,

        That’s a good question. Sometimes a client will prefer to connect for a directed session via Source-Connect, ISDN, etc. because the connection may be more reliable and the recording will be of a higher quality – but you raise a strong point that Zoom and Skype are convenient alternatives.

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