Don’t Phone it in! Winning Voicemail VO Auditions Explained Ft. Shelley Cohen

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    Think commercial work is the only way to represent a brand with your voice? Think again! Voicemail and telephony voice over plays a crucial role in representing a brand’s literal voice, and a key touch point with hundreds, if not thousands of customers each year. In this episode of Mission Audition, Stephanie and Julianna are joined by Voice Over Artist and Coach, Shelley Cohen. Listen in to learn about how to connect with the caller, and master the art of sounding professional and warm at the same time!

    About Shelley Cohen

    Shelley is not only the virtual receptionist who welcomes you to Canadian telecom giant Rogers’ phone system, but has also been the voice for Canada Post, the National Gallery of Canada, the Department of National Defence (DND), Canada Revenue Agency, Global Affairs Canada, Transport Canada, the Museum of History, the War Amps of Canada, and much more. Having graduated from the B.C. Institute of Technology’s Radio Broadcast Communications program, Shelley was hired as the first female Radio Announcer on CKQR-AM in Castlegar, B.C. before moving onto CBC Radio. She began coaching voice over talent in 2007 and has offered her 14-week voice acting course Becoming a Voice Actor and Your Voiceover Launch workshops since 2011. Shelley has also been featured in James Alburger’s “The Art of Voice Acting.” Flip to Chapter 30, “Wisdom from the Pros,” to check out her survey “Are you Right for the Voiceover Business?” in the 6th edition of the book.

    For more information: web: www.vocaldynamo.com email: coach@vocaldynamo.com.

    Hosts: Stephanie Ciccarelli, Julianna Lantz, with special guest, Voice Over Actor and Coach, Shelley Cohen.

    Inspired? Try out this episode’s voice over script!

    Telephone IVR and Auto Attendant Scripts Examples

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

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

    Julianna Lantz:
    And I’m Julianna Lantz.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And in today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about voice work for telephony, in particular the ubiquitous voicemail. This is an exciting topic, as we hear these kinds of voices all the time. You pick up a phone, you’re calling somewhere and don’t get a live person. So on our show today, we have a wonderful guest, and that guest is Shelley Cohen. She’s done a lot of work in this area and is an expert in telephony voice-over. We’re just so pleased to have you here, Shelley. Welcome to the show.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s a real pleasure to be here today.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So Shelley, we’ve known each other a long time. Go back all the way to the Voice World Conference in Toronto in 2013, and yeah, we’re dating ourselves a little bit here now I know, but I just wanted to mention that it’s been a wonderful relationship, so it’s just fabulous to have you here today and on the show. So Shelley, can you tell everyone a bit about yourself and your career up to this point and also how you got into coaching?

    Shelley Cohen:
    So after career counseling determined that broadcasting would be a great place for me, I started a course at BC Institute of Technology in Vancouver, and from there I took the two-year broadcast communications course and went into radio in tiny, tiny town Castlegar, British Columbia and I was the first female disc jockey there. Then I moved to Kelowna after a bit and spent a couple of years in Kelowna as an FM jockey, and did a number of different kinds of programs that really touched me and others, I was able to really flourish. And I did a lot of commercials, a lot of commercials, and this was way before voicemail and telephony.

    Shelley Cohen:
    So I continued in radio after moving back to Ottawa as the CBO traffic commentator for almost five years. And while there, I started working, doing voice-overs for corporate videos, for government, a lot of government work. And then I left radio after I got married, and in around 1989 I worked for a company in Ottawa called The Message Center, and I did the marketing for them. And The Message Center was paging and answering service. And my father actually owned an answering service company that was sold to my cousin that I ended up working for.

    Shelley Cohen:
    And so I grew up at the knees of these women putting the wires in the slots to connect people, so I go back a long way in telephony. And in 1989, The Message Center introduced voicemail. That’s when voicemail came to Canada. And I started doing voicemail messages through them. And then another company started up in Ottawa, and they became an on-hold marketing company. And so I was able to get a gig there weekly since 1990, and I’ve been going there weekly, practically, except for holidays and slow periods. And so they get the clients, and so they’re my client and I’ve been working with them all these years doing on hold and IVR as well as other kinds of work.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Wow, that’s a long time to be working for one company. That’s amazing.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yes, thank you.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    When you have a relationship with a company as the voice of their phone system, I think those typically are longer term engagements because you’re part of the company.

    Shelley Cohen:
    And I think reliability is one of my key selling points. I do everything I can do ensure that there’s consistency, both in the reads and in availability. Availability’s very important.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Let’s get into the job description. What we’re looking for is a middle aged voice, the gender is either male or female, and this read is for telephony. Now specifically the voice that we are looking for is a voicemail voice. The industry is real estate, and it’s a general US accent. Style is upper class and authentic. There’s your challenge. Julianna, can you tell us a bit more about the artistic direction?

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah, of course. So the right voice for our voicemail message has a prestigious flair, but doesn’t come across as pretentious. This is achieved by keeping the tone conversational, as though you are picking up the phone and delivering the message to a friend, albeit in a manner that’s very polite.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    We were talking earlier about this is a telephony job, and there’s various aspects of a phone tree, so we’ve got our auto attendant, and then there’s the IVR, and there’s some messaging on hold, or MOH as I’ve seen it called in some cases. And then eventually you take little paths that will lead you to the voicemail. And as we know, voicemail is what we’re talking about today. And in fact, your background as you’ve described, Shelley, it really speaks to the entire telephony experience. And I want to make sure everyone understands that it is a cohesive type of work. I’s all of that continuity that you need from the beginning of that read, all the way to the end so the auto attendant to voice mail should feel like it’s all the same person, the same gentle way of bringing others in. But Shelley, what should we know specifically about voicemail that can help us to better prepare our ears to listen to these auditions?

    Shelley Cohen:
    It needs to sound natural, not forced, and what I’m also looking for is friendly, warm, with a smile. And a lot of inflection as well. That doesn’t sound phony, but sounds welcoming, and real, and connected.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Oo, well then I’m really looking forward to hear what you think of these reads.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Let’s roll the first audition.

    Audition 1:
    Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. The office is currently closed. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please leave your name, phone number, and your request. A representative will return your call as soon as possible tomorrow. Thank you.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Oo Shelley, what do you think?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Well he was very friendly and very nice. I’m going to be very candid. I found it a bit earnest. Overly earnest actually. He was engaged, but there was too many pauses, it didn’t flow. I didn’t find it flowed. So even though it was friendly, I just found it was almost begging.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Is there a way that we can stay away from that begging aspect and be more real and conversational?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Taking a deep breath, smiling when you’re speaking.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Relaxing.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Relaxing, exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s a great point, because a lot of people just kind of go for what they think they should do. But in the case of, say, this voicemail, they weren’t quite what you were looking for.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    They were too earnest. I want to dig into that word because for me when I hear the word earnest, I think it’s too honest. Shelley, can you describe a bit more for us what earnest means to you in this context?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Overly sincere. Overly trying to please.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And I think he’s too eager to do this?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yes. I think that may have been the word I was looking for, but it didn’t sound committed, it sounded more like seeking approval.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Right. And in this position, he’s the expert, he’s the company rep, and he doesn’t need their approval.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Right. He was just trying too hard, I think.

    Julianna Lantz:
    We often hear when we’re doing these auditions that you have to put yourself in the mindset of who is this person and who am I speaking to, and it kind of sounds like he rushed it a little bit, and if he had taken a step back and thought about who this person was they would’ve come to the conclusion that you’re talking about instead of been a little bit too eager.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Okay. I know we’ve got more auditions to listen to, so let’s play audition number two.

    Audition 2:
    Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. The office is currently closed. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please leave your name, phone number, and your request. A representative will return your call as soon as possible tomorrow. Thank you.

    Shelley Cohen:
    This one was great, exactly what we would be looking for. She had nice cadence, it was sincere, it was friendly, confident, bright, connected, smiled at thank you, I really liked that read. She was just a little fast and a bit monotone, but I found her friendly enough and it was totally acceptable.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah, I really felt like she did a great job with the style, upper class and authentic. When you picture someone’s voice who looks like that, this is what I pictured.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. Like I felt safe listening to her. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but if you’re calling into somewhere, you want to make sure that your message matters to these people. You know that they’re going to get back to you, and it’s going to get heard by the right people, not the wrong people. This is a real estate one, so maybe it’s not as sensitive for information sharing, but let’s pretend it was a doctor’s office where there was more of a reason to want to know that the voice was professional and that what you said stayed in that voicemail. It seems like her voice was closer to that, and I felt confident if I were to leave a voicemail there, that someone would return it, and it would be that very close relationship between me and the person who heard the voicemail.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Is there anything, any advice that you would give to this lady, Shelley, about improving her performance?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Slow it down a titch. The thing to remember about voicemail, or any recording in general, is that you really need to talk a very, very minute second slower than normal. Because the brain takes a split second to make the connection. And I find a lot of these auditions that we’re going to be listening to, people were talking too fast. It’s a general thing.

    Shelley Cohen:
    And the other thing is the companies, and nothing against 20 somethings, okay, but who have someone who sounds like they’re still in high school doing their welcome message, their greetings, whether it’s voicemail or whatever, on hold, I don’t think it gives the company credibility. So an older voice, more mature sounding and experienced voice is more comforting. And as you said, Stephanie, you felt safe and that your message would be conveyed.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well that’s interesting, because some brands do want more of a younger voice in terms of demographic and their target for who their customers are. But in that case, would this be a brand specific decision for some companies, where someone does want to hear someone who is more like them potentially? Especially if it’s for a certain kind of product of experience that that group is trying to have? Would that be fair?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Not enough thought is given by companies in general. Often the voicemail message, or the voicemail person who delivers the message, is whoever’s available to do it. There’s not a lot of thought behind, in some cases, unless you have a serious marketing group behind you. It’s the larger companies that might give it thought. But the smaller offices, dentists and veterinarian companies, just small companies, it’s really who’s available and has the time. So, “You have a good sounding voice, here, you do it.” It’s kind of like that, it’s very casual, informal, and I’m not sure a lot of thought is given to it. It’s really just that simple.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Let’s say someone in a dentist’s office did have the receptionist do the voice because it’s more convenient in some cases. Because it changes so frequently, and also there would be this connection between me, as the patient going to the office, I know the person, I recognize their voice and it’s like, “Oh, so and so is helping me to navigate these waters.” How can someone who is tasked with reading a script make that connection as if they are someone who’s sitting literally at the receptionist desk and give the impression that they’re part of the team?

    Shelley Cohen:
    By putting themself in the person’s shoes, imagining, visualizing, getting to know the script, wood shedding the script, feeling it, connecting with it.

    Julianna Lantz:
    What does wood shedding mean?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Analyzing, script analysis.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Well I’m thinking I’m calling in, what voice would I want to hear if I were calling my dentist office? I probably don’t want to hear their high school intern, I probably want to hear someone who sounds like my mom.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Exactly.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Make me want to … yeah, okay, I feel comfortable, yeah, doing something-

    Shelley Cohen:
    Exactly.

    Julianna Lantz:
    I don’t want to necessarily do.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Thank you for those thoughts, I’m really glad we went down this rabbit hole. But now we’ve got to listen to audition number three.

    Audition 3:
    Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. The office is currently closed. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please leave your name, phone number, and your request. A representative will return your call as soon as possible tomorrow. Thank you.

    Julianna Lantz:
    It kind of sounded like she had that slower pacing that you were talking about before, Shelley, what do you think?

    Shelley Cohen:
    I agree.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah.

    Shelley Cohen:
    I think though it’s nice conversational warm-ish. And friendly is what I wrote down. It’s a decent read, a bit quiet and flat though. And she also had some vocal fry at the ends of her sentences, you know, where she drops it and it kind of uhh.

    Julianna Lantz:
    So two points, first one audio volume for your auditions is so crucial. We kind of touched upon this in our audio evaluation episode with Cameron, but if your audio isn’t loud enough, you’re not competitive. So make sure that you’ve turned your audio volume up. And for all you premium members out there, if you are wondering if your audio is loud enough and you haven’t had a consultation with Cameron, please let us know. You can talk to our support team and we’ll hook you up with him so that you can have that same one on one consultation to make sure that your audio is competitive.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And then secondly, what is vocal fry?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Vocal fry is when you drop your words, the end of sentences, and your voice goes down and starts to gravel, gets gravelly. The vocal folds are being crushed.

    Julianna Lantz:
    I feel like that’s something that I do very often. How do I not do that?

    Shelley Cohen:
    It’s practice reading and staying consistent, coaching.

    Julianna Lantz:
    So I might have to call you after this episode.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It’s a topic of great interest right now. I know I had thrown out on social media, is vocal fry ever appropriate, and if so when and why? And when you said it crushes your vocal folds, no one can see us here but I had a physical reaction to that. I was like oh, this is horrible. Is vocal fry, Shelley, is it ever appropriate? Or is it just another sign of either immaturity, or a lack of technique, or something that we frankly need to fix?

    Shelley Cohen:
    It’s a lack of technique, it’s a lack of control, it’s a lack of breath control. It’s not properly breathing. People don’t understand how important speaking on the breath is when you’re reading a script. It’s something I teach, both in coaching and my course. Because that’s how focal fry is avoided, by a constant, steady breath.

    Julianna Lantz:
    So that’s what you mean by speaking on breath, is breathing as you’re reading?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I know that we have to sing on our breath to be sustained, so you have to get enough in there to support with your diaphragm, and ideally that breath is going to cue you through the entire phrase. Obviously when you’re talking you can take some more liberties, or taking a slight pause in voiceover, because all you have to do is say, “I’m going to edit that breath out.” Vocal fry is not something to aspire to, and certainly not in this context.

    Shelley Cohen:
    The only context that vocal fry would work is as a character. If you make it a part of your character. So if you want to be a character for a voicemail message, which is rare, but if that’s requested of you by the client for whatever marketing reasons, then that would be fine. I don’t recommend trying to … it’s not that you try to do it, it’s that you have to unlearn it.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Is the vocal fry element something that you help people to overcome when you’re coaching?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yes, I do, because I teach people proper breathing techniques. I actually coached a trainer, she was a facilitator, and she was totally burnt out after every session and her voice would drop and get really, really tired. And when you’re facilitating six, seven hours a day, it’s really important to breath, and the deep breathing really helped her.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    What we know is that if you misuse your voice, or you’re using it in a range that is not comfortable for you, or using it in a way that is unsustainable, then you might end up with a vocal disorder of some kind.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Well, vocal nodes I think are the most common. But essentially, it’s a growth, and it’s from misuse of your voice is my understanding. There are famous people, Billie Joel had an issue, so did Leon Helm of the band, where it’s overuse of the voice. And singers suffer from it. Adele had it. So when singers take a break it’s because they have to, they’re forced to, because they aren’t doing their warmups, and warming up is really key, that’s another important aspect. Even for IVR and telephony world, every time I go and do my gig, I do a warmup for five, 10 minutes beforehand. Even if it’s five minutes.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Do you have a favorite exercise you could share with us?

    Shelley Cohen:
    Well, the one that I like, it’s very easy. Bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah And Oh-ee-a-oh-ee-a-oh-ee-a-oh-ee-a-oh-ee-a-oh-ee-a-oh-ee-a. And this is great, because I’m going for a gig, to my usual gig, in about an hour, so this is perfect.

    Julianna Lantz:
    It’s a good warmup.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yeah.

    Julianna Lantz:
    That was actually really fun to watch, I feel like you were doing like face yoga or something, your mouth was open so wide.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yeah, it’s facial muscle stretches. Try and say that quickly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I know some people will massage their face, and I saw what you were doing, you’re getting your resonators and your articulators going.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Correct.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And that’s just one of those things. Don’t be afraid to look silly. Because as you’re doing these vocal warmups, you will. It’s all part of how you can open up that space and have the elasticity that you need to do a great voiceover.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Correct. And yawning is a really good one, too, it opens up the back of the mouth. I’m one of the only teachers I know that encourages yawning in my classes.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Any other thoughts on this audition, or should we move on to the next one?

    Julianna Lantz:
    Let’s do number four.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    All right, let’s do it.

    Audition 4:
    Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. The office is currently closed. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please leave your name, phone number, and your request. A representative will return your call as soon as possible tomorrow. Thank you.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Hey Shelley, what are your thoughts on breaths? Should we leave them in, take them out? Because I heard a lot of them in this one.

    Shelley Cohen:
    I personally don’t mind them. People breath, it’s normal, it’s natural. I know that where I do my IVR stuff, they take them out. It doesn’t sound natural to me. It’s personal preference, I think, it’s subjective, very subjective. I liked her read. I found it very warm, real, friendly, strong, not overpowering, energetic. She sounded committed and confident. I liked it, I didn’t even notice the breaths.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I think she did a wonderful job, and there was this beautiful kind of sheen to her voice. I don’t know what it was, but there was something that made you kind of take notice of it in a different way.

    Shelley Cohen:
    I agree. No, she was lovely.

    Julianna Lantz:
    What could we do to replicate that sheen and the sound?

    Shelley Cohen:
    I imagine it’s just her timbre. It’s in her quality of her voice. I don’t think you can reproduce that. It’s that it factor.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah, it’s in the voice. And if anyone out there plays a violin, then you know that not all violins are the same. You know that when you pick one up, it’ll have a different color that comes out of it. We have to remember that with our voices, everyone’s is unique and sometimes you can’t replicate what someone else is doing. You might be able to stylistically do it, or even emulate in the sense of the intention behind what they’re doing, but we can’t all make our voice become a chameleon in terms of its natural attributes necessarily.

    Shelley Cohen:
    That’s absolutely true.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Clients don’t want everyone to sound the same, like what makes her special for this job is going to make you special for a different job.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Exactly. No two people sound alike. There’s similarities in some cases, but it’s very hard to put your finger on that particular … it’s almost a crystalline quality is what you’re talking about. Yeah, yeah, I would agree.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Okay. Well let’s move on to our next audition. This is audition number five.

    Audition 5:
    Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. The office is currently closed. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please leave your name, phone number, and your request. A representative will return your call as soon as possible tomorrow. Thank you.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    As I was listening to it, there was this great contrast from the previous voice. Now although there was an authoritative sound, which clearly was coming across, it was very commanding and almost detached emotionally.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Exactly, I found it very mechanical, and somewhat monotone, and a bit fast.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah, you had mentioned at the beginning, Shelley, that you were looking for someone who had inflection and this was very like do do do, do do do, and didn’t really have that. If you were going to take a stab at doing this script, what kind of inflection would you put to it?

    Shelley Cohen:
    I tend to be warm, friendly, smiley. It needs a bit of gravitas, because it’s real estate, but you don’t want people to be turned off because it’s too commanding, too strident. So there has to be a happy medium, I think.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Finding that line between prestigious and pretentious.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Correct.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    We can all take something from every audition that we’re hearing. For this one, it could very well be to just take a step back. Maybe more breathing, put yourself into the mindset of whoever it is that the character you’re playing is. I think that if we’re thinking about that, then we’re not thinking about getting a job done, which is kind of what it sounded like here. Versus, “I’m going to interact and engage with this listener, and I’m going to lead them on this part of the journey.”

    Shelley Cohen:
    Exactly. No, that’s very true.

    Julianna Lantz:
    It’s funny, you don’t think of voiceover as something that would be physically tiring, but if you think about it, it’s a mental workout. Because each time you sit in front of the mic you’re putting yourself in a different person’s shoes and going through this exercise of how do I deliver? Who am I reading to? And I can imagine at the end of doing a bunch of auditions, voiceover artists are going to be tired. Because this is a lot of work.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Absolutely. You don’t realize going into it, that’s why it’s really important to be well rested before going into an audition. There’s so many things that need to be in play, relaxed as well, comfortable, knowing the script, all of that is very important. But not overdoing it, you don’t want to over rehearse, because then it’ll sound flat. So people don’t understand that there’s a really fine line between over reading and over practicing, and not enough.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah, and we’ve heard a couple of times that you want to give it a little bit more than a little bit less, because somebody, our producer can take you back rather than pull something out of you.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Right. Right. And have different character choices, as well. The best advice I’ve heard is invent yourself six or seven different characters and really work on them, and have them in your toolkit so that you can pull one out, and if that one doesn’t work for the producer, try another one. So having different attitudes and characters in your toolbox is really important as a voice actor in general.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And that would make you feel really prepared going into an audition, I bet that really helps with feeling relaxed and giving your best performance.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Correct.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Prepared, but also if you were to walk into something where all of a sudden this opportunity’s given to you, and you had no idea that day that you were going to be doing this read for anybody, then you could get into those voices that you’ve already archived, kind of filed away, and be like, “I’m going to pull this one out for them.” Then you can respond in realtime faster, even if you didn’t know that you’d be given this opportunity to audition for it, because someone would say, “Well, we like you for something else, but how about this role?” And if you have absolutely zero preparation ahead of time to have read for that role, then you say, “All right,” do a quick analysis, figure out what’s going on here. This voice is what I would normally do in this circumstance, and so this is the voice that’s coming out to play today.

    Shelley Cohen:
    That actually happened to me when I was auditioning for Canada’s second largest telecommunications company. I had broken my nose two days before, and I was given these scripts and told to become these characters. I had three different reads I had to do. And I had no prep or warning whatsoever.

    Julianna Lantz:
    It’s a good thing that those are in your memory bank.

    Shelley Cohen:
    In those days, we’re going back a long way, so in those days I did not have that in my memory bank. And I invented them on the spot just by changing by vocal pitch. So one character was up here, and then there’s Shelley, and then there’s the other character. That’s all I could think of on the spur of the moment.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And you learned a lesson from that, and now you’re wiser for it.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Correct, exactly, yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I’m so sorry you broke your nose back then.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Thank you.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It’s obvious our physiology affects how our voice comes out, and what it sounds like. If someone has hurt themselves, or they have to make themselves sound like what they normally would’ve sounded like through modification because they broke their nose, or maybe there’s some other issue happening, what’s the best way that they can do that?

    Shelley Cohen:
    I would wait it out, frankly. In this particular case it didn’t change my voice, having a broken nose. I broke it right on the bridge, so it was actually physically moved back into place by a doctor. And there was no structural damage to change my sound. It was just black and blue for days. So I was fortunate. But if you do have like a cold, or something that does prevent you from having your natural sound, I would either pass or ask if they can wait.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Definitely. Well and you think about it, if you do an audition with a cold and they hire you for that sound, you have to reproduce that sound when you’re reading the final script, and if you can’t do that, then you have frustrated the client and maybe lost working with them ever. So I agree, maybe it’s best to take a step back from the mic if you don’t sound like your normal self.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes, so those of you who like booking your sick voice, let this be kind of an idea that you really mull over in your mind. Because you have to be able to replicate. Do you really want to replicate that? I don’t know, because that’s not your natural sound, and it could also hurt you, and it could delay your own healing process.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Exactly.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah. Or you could just bank a bunch of sound effects, have you sneezing and coughing and sneezing for a demo, I don’t know.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    We’re going to move on to our sixth audition.

    Audition 6:
    Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. The office is currently closed. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please leave your name, phone number, and your request. A representative will return your call as soon as possible tomorrow. Thank you.

    Julianna Lantz:
    That didn’t sound like the other auditions that we’ve been hearing, it kind of didn’t leave me with the best feeling. Can you kind of explain in more expert terms why?

    Shelley Cohen:
    First of all, I think she was off mic. Secondly, she was reading, so she didn’t get the words off the page. Very slow, plodding, not connected to the copy at all, no character. I didn’t find that it even flowed at all.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Kind of sounds like she needs to work with a coach a little bit to take her nice sounding voice and make it a good voiceover voice.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Correct.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I don’t know if it was just me on my end, but there was a technical issue that I was hearing. She didn’t necessarily sound robotic, but there was something that was happening in my earphones. Anyway, like it kind of felt like there was … if there would be like a laser, like a laser beam and the sound that a laser might make. There was almost a gated sound, sort of like that. It felt like there was something where she talked and then then door shut.

    Shelley Cohen:
    She was holding back. She wasn’t connected to the copy. She wasn’t committed to it. So that made it sound almost sleepy sounding, because she wasn’t connected, the whole didn’t sound real for her.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And you know what, I wonder if she even knows that this is what she sounds like, so good for her for auditioning, we’ll definitely make sure that we hook her up with someone like yourself, or even yourself, so that she can turn those reads into something that we can book.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So many talent don’t get feedback, and you’re kind of like in your own little world, and you do your audition, and you send it, and you don’t hear anything. If you don’t have a sounding board of some kind, be it a coach, or a peer group, then you really need to get connected to people who can give you that honest feedback. Because honestly, we were all temporarily in this space where you’re doing an audio recording, and just like we are right now. Julianna and I were doing the podcast, and this is something we will only know how well we’re doing if we hear from you. And I’m sure we will. But for those of you who are out there doing something like this in your studio, but you fail to have community around you like we do right now, because we’re making little adjustments here and there, and you don’t see this because there’s going to be editing. Shelley’s really good at that.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    You need that feedback, because you can audition for hundreds and hundreds of jobs, and you will never know these little things that you desperately need to know to fix that one little thing here, or that little thing there. And if you get that feedback, you’re going to be saving yourself so much energy, nevermind the emotional energy. And I think that’s really important for anyone who’s doing voiceover from home. Especially if you’re doing this without the ongoing coaching or assistance that you might get from someone like Shelley Cohen here on the episode today.

    Shelley Cohen:
    That’s totally true, and I’m in the same boat. Because I audition, and I don’t get any feedback either. In fact, the Voiceover World Conference was the first time that I’d actually met with other voice actors. I know a few in Ottawa, but I’ve been doing voiceovers for a very long time feeling like I am in a black hole. And one of the things that I love about voices.com is it’s a community. The support that you provide is great, but is there a community somewhere that talks about giving feedback to voice artists who are auditioning? Because I have a Facebook page, but it’s local, we don’t comment on each other’s work. So is there actually a forum to do that that’s at no charge?

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well there definitely a lot of workout groups out there. If anyone is curious about joining one, then get back to us after the show and we’ll see about your individual needs and if we know someone or of a group out there that would match those needs. And we’re asking you to reach out to us because there’s just so many of these groups out there, and we want to make sure that we can connect you with people who are either close to you geographically, or people that are working toward the same goals that you are.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    This is another reason for why we have a community of coaches, of which Shelley is one. If you’re looking for coaching, then we’re happy to connect you with any one of those people. So if you’re looking for a coach, you can go to voices.com/coaches. We want to do everything we can to help, and we know how awful it is to feel isolated. So if you want to reach out to us you can always email support@voices.com, that’s a good way. Just let us know what it is that we can do and how we can help.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Absolutely. And I’m hoping that what we’re doing today is going to help some of these talent who are in that boat trying to figure their way through.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And that’s why we have account managers on the talent team that are trained audio engineers, who work closely with our directory of coaches. So if someone comes to us and says, “Hey, I want to get into voice acting,” when they create guest membership, we’ll call them and figure out what do they need, what do you need to make your membership with us successful, and then we’ll hook you guys up. We want you to succeed and don’t be afraid to not know something, we’re here to help you out with it, we’ve got lots of good people who can answer those questions.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It really is a learning experience, and I know I’ve heard you say that many, many times, Julianna. So don’t ever be afraid of not knowing something.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Exactly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, here we are, our seventh and final audition. Looking forward to hearing what this talent has brought to the table.

    Audition 7:
    Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. The office is currently closed. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please leave your name, phone number, and your request. A representative will return your call as soon as possible tomorrow. Thank you.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I just had a quick thought, and it’s funny because I wrote this script at least five, six, seven, eight years ago. And I don’t know what it is, Shelley, maybe it’s the Canadian in us, but do people often say “please” in scripts? When I scripted this it was just a normal sort of thing to do, but I thought oh my gosh, whoa, do American scripts have please in them? I guess what I’m trying to say is, is this normal? And if someone sees a pleasantry like that, how do we make it sound like they’re not begging as we talked about earlier? And that they are more commanding?

    Shelley Cohen:
    I’ve said it many times in the scripts I’ve done for American and Canadian companies, so it’s normal social politeness, and sometimes it can be over emphasized in the read. So it’s not necessary to do that, but in normal conversation when we’re asking somebody something we say please, and we’re asking people to do something in this script. There’s a call to action. So to me it’s a normal thing. Now maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, too, I don’t know.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Maybe it’s the difference between, “Please leave a voicemail,” and, “Please leave a voicemail.”

    Shelley Cohen:
    Right, exactly.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Where you put the emphasis.

    Shelley Cohen:
    On the right syllable, right.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    He had a really great voice. I did enjoy listening to his voiceover, it was great.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Well I found it a bit low energy. It was laid back, which I think is appropriate in some cases. I think here the low energy, it was sort of very matter of fact as opposed to sounding friendly and warm. I didn’t get the warmth coming through. And how you do that is through smile when you talk, right? So it was well done, I have no complaints in terms of yes, he could do it. But I think to improve on it, just a little more energy and warmth with a smile would make it a little touch better.

    Julianna Lantz:
    In this situation probably a client would ask him for a second audition read.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Potentially, yeah.

    Julianna Lantz:
    To see what it sounded like-

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yeah.

    Julianna Lantz:
    With that smile.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yeah.

    Julianna Lantz:
    Artistic direction edit.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It’s seldom that someone would get asked for a second read.

    Shelley Cohen:
    True.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I remember hearing in a recent episode, I think it was Jim Kennelly, actually, but it’s like people in casting and those in positions to listen will always want to hear what you have to do, they’re rooting for you, too. They will listen, but they will only listen for a very short time.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Of course. You have 10 seconds. Nine or 10 seconds to make an impression.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Would you say that people are more fair with that spectrum of time in voicemail, where they’ll give you some more time? Because in the commercial world, for instance, it’s more like two or three seconds. They don’t have the time. But would you say, Shelley, that in the area of telephony that people want to hear more, and so someone auditioning for this spot today, would they have that reassurance that they’d be listened to for longer than two to three seconds?

    Shelley Cohen:
    The standard, from my understanding, in general for voice acting, maybe commercial voices it’s two to three seconds, but overall for corporate videos and web videos, those kinds, explainer videos, I’m told you get between seven and 10 seconds.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So we’ve come to the point in the episode where we have now heard everyone read. There were seven auditions for those of you keeping score at home, and now it’s the moment of truth. Shelley, given what we’ve heard and all the analysis that you’ve done, who’s the winner?

    Shelley Cohen:
    I believe number four should win. Congratulations. She was warm, sounded real, committed, friendly, strong, not overpowering, energetic. All the things that you want.

    Julianna Lantz:
    She was quite lovely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, that’s awesome. Congratulations, number four. So this is great. We’ve been through a journey together and now if someone would like to continue that journey with you, Shelley, what’s the best way they can get ahold of you and learn more about what you do?

    Shelley Cohen:
    The best way to reach me is through my website, www.vocaldynamo.com. And on there is a survey called Are You Suited to the Voiceover Business? You take that survey and it’s nine questions, take you five minutes, send it to me, and I’ll send you a free ebook with answers and what your answers mean. And then, yeah.

    Julianna Lantz:
    How helpful.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Yeah. And my email address is there as well.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wonderful. So that’s how you get ahold of Shelley, vocaldynamo.com. Also, I want to remind everyone that the scripts you heard today are all available for you to use on the blog. If you’re not subscribed, go for it. Hit the subscribe button, and then every couple of weeks you’re going to be getting a new episode of Mission Audition. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, any of those places and likely more. So thanks again for listening, and thank you, Shelley, for joining us today.

    Shelley Cohen:
    Thank you for having me, it’s been a pleasure. I’ve learned a lot, too.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, that’s our show. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli.

    Julianna Lantz:
    And I’m Julianna Lance. We hope you enjoy taking these tips into your studio and putting them into practice, and we wish you all the best on your next audition. Happy auditioning.

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

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