Podcasts Voice Over Experts Preparing for Live Directed Sessions with Melissa Moats
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Preparing for Live Directed Sessions with Melissa Moats

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Geoff Bremner
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Are you nervous for your live directed session? Does anxiety sometimes get in the way of your performance? Join this month’s coach Melissa “Lady Luck” Moats as she shares a detailed and practical guide on running a successful live directed session.

In this episode, Melissa emphasizes the importance of being comfortable with your home studio and understanding various ways to connect with clients in real-time. She offers valuable tips for overcoming performance anxiety, such as reframing nervousness as excitement and being well-prepared with a thorough understanding of the script and your gear. Melissa highlights the significance of confidence, reminding voice actors to believe in their abilities and have fun during sessions. She also provides practical advice for scheduling, session prep, and recording, including the use of backup takes and the importance of clear communication with clients.

Learn more about Melissa: https://ladyluckvoiceovers.com/

Participant #1:
Hi, this is Melissa Motes with the Voice actor studio in Las Vegas. I am honored to be a featured coach this month, November 2022 with Voices.com. Thank you so much for having me.

Today I'm going to COVID live directed sessions, winning performances and five star customer service. The big question is, are you session ready? There's a lot to consider and there's a lot of talent out there who shy away from auditioning for projects that are going to have a live directed session attached to them. Maybe that's you. Maybe you struggle with performance anxiety or maybe it's just fear of the unknown. You haven't gone through a live directed session yet, so you don't know what to expect.

So I'm going to just cruise through some of my main thoughts on how to be prepared and how to provide winning performances and five star customer service because they're equally important.

First thing is connecting with clients. You are going to definitely need to be comfortable with your home studio, your gear, and how to use it. Sometimes when you're in live directed sessions, you may have to troubleshoot something. Technology isn't perfect. Sometimes little issues pop up and you don't want to panic. So know your gear and understand the various ways that you can connect with clients. They just want to hear you in real time. They want to be able to direct you and hear your reads and sometimes they want you to check the timing for them.

Common ways to connect include I use my home phone sometimes still have a landline, a cell phone, source Connect, free or Standard or Pro versions. Ipdtl is just another platform similar to Source Connect. There's also standard phone patch equipment that you can actually plug into your home studio gear. There's zoom and skype. So these are a few ways to connect with clients. Keeping in mind you want to be comfortable and familiar with how all of these different platforms work. Test them in advance. Make sure you feel confident in how they all come together. But again, people just want to be able to hear you and direct you.

One of the things I want to touch on is just performance anxiety. If you struggle with keeping your nerves in check during live sessions or you fear that you may struggle with that because you haven't done one yet, these are a few things to consider. First and foremost is understanding why you're nervous. Address it so you can overcome it. For me, I care a lot. I just didn't want to make mistakes. I wanted to appear great at my craft, even when I was super new. I also just wanted to make my clients happy and I didn't want to fail. I didn't want to feel like I didn't give them what they wanted. There were a lot of little fearful conversations happening in my head prior to doing my first live directed session.

So a couple of things I would recommend trying is a little mind trick. If you feel like you've got a lot of stage fright or nervousness in your body, try to just reframe your brain and tell yourself you're not nervous, you're excited. Because really, your body doesn't know the difference between fear and excitement. It's just how we label it in our head. So take all that bottled up energy and say, oh, my gosh, I'm so excited. I can't wait for my session. I'm excited about my session. I'm not scared. No nerves here. What are you talking about? Also just being prepared.

If you're well prepared as far as how your gear works, if you've gotten a copy in advance and had a chance to look it over, that's amazing. That'll help you feel prepared. Get the words in your mouth, actually read them out loud a few times. You can't predict everything that's going to happen during a session, so just accept this fact. Surrender to the process. Be a good listener and breathe. Be yourself. Let go of perfection.

And I will also note that dry mouth is a struggle. When you're nervous, your mouth becomes a desert. So having like, apple juice nearby or thinly sliced apples that you can kind of nibble on, that's a real helpful thing to have in your booth. Even Jolly Ranchers or a dumb Dumb sucker or something like that will really help your mouth pucker and flood with saliva to help you combat dry mouth during a live session, confidence.

Your clients are going to feel a lot more comfortable and at ease if you appear confident. Even if you don't feel confident inside, just make sure you're putting your best foot forward and own it. You are ready for this. You're a great talent. You booked this job because your audition rocked or they loved your demo. So just take some comfort in that and give yourself some credit. You're amazing. Be kind to yourself and believe in your abilities and don't forget to have fun.

The other thing I always tell my students is cue your hype song right before you go in for a session. Mine one of my hype songs. Total 80. Girl I love me a little jump by Van Hill and Can't Help It. It's a good one. Just gets me all like, yeah, woo, I can do anything. Big 80s rocker hair. Let's go. All right. The next thing I want to COVID is the session. We're going to talk a little bit about scheduling directed sessions. Session prep during the session and also after the session.

Few things to keep in mind. Again, this is a little bit of a condensed version of the content I'll be sharing in my webinar, so forgive me for kind of powering through it.

When you're scheduling a directed session, just keep in mind most of the time this is going to occur via email. Always start with a thank you. Starting off with gratitude is always good with clients appreciating that out of all the talent they heard, you're the one they selected. So thank them for that. Find out their preferred method of connecting. Find out when is best for them. Don't make it all about you, make it more about them. I always let people know when I'm available, not when I'm not available. I think that's a huge pet peeve of producers and casting agents, etc. Or keep it clean. Tell them when you are available, be of service, then discuss any kind of details regarding rate or deliverables or any of that stuff afterwards. Just make it all about them. If somebody wants to book you for a phone session, or Skype session, or source Connect session, make sure you confirm the time zone. That's a really important one.

We all want to make sure we're on the same page and communicating clearly for session prep customarily, just know that the client usually initiates the call. Print your scripts in advance. Make sure you always have paper and pencil for your live directed sessions. Lots of changes happen on the fly. They make changes, they make edits, and then they want to change them back. Have your tea, have your apple slices, have your pencil, your printed script, and just settle in. It's also nice to have a minute or two to yourself to just kind of breathe a little breathe that's going to really help you relax. Nice big, long, deep breaths. In on a four count through your nose. Hold it for four. Tighten up your body while you hold it. Exhale, release and shake your body loose like a rag doll. Do that a few times. That's a really nice way to to just center yourself on mike before everybody hops on the call.

Your actual session time is five minutes before the scheduled session time, so be ready during the session. Say hello, thank them for having you, or say it's good to be back. If it's a repeat client you want to auditorally, read the room. There are lots of different producers out there and directing styles, different creatives you'll be working with. Sometimes it's the end client, sometimes it's an ad agency. You just want to sort of get their vibe. Are they all business or are they more casual and fun and a bit more chatty and wanting to get to know you? Just make sure you read the room and when it's time to get down to business, you get down to business. Keep in mind, direction is not correction, it is a collaboration.

When you work with clients and you work with directors, you always want to say, yeah, I'm willing to give it another try. The answer is always yes. But if they've asked you to do read after read after read and they're just saying, give us another take, don't be afraid to say, what would you like to hear differently in the next take? Because sometimes you're going through a lot of different reads and doesn't feel like it's getting anywhere. So asking them, do you want more energy? Do you want me to pick up the tempo? More smile, less smile. Are there any particular words that you'd like me to emphasize? Ask them some specific questions. Because sometimes, believe it or not, directors are nervous too, or they're not real seasoned and comfortable with running talent through sessions. So nerves happened on both sides and they're not necessarily going to be comfortable with directing you. So don't be afraid to ask. See how you can help.

It's also completely fine if you have any grammatical issues that you want to address or typos or you need clarification on pronunciation. It's just in how you say it. One of my tricks is if I ever see anything that's probably a little typo when I'm reading through a script, I'll actually just read it correctly the first time I read it and not really address it or make a big thing of it. And then once I've read through it, they'll say, oh my gosh, you read it this way and the script actually said it that way and you were actually right. And I always just kind of like downplay it and say, oh jeez, weird. My brain was just on autopilot. I didn't even notice that because I don't want to make anybody feel awkward by saying there's a typo in the script. You get my drift?

People like to work with people they like, so just be kind. This is where that customer service comes into play. You are being a good listener, you are being a team player, you're being helpful, and you've got a great attitude. If you happen to be recording a phone patch, meaning there's no source connect involved or they're not recording you on the other end, you're recording the session completely on your side.

It's worth asking if they would like you to send the entire session or if they want you to send select takes. And in that case, you're going to want to be slating the takes throughout the session. So, for example, take one and then reading the script, then take two and then reading the script. After you've gone through a long session, they may only want a handful of reads, so you're going to need to keep track of that while you're also doing your performance. So it's going to help you to be organized. Again, have that pencil in your hand. My trick is I write down the actual take number as I say it, and then as soon as I say it, I immediately cross it out so that I don't second guess myself on whether or not I said the take number. So that's something to keep in mind. Whether they want the whole session or just preferred takes, you're also going to want to ask them what type of file format they prefer. Wave, AIFF or MP3 are the most common. Usually when it's a booked session. Wave is a higher quality file and people really appreciate that. I always, no matter what, if I'm connected via Source Connect or Ipdtl or ISDN, I always record a broll that's a backup take. So if there's anything glitchy that happens over the internet or through technology, we've got a nice clean backup take that we can offer. And it has saved the day in many sessions that I've been a part of. People say, oh, I'm so glad you were recording a backup take. So be a hero and always record a broll.

Your first take is always going to be the toughest take, especially if you've got nerves. Clients are going to ask you to run it down or provide a baseline read. This is just the check in the temperature read. They want to hear where you're at and then they're going to offer some feedback or direction. Sometimes they're going to say, loved it, just give me a safety take, which just means a backup take, carbon copy of what you just did. Or they might just say, let's play with it a little bit, let's try to pick up the tempo or let's add a little more smile to warm it up, things like that. You will have clients who are super specific and they're going to give you a ton of notes and words they want emphasized certain ways inflections. They want to go up or down places they want you to breathe. So you want to be prepared for anything. But you want to listen intently and make really, really clear notes. Because take after take, they may build upon the initial notes that they give you and you are not going to remember all that. So make sure you take some pencil markings along the way.

Don't interrupt your client when they're speaking. Give them time to share all of their thoughts and their feedback. If you have questions, ask, but do not interrupt. Make sure that they get all of their notes and thoughts out. Don't ever take direction personally. It is not a personal attack. Some people are a little more eloquent when they're giving you direction and feedback. Others, it's a bit more jarring. They'll say something like, I didn't like it, it's not what I was looking for, it isn't personal. I would say something like, OK, what didn't you like about it? Help me understand so we can take the read in a different direction. You want to be solution oriented in the way that you collaborate with whoever is directing you. Try not to let it get under your skin.

You will have the clients out there or the directors out there who they just know what they want and they're great to work with because there's no guesswork involved. Just give them what they're asking for. I recommend picking up a cough switch for your microphone. This can be installed in your studio floor. It's essentially a button that you can step on if you need to cough, sneeze, or clear your throat. And it saved me a lot when I've had allergies or just had a day where I needed to clear my throat a lot. They don't want to hear that, so pick up a cop switch. You're going to have sessions where you do one or two takes. You're going to have sessions where you do 50 takes and just be willing to show up and be openminded and give them what they're asking for.

Regarding performance, embrace your creative process. If you normally like to do lead ins before you perform, do them during your life directed session. Just make sure you leave a beat between your lead in and then the actual script itself so it can be edited away.

Don't discuss money during sessions or when you're going to get paid, or the amount of money you're going to get paid. Do not ask for a copy of the project during a live directed session. A lot of times, clients are worried about you sharing their content if it's confidential, or sharing it out in the wild if it's broadcast before they broadcast it. You're better off after the session, following up in an email and saying, hey, once it's out in the wild, I'd love to have a copy of it and then you can have that as a private conversation. You don't want to get everybody worked up and also the money conversation, it's just awkward. And not everyone who is involved in the session might be involved with your pay.

I'm a fan of writing everyone's name that I'm working with at the top of my script, and whenever I have a question throughout the session, I like to ask them by name. I think it's a lot more personal. At the conclusion of your session, make sure you thank the team by name and assure them that the audio will be delivered promptly if that applies. And also let them know you recorded a backup take if they happen to need it. Reconfirm where the audio is going to be sent if this applies. And wrap up with a gratitude statement. Just a friendly sendoff. Thanks so much for having me. You guys were great to work with. Hope to work with you again. If it's the holiday season, I might say something like, hope you enjoy your holidays. If it's summer, I say, hope summer is treating you well. Enjoy it. Just something light, something friendly, just nice little wrap up. But again, keep it brief. Hop off. You never want to overstay your welcome or make the ending feel awkward or too longwinded after the session.

Immediately save the audio. If you're going to be doing any kind of clean up, go ahead and clean up mistakes where you cleared your throat, any lips, max, any of that kind of stuff. Clean it up before you send it. I even do that. Even if I'm sending the full session. I'm going to be sending them select takes. I cruise through and find those, clean those up, button them up into a nice clean file and send them off. After you've completed a life directed session, sometimes a revision or two will pop up. Make sure you jump on those quickly. The worst thing you can do is leave them hanging for an extended period of time. Archive your session audio. Afterwards, label it and organize all of your files so they can be easily found in the future. You never know when you're going to need that file again. The first time you do a live directed session, it is going to feel intense. You're going to feel like you're concentrating so hard and there's so much to think about. But most sessions, surprisingly, happen pretty quickly.

My very first live directed session, I was disappointed that it was over with in about five minutes. I did a take. They loved it. They asked for a safety take. I did another. We had a little small talk on the front and a little small talk on the back and I thought, that's it, that was so fun. So I think the experience is going to be just as fun for you. I hope you know that after time and repetition, you are going to get so comfortable doing live directed sessions. Just like anything else, you've done over and over and over again.

And after you do your first session, reevaluating and reflecting on your session and how you can do better next time is healthy and it's helpful. We all have room for improvement in all things. Being a five star voice actor means having a great attitude, awesome communication skills, being well organized with an established workflow, offering solid, confident performances, being a team player, a great listener, taking and following direction well, and anticipating client needs and concerns, and knowing your tech.

Remember, you've got two different services that you provide. You provide five star performance and also five star service that will turn a onetime booking into a repeat client that comes back again and again. Make it all about them. You're there to serve you're a solution provider and a stellar talent.

As a voiceover coach, I do provide mock phone patch sessions. So if you ever feel like you want to go through the drill of having copy sent to you me initiating a source connector phone patch session with you and playing the role of a client and running you through the paces to prepare for a real live directed session. That is something I'm happy to do for you and I do for my students all the time. You can reach out to info at the Voice actorstudio.com to set that up. Or we also provide a workshop called Phone Patch Role Play that is often on our calendar, so keep an eye out for it. Remember that we are storytellers as voice actors. Just make sure that the story you're telling yourself is a positive and kind one and you will knock it out of the park every you step up to that mic. Happy voicing. My name is Melissa Oates and thank you for listening.

Geoff Bremner
Hi! I'm Geoff. I'm passionate about audio. Giving people the platform for their voice, music, or film to be heard is what gets me up in the morning. I love removing technical, logistical, and emotional barriers for my clients to allow their creative expression to be fully realized.
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