Voice Over Experts The Voice Over Training Podcast

The First 15 Seconds

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

January 3, 2011

Comments (5)

Did you know that on average you only have 15 seconds to get the attention of a producer or casting director? Peter K. O'Connell emphasizes how important it is to immediately establish the tonality of a script, its character, its relationship with the listener and also the sell. With little to no time to waste, what are you waiting for!

Download Podcast Episode 122 »

Transcript

Julia-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voice Over Experts brought to you by voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors, and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It's never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won't find anywhere else.

Now for our special guest...

Peter K. O'Connell: Hey, can I share a secret with you? Producers, directors, and casting agents of commercials and videos are usually crazy busy people and cuddling voiceover talents is not at the top of their overwrought to-do lists. Their production management time is limited so when they call for voiceover auditions for spots or narrations or documentaries or web work, etc, it's fair to say that many of these producers and directors will not be listening to every voiceover talent's entire audition.

The audition request process for every job is different, but for many national jobs and certainly this can apply to regional and local voiceover audition request too, it's likely that the casting decision maker is going to have to sift through 50 or more auditions. In a voice talent's imagination, nay, fantasy, the casting person sits down quietly in a comfy chair in a quiet place with a steaming cup of hot cocoa to listen intensely to every audition morsel, maybe two or three times.

Hey, wake up. The truth is you've got at most 15 seconds, probably less, to truly grab a producer's ear and a casting agent's attention. You may read an audition that's 30, 45 or 60 seconds long, but your first 15 seconds is what will be most universally heard. This truth, as I see it, doesn't mean you only have to read the first 15 seconds of the audition and then hit stop. It means that as you are self-directing your audition, you need to remember that you rarely have the luxury to build the momentum in a script over say the full 60 seconds, with the expectation that your whole spot will be heard. Certainly, in the first pass of auditions, that is usually unlikely. If the director goes through a second or a third round of listens, then they may listen to your entire audition.

So the key takeaway here is that your first 15 seconds on every voiceover audition needs to immediately establish the tonality of the script, the character of the script, the relationship with the listener within the script, and the sell within the script. Please know that no matter what the script or client, there is a sell in every script. And while you're doing all that in your audition read, your voice will be subjectively judged by the producer as to whether or not it's the voice the producer has in his or her head for the project, and that is a key deciding factor that you as the voice talent have no control over, ever.

On every audition, script interpretation is key. You cannot just read the spot once. Make sure you get the words right and then voice the script. That's what radio production guys do because they've got 10 spots to produce and 45 minutes' worth of production time in the booth before they get kicked out. Talented as they are, quantity not quality is their job one.

When producers and directors look for quality, most often they look to professional voice talents and we have to deliver. So, voice talents need to read and understand the script before a word is uttered into the microphone. When you are reading the script, ask yourself some questions and get the answers from your script. This should really only take you a few extra minutes of thought.

Here are some questions, what is the client trying to sell? It's usually a product or service, but it can also be attitude or a lifestyle or something else that the words, sounds effects, audition direction, and sometimes music will ultimately convey. You need to study that and understand it to the best of your abilities every single time you voice a script.

Next, who is the client trying to sell to? The answer to this question is rarely everybody. Oftentimes, in your audition script, you won't get an advertising agency's creative brief. That's an ad agency document that outlines for their clients what the agency sees as the key drivers for their client's product or service including but not limited to the audience they are targeting with their advertising. But even without that creative brief if you look again at the script, define the sell message as well as the inferred message, usually defined from the words, sound effects, and audition direction.
[0:05:05]
Finally, how are they trying to get their message across? The answer here is not the channel they are using, the channel being a radio spot or a TV spot or a sales and marketing video, but rather it is the tonality and emotion of how and what they are saying that gets their message across to the listener. So is it funny, serious, grave, maudlin, romantic, sexy? The answer is a key part of your role as the voice talent in the production process. You, however, have to understand the degrees of the tonality and emotion they are looking for and reflect that in your performance most especially in the first 15 seconds of your performance.

Julia-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts show notes at podcast.voices.com/voiceoverexperts. Remember to stay subscribed. If you're a first time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes podcast directory or by visiting podcasts.voices.com. To start your voiceover career online, go to voices.com and register for a voice talent membership today.


About Peter K. O'Connell

Peter K. O'ConnellA professional voice over talent since 1982 and owner of audio'connell Voice Over Talent, Peter K. O'Connell operates the Voice Over Workshop, where he personally counsels new and established voice talent on all phases of the voiceover business. Peter is also author of one of the most highly downloaded e-books on voiceover, "The Voiceover Entrance Exam."

To learn more about Peter K. O'Connell and read his blog, visit:

http://www.voxmarketising.com

Transcription of The First 15 Seconds

By Peter K. O'Connell
www.voworkshop.com

Producers, directors and casting agents of commercials and videos are usually crazy busy people and coddling voice over talents is not a task at the top of their overwrought to-do lists.

Their production management time is limited so when they call for voice over auditions for spots or narrations or documentaries or web work etc., it is fair to say that many of these producers and directors will not be listening every voice over talent's entire audition.

The audition request process for every job is different but for many national jobs - and certainly this can apply to regional and local voice over audition requests too - it's likely that the casting decision maker can have to sift through 50 or more auditions.

In a voice talent's imagination, nay, fantasy, the casting person sits down quietly in a comfy chair in a quiet place with a steaming cup of hot coco to listen intensely to every audition morsel - maybe 2 or 3 times.

Wake up! The truth is you've got at most :15 seconds to truly grab a producers ear and a casting agent's attention. You may read an audition that is :30, :45, :60 seconds or more but your first 15 seconds is what will most universally heard.

This truth, as I see it, doesn't mean you only have to read the first :15 seconds of the audition then hit stop. It means that, as you are self-directing your audition, you need to remember that you rarely have the luxury to build the momentum in a script over say the full :60 seconds with the expectation that your whole spot will be heard. Certainly in the first pass of auditions, that is usually unlikely. If the directors go through a second or third round of listens, then they may listen to your entire audition.

So the key take away here is that your first :15 seconds on every voiceover audition needs to immediately establish the tonality of the script, the character of the script, the relationship with the listener within the script and the sell within a script. Please know that no matter what the script or client, there is sell in every script.

And while you're doing all that in your audition read, your voice will be subjectively judged by the producer as to whether or not it's the voice the producer has in his/her head for the project. And that is a key deciding factor that you, as the voice talent, have no control over. Ever.

On every audition, script interpretation is key. You cannot just read the spot once, make sure you get the words right and then voice the script. That's what radio production guys do because they've got 10 spots to produce and :45 minutes worth of production time in the booth before they get kicked out. Talented as they are, quantity not quality is their "Job 1."

When producers and directors look for quality, most often they look to professional voice talents and we have to deliver. So voice talents need to read and understand the script before a word is uttered into a microphone.

When you are reading the script, ask yourself some questions and get the answers from your script. This really should only take you a few extra minutes of thought. Here are the questions.

What is the client trying to sell?

It's usually a product or service but it could also be an attitude or lifestyle or something else that the words, sound effects, audition direction and sometimes music will all ultimately convey. You need to study that and understand it to the best of your abilities every single time you voice a script.

Who is the client trying to sell to?

The answer to this question is rarely "everybody". Often times in your audition script, you won't get an advertising agency's "creative brief". That's an ad agency document that outlines for their client what the agency sees as the key drivers for the client's product or service including but not limited to the audience they are targeting with their advertising. But even without that creative brief, if you again look at the script, define the sell message as well as the inferred message (usually divined from the words, sound effects and audition direction)

How are they trying to get their message across?

The answer here is not the channel they are using (the channel being a radio spot or a TV spot or a sales and marketing video) but rather it is the tonality and emotion of how and what they are saying that gets their message across to the listener. So is it funny, serious, grave, maudlin, romantic, sexy? The answer is a key part of your role as the voice talent in the production process. You however have to understand the degrees of the tonality and emotion they are looking for and reflect that in your performance.

Most especially in the first :15 seconds of your performance.

Related Topics: auditions, casting, clients, demos, Peter K. O'Connell, voice overs

Comments


    Based on my own producing experience, and having mulled this over with others I've worked for, and with, :15 seconds is generous.

    More like :05 - :10.

    If you get :15, consider yourself on the "definite maybe" list.

    Nevertheless, Mr. O'Connell, good article and good advice overall...

    Chas

    Posted by:

      WOW!

      Mr. O'Connell's insights are amazing, insightful and better than anything you've EVER had on this podcast before.

      Not only his content was wonderful but his voice is sheer perfection!

      And might I add he's is incredibly easy on the eyes.

      Please make sure you feature this hunk of VO greatness all the time.

      Best always,
      - Not Peter K. O'Connell

      Posted by:

        Great info, especially for us who are starting out. It brings home just how important professional coaching is.

        Thanks Peter,

        Kirk

        Posted by:
        • Kirk
        • January 4, 2011 5:55 PM

          Remembering the many times in 'the old days' when the other radio talent was at the door waiting to get in the production room. wham-bam outa here.

          We have time to do things right.
          Lynn

          Posted by:

            Good reminders - thanks. I wonder if some might use this as an argument against slating; Pat Fraley has good things to say about the slate and how it relates to -- or contrasts with -- the copy.)

            Posted by:
            • Perry
            • January 5, 2011 10:02 PM

Leave a Comment



Recent Voice Acting Lessons

Taking Care of Your Voice

Accent Reduction and the Standard American Accent

Finding Your Unique Voice

What's a Talent Agent and What Do They Look For?

Auditioning Dos and Don'ts: Knowing What You Can Control

Using Gesture, Imitation and Sound Effects To Get Into Character

3 Demo & Auditioning Tips For Booking More Work

Tips For Auditioning From Your Home Studio

Primer For On-Camera Talent Transitioning To Voice-Overs

3 Quick Post-Production Tips To Get Better Sound

   

About This Podcast

Voice Over Experts Podcast

Voice Over Experts is the industry's most downloaded educational podcast featuring renowned voice over coaches from US, Canada and abroad. Join us each week for pearls of wisdom and tricks of the trade to improve your voice over career. Listen online or subscribe in iTunes to hear from leading experts in the field of voice-overs.


Subscribe by Email

Or, listen to the Voice Over Experts Podcast in iTunes

Radio Advertising Center

Radio Advertising Solution Centre

Explore a new resource hub covering all aspects of planning, scheduling and launching successful radio advertising campaigns.

Radio Advertising Solution Center