Susan Bennett is familiar as the voice of the American female Siri – as well as the the voice of Delta Airlines. The original voice of Apple's Siri not only gives directions; she's the voice for many major world renowned brands.
In June 2005, the software company ScanSoft was looking for someone to be their 'voice'. The company inquired with GM Voices and selected Bennett, who happened to be present when the scheduled voice over artist was absent. She worked in a home recording booth for the entire month of July in 2005. The recordings were then concatenated into the various words, sentences, and paragraphs used in the Siri voice.
Since 2011, she's been an extra appendage to millions, featured in pockets and purses everywhere as everyone's favorite assistant. She's starred alongside celebrities like Zooey Deschanel. She's answered millions of questions, calculated endless equations, given the best restaurant tips, and has been instrumental in saving men from the doghouse for forgetting anniversaries and birthdays.~
She is Susan Bennett. She is Siri, voice-activated "assistant" introduced to the masses with the iPhone 4S in 2011. She's been interviewed by Oprah, CNN, The Huffington Post, and many others. Susan graciously agreed to let Ginger have an interview! How cool is that? Not only is she an amazing voice over artist, she's a tremendous public speaker (watch her TEDx talk below) and is so very gracious. Kind, funny, and brilliantly talented... read on to hear more about Susan!
How did you get your first paid speaking gig as a voice over artist? I was doing a lot of jingle work at a studio in Atlanta called Doppler. One day the voice talent didn’t show up to read the copy for the spot, so the owner asked me to voice it since I didn’t have an accent. I don’t even remember the name of the client, but it was the beginning of my voice over career, so I certainly remember Pete Caldwell, the man who gave me a new career!
How did you discover that people liked the sound of your voice? After my experience, I got a voice coach, then an agent, and I immediately started working. I never actually had the thought, “oh, they like my voice,” I just knew I was doing something right, because I was working a lot.
Do people recognize your voice when you're out and about? No, they don’t! In fact, in the (almost) five years since Siri’s been around, only one person has recognized my voice. It was a banker, and I told him he was in the wrong profession, because with his ears he should be doing some kind of audio work!
What’s the most important habit of speaker? I guess if I have to say just one thing, it’s to be prepared. That includes a lot of things….taking care of your voice, practicing your speech and/or script (if you’re fortunate enough to get it in advance), and learn who your audience/client is.
If you've got limited time to prepare for speaking, what’s ONE thing you should do to make it work? It’s never just one thing! : ) Organize your thoughts, do some deep breaths and vocalizations, and try to have fun!
What’s your top tip for someone who wants to speak for a living? Get a coach. You can do a lot on your own, but it really helps to work with someone who can be objective and give you concrete advice. Also, watch and listen to speakers on the web.
For those considering the voice over business, do you have any particular bit of advice? It’s a very competitive business, so you really have to want it. Because so many people ask me about this, I put together a doc with some suggestions, which I’ve attached (which we at Ginger will publish SOON). Also, check out voice over people on the web. One interesting site is Voice Acting 101 (.com). Voice actor Jason McCoy has a really interesting story about how he got started.
How is a voice-over speaking different from speaking in front of a live audience? Voice overs are very intimate….It’s just the voice actor and his/her mic in a booth! Even if you’re in a big studio, it’s you and the mic. You have to learn mic technique so you can do different kinds of roles authentically. Public speaking is very different, even though you’re using a microphone. You’re on a stage, in front of a lot of people, so you have to use both your voice and your whole body to communicate.
Have you ever had to record any 'crazy' answers? I didn’t record any crazy answers. Everything Siri says is created by programmers and computers, AFTER the recordings were done. It’s an amazing process called concatenation. The voice talent reads hundreds of phrases and sentences created to get all of the sound combinations in the language. Afterwards, technicians and computers extract sounds from the recordings, and reform them into the “answers” you get when you talk to a digital device.
Susan has not only taken over the world as Siri - she's now moving from the studio to the stage. Check out her TEDx from this past April.
With a strong personality and a sense of humor, Siri and the voice behind her, give the story of voice acting and how Susan Bennett became the original voice of Siri. Susan and her voice talent were suddenly a persona on devices worldwide, thrusting her into accidental fame. Susan tells of how Siri was created and how she dealt with the fear of living up to the expectations of Siri.
Susan also shared with us how the best way to get a job as a voice over artist. Watch this space for more from Ginger and Susan! Heartfelt thanks to you Susan for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer questions. Can't wait to see where you go next!
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