Susan Bennett is a musician, voice talent, and singer. You might recognize her best as the original voice of Siri.
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. Recently we at Ginger had the honor of interviewing her and she graciously added her advice for a career in Voice Over. Be sure to view her TEDx Talk and find out more about her here.
Public speaking is no longer about physically being present to speak to your audience. In this age of daily digital duties, more and more of our business lives can be lived by using webcams. Webinars, teleconferencing – all the cool kids are doing it… as a matter of fact ALL the kids are doing it. Connecting with an online meeting or presenting a webinar via Google Hangouts, Skype, GoToMeeting, Sightspeed, ooVoo, TokBox (the list is endless really) is becoming the “norm”.
Whether you’re speaking to a small group of people you can see, or whether you have hundreds of listeners who can see you, but you can’t see them – imagine that your audience are in the room with you. This will help you connect to real people and will make you more natural and engaging as a speaker.
Voice Over work is similar, except there is NO feedback from an audience. In voice over work you must speak to an audience that you can’t see, all the while acting as if you’re having an intimate conversation with someone right in front of you. Susan Bennett, the original voice of Siri, tells us all about it.
I broke into the business many years ago, and the process has changed… a lot! Here are my suggestions for how to go about pursuing a career in voice over (VO) now:
- Reading Skills are essential, and taking any kind of acting class or voice coaching would be beneficial. There are two types of VO performances: announcers (commercial tags, news, messaging); and actors, who tell the story in commercials, etc., Read as much as you can, and record yourself if possible. That should give you a sense of whether VO is something you should try to pursue. Taking an improv class would help in every way, because VO is basically acting for the voice, and learning to think on your feet will help you in any situation, whether you pursue a career in voiceover or something else entirely!
- Find a Local Voice Coach. Look on the web, call recording studios, and/or talent agents to find one who’s right for you, and who can help you put together a demo (:60 mp3). Many of you have said you’d like to be a cartoon, but start with a demo of you, as you….your voice print, as it were. Make a commercial demo first, then branch out into character voices, IVR, narration, etc.,
- Auditions are the way you get work! Almost all VO work today is cast through auditions, so it’s important for you to get comfortable with that. You can sign onto VO websites like Voice123 and Voices.com. You’ll receive tons of auditions, so you can practice. You might also consider reading for the blind, or doing other volunteer projects for which you can utilize your voice and reading skills.
- Professional Sound This can be tough if you’re a novice, but look on the web for inexpensive equipment. It’s important that you sound professional, which means you need a good mic at the very least. Actually, you can do a lot with your smart phone, MixerFace (recording interface for smart phones), and a good microphone.
- The Web Today’s trend in VO is to sound “natural.” Even announcers today are often asked to sound “less announcery!” Use the web to help you. Practice with different commercials, and take advantage of the many coaching and instructional videos out there.
Remember that VO is a skill! It’s not enough just to have a good voice. You have to learn the “tricks of the trade” so you can be confident when you start to compete for VO work. Eventually, you’ll want to get an agent and join SAG-AFTRA to get higher level work. Check out Dee Bradley Baker’s site www.IWantToBeAVoiceActor.com as well. He’s got a lot of good advice for all levels of VO experience.
Good luck! A career in voice over is a lot of fun!