In my daily work as a professional voice-over actress, I get to be both the voice talent and the audio engineer. It’s empowering to edit and mix my recordings in my home studio, and I like that I can offer my clients a full-service professional voice-over experience. Technology has made this possible, but I know only too well the perils of relying too heavily on technology as the be-all-end-all solution to life’s problems.
Even with the best intentions, the best equipment, and many years of professional voice-over experience, at some point, something can (and eventually will) go wrong. I’ve learned that what matters isn’t just a flawless run of perfect takes. Equally important is how I respond when something goes wrong. Those situations can show you (and your clients) what kind of voice-over pro you truly are.
Case Study: The Voice-Over Take That Got Away
I was recently hired again by a returning client to record a one minute piece of copy. During our phone patch session, I suggested a couple of different voice-over styles that I thought might work for the project. Through this collaboration, I ended up recording three possible options for my client to choose from. As usual, after the real-time session, I followed my typical sequence of editing, mixing, and normalizing to polish the recording, and then sent it off for the client to review.
The next day, my client replied to say that something sounded off about the file I sent — it sounded muffled and muddy. That is not a common type of feedback, so I was perplexed and very curious to know what had happened. I knew I had done everything I routinely do, and, I was pretty sure I had done it all just right!
But the proof was in the pudding. Somewhere along the line, some stray button had been clicked in my audio editing software or something had just gone awry in my computer’s processor. Whatever the cause, a tech glitch had created a problem which now needed to be solved asap. Ah….technology. There was no use arguing about it. I had a job to do, which meant, in this case, that I had to do that job again.
Fortunately, the session was very fresh in my memory and I was able to go into the studio and record the script again, giving all three options just as I had in the original session. All’s well that ends well. My client was very happy with the redone takes and I was also able figure out what had created the glitch the first time around and I got things adjusted so that wouldn’t happen again.
Professional Voice-Over Poise and Persistence
So, what did I learn from this situation and other situations like it over the years? While my experience may still allow a rare but inevitable error to slip by, what remains firm is my poise and persistence in dealing with how to quickly find a solution and make sure my client is always ultimately satisfied and gets what they need.
Instead of freaking out and rethinking my whole technological system, I stood by my process and stood by my work, and started from scratch to provide a suitable file for my client. Mistakes happen. Dogs eat homework. Hard drives crash. What matters is that we can respond to these moments with resiliency, skill, a cool head and a calm hand.
It reminds me of airline pilots who are famously known to be unruffled in the face of a danger. They are trained to speak calmly and reassure the passengers no matter what crises may be happening in the moment.
While a computer glitch is not life-threatening for anyone involved, the mind can panic when it starts thinking thoughts like, “Oh no! How am I going to fix this? What if I lose this client over this? What if this happens again?” One of the mind’s jobs is to look for threats to our survival, and it often gets short-circuited into thinking our survival is threatened, when in reality, in the worst-case scenario, it’s only our reputation or a source of income that may be partially at risk.
That day in the studio also taught me that no matter how sophisticated my technological set-up, the human element of voice-over work is what gets me through the toughest situations. Technology has opened up new opportunities for professional voice-over talent to work from home, pursue clients around the world, and take control of producing their own work. But technology can be both friend and foe. In the case illustrated, I had to have the real-world customer service chops to smooth over our budding relationship, and go back in and recreate what I’d done. Those are professional voice-over skills that are hard-won and years in the making; there’s simply no gizmo, no “app,” for keeping calm and carrying on!
Debbie Grattan has been providing professional voice-over services for 20+ years, collaborating on thousands of projects and partnering with hundreds of production companies, marketing and advertising firms, commercial voice-over recording studios and corporate/business clients around the United States and throughout the world. Check out her Professional Voice-Over Talent Demos and request a Custom Voice-Over Audition for your upcoming project.