My First Demo & Me
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Demos are supposed to work like magic. Find some scripts, read them a few times, use royalty free music, edit it all together and put the best few seconds in the front. Once that's done, send it around and get ready for agents to start falling at your feet because you are THE VOICE THEY'VE BEEN WAITING FOR. Might as well just quit your day job the second your demo is done. You've got a 60 second recording of your voice, you're ready for the big time.
I'm sure that's worked for some people and congratulations if you're one of them. But you know how all of the "How to get started in voiceover" resources say to get training first? They're right.
It's hard it is to be objective about your own voice.
I can edit, mix music and run down scripts so for a while I thought I'd make my own. The voiceover classes at Connecticut School of Broadcasting were some of my favorite, so I graduated with an idea of the basics. There was a workshop on how to make your own voiceover demo that was fun, but after graduation I didn't really do much with it. For the record I loved Connecticut School of Broadcasting, but that's a blog for another day.
So back to getting a demo made... At first I thought it was kind of silly to find a voiceover coach. I mean come on, who do I think I am? I can do this on my own. I learned a little from podcasts and blogs but eventually decided to do what the experts advise and find coaching.
Here's another thing about me, I'm kind of cheap and didn't yet know the value of investing in yourself and your business. I set a goal to make voiceover pay for my coaching sessions and a few jobs later, I was able to book some coaching sessions with the Voiceover Gurus.
One weird thing about coaching sessions is that they can sometimes take a sideways turn into therapy because our voices can betray us. Spots where I had to sound confident were hard for me to do convincingly. Acting was difficult because I'm pretty Minnesotan and reserved. Letting go is not a thing I do, especially on Zoom. After workouts, I'd be thinking, "why do I have to picture someone else to pretend to be confident?" Or if a spot called for being dramatic, I'd do it but feel weird even though being dramatic was literally what the piece needed.
I did one 4 pack of lessons and got a few jobs, then they stagnated a bit so I got another 4 pack (hello Black Friday discount) and learned some more. Being singsongy, too rhythmic, speaking too fast or just taming down my energy level were things I had to work on. After a while, the sessions were paying for themselves. Not saying that to brag, only to assert that training pays off. Hopefully it works that way for everyone.
Suddenly it's a few years later and I still don't have a fancy schmancy demo. What the heck was I doing? I'd slapped a few together with bits from jobs I'd done but they weren't the big super duper commercial demo I wanted them to be. After some back and forth I booked 2 sessions with the Voiceover Gurus (this is not a sponsored post just the truth) and dove into "making a demo".
Being directed for a demo is different than a session with a client or even your normal coaching session. A demo needs to show what YOU bring to a project, what makes you different. I did a session with Linda and one with Alyssa and their goal was to prod me out of my comfort zone. When they told me that I stifled an eye roll, but I think I did groan a bit because that meant being confident, dramatic and not falling back on my RaDiO vOiCe.
After the two non-comfortable sessions, I edited and sent files to JJ along with my favorite commercials I'd done and gotten permissions to use. They were mixed together with some magic and the finished product is my commercial demo. He called before he emailed it to me and said there was a pause that would knock my socks off. I'm not a big pauser but that's what a non-comfort zone session will do for you (summon the power of the pause).
The first time I listened to it I was nervously on my way to MC a summer concert. It had taken me forever to get dressed, I'd probably changed clothes 4 times before getting in the car so I was deep in my awkwardness and a bit taken aback when I heard my demo. The woman in the demo sounded dramatic and confident, which meant I can be dramatic and confident too. Who knew?
Turns out the gentle nudges outside of my comfort zone paid off. The woman in the demo is me, a real, friendly, conversational, stars in the eyes me. Now I'm off to work on another demo, maybe explainer or corporate, I haven't decided which. Whenever I finish it, I'll share it on here. My short voiceover journey has been fun so far and I've got a long way to go but it will be fun working it all out, one audition, shortlist, rejection, booking, coaching session and demo at a time.