Every voice over talent knows (or should know) how important a demo is to your business. Your demo is your calling card, your resume. It shows potential buyers what you are capable of.
But what constitutes a good demo? As a demo producer myself, I have some pretty strong opinions on the subject. :) Demos are created for a very specific purpose… to help you get work. This should always be in the back of your mind while going through the process of coaching, recording, and marketing your demo.
Asking for Feedback
Its pretty common on social media to see talent posting their demos and asking for opinions from other voiceover talents. Be careful with this! Remember, a demo's main purpose is to get you work, and is intended for your potential buyers - NOT for other voiceover actors. Keep this in mind as you will likely receive varying opinions - none of which are coming from people who will actually pay you for your voiceover services. If you do want to get an opinion from fellow voice talents, ask someone who has experience actively working in the field or genre your demo is in . And even then, take their advice with a grain of salt. Everyone has their own biases and experiences they base their opinions on.
What Buyers Want
If the whole point of creating a demo is to get work, then who exactly is your demo for? Well, that depends on the type of work you want to get. A demo should be designed for you to get work in a specific genre. Every buyer has their own specific wants, needs, opinions, and viewpoints. Your demo should reflect this in the copy you choose and the performance you give. My friend Gabby Nistico (also my co-host on the VO Boss podcast) likes to tell the story about when she first got into voiceover after having a successful radio broadcasting career. She had a great radio imaging demo, but when she tried to give it to commercial casting directors all she heard was crickets. (Feel free to listen to our discussion on our podcast here) You can hear us discuss this in our Buyers want to hear something similar on your demo to what they are casting for. Commercial producers want to hear what you sound like on commercial reads, e-learning producers want to hear what you can do for their next training project, etc.
Super Targeted Demos
Just as we market our business to targeted markets, we also need to target our demos. Therefore, you should be very critical about what goes into your demo. Think about your spots. Are they going to serve the market you are intending them for? Part of your marketing plan should be to immerse yourself in the industry in which you want to work. Watch, listen and culminate facts. Are you trying to be a commercial voiceover talent? Then watch and listen to commercials every day on ispot.tv and/or on the radio. Read advertising blogs and magazines. See how ad agencies are currently advertising brands. Listen to the voices they cast. Don’t pay for Pandora. Get the free version so you can hear the paid ads! Or are you interested in e-learning? Look up training videos on YouTube. Follow instructional design blogs. Contact professionals in this field and to find out what the latest trends are. Find out what these industries need and how you can help them. This is no small task, but you have the world at your fingertips. It’s up to you to use it to your advantage.
When it comes time to hire a demo producer, make sure you find one that specializes in the genre you want to do your demo in. For example, a Corporate Narration demo is very different from a Documentary Narration demo - and both are very nuanced in how they are produced. Do your homework! See if the producer has a history of actually working in the genre you want. Listen to other demos they’ve produced. Get feedback from past clients. Make sure you trust your demo producer. You paid good money to hire them, so trust they will do a good job for you.
Remember, you should NOT have to pick or write your own copy. A good producer will work with you to find the best copy that suits you and the brand you want to convey in your demo. Kate McClanaghan, a casting director, producer, and founder of both Big House Casting & Audio (Chicago and Los Angeles) and Actors’ Sound Advice says, “Performing and writing are dramatically different skill sets. It rarely works in your favor to split your focus. Stay in your lane. Your demo producer should supply great copy, including formulaic styles that define who you are and your best assets.”
What does Diversity or Range mean?
Since demos are now very narrowed and segmented, diversity and range really take on a whole new meaning. For example, on an e-learning demo, you want to show the different types of e-learning projects that you can do - corporate training, academia, etc. On a commercial demo, you want to show different industries, brands, etc. you are most likely to book. Range should be based on your acting ability first; what you can do with different moods, manners, and emotions and not necessarily your sound or “vocal gymnastics.” Think again about who is listening to your demo. They are listening for application first - and how your voice can serve them in their work. Do they hear a sample on your demo similar to a project they are currently working on? Does it align with their needs?
Take a step back and really think about what kind of voiceover work you want to do. Think about what kind of people will be listening to your demo. If you look at your next demo through their eyes you might have a different perspective of how your demo should be produced. I love producing demos for my students. I go through this whole process and then some before they even set foot in the studio to record. Feel free sign up for a free 15 minute consult if you are interested in learning more about my demo producing process. I’m excited to hear from you!
Keep on Rockin' Your Biz,
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.