One of the most stressful aspects of voice acting, in my opinion, are live directed sessions.
It seems that no matter how many sessions I have under my belt, I always get a little stage fright before a session. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it is about live sessions that put me on edge, and even with a lot of theatre experience and improv training, it’s the feeling of performing and the idea that ‘all eyes are on you.’
As an artist, and a Voice Actor, at that, it can seem silly to think there is any reason to be nervous when performing, but ‘mic fright’ is very real and we’re going to talk about my five tips for successful live directed sessions with clients.
There is nothing worse than standing up to the mic and realizing your vocal cords are a little… stiff. Take 5-10 minutes to warm up. I personally like this technique from Bill Dewees. Simply doing a few tongue twisters or some vocal warmups like you did back in your musical theatre days will get your voice ready for the lights, camera, action moment during a session.
Now this isn’t always an option, but if you have a script, go over it again and again. One thing I like to do if I have even a few minutes with a script before a session is get in the booth and record myself reading the script (or a part of the script if it’s a bit long). This allows me to 1. Check my sound settings and 2. Hear myself and be sure I’m matching whatever tone or style I’ve been told to perform.
What do you do if you don’t have a script until right before a session? This has happened to me many times, actually, and if this happens don’t stress. The client knows you haven’t had the script long so it’s not a secret. The best approach to this is to outright ask the client what they’re wanting. Sessions give the client a chance to get all different kinds of possible reads from you so they have everything they need and more so most likely the client will walk you through the entire session with what they want anyway.
This is probably the best tip when it comes to managing stress. If you approach a session exactly as you are, it will make the session that much easier. Sessions are inherently nerve wracking, but I find that when I show up as Melanie, all I can do is be me and interact as me. And usually, I have a ton of fun with my clients.
The last tip is a great segue into this one - being professional is obviously important, but when you’re in a session be you and have a good time. Everyone wants to get the script recorded and out into the world so make the experience a good one for both you and the client. The experience they have with you will help them determine if they want to work with you again, so do your best to do everything you can to make the session successful on your end.
Which brings us to our last tip. Part of being professional in a session means that you have done your due diligence before the session starts. The client wants your voice but they really want the finished files at the end of the session. Meaning, if something goes wrong during the session, (For example, Adobe Audition crapped out on me during a couple of sessions before I realized I needed to have it going before anyone else got on the call and I had to restart my computer after everyone was already on the call… totally embarrassing). And people get that things happen, of course, especially with everyone working from home, but if you show up as a pro not only in your vocal ability, attitude, and general know how… you’re a triple threat that clients can’t help but want to work with again and again.
A bit of stage fright isn’t necessarily a bad thing and we can’t be 100% prepared all of the time, but hopefully these tips will help take your live session game to the next level.