“Why You?” Pt. 1

A peer of mine in voiceover recently posted an inquiry to her followers and contacts, asking what sets them apart from the rest of the field. 

“Why should they hire you?”

I always love this question and the conversation it spurs, because I’m actually particularly fond of my own answers to this. I have yet to hear every single person’s answer to this question, so I cannot speak to the uniqueness of my response, but I do like it. And reflecting on it often leads me to other such answers as well. The first answer I give to this question is also related to one of my guiding principles.

I live and work by the “Confident yet Humble” philosophy.    

Confident enough to say “Yes, I absolutely can accomplish that for you and delivery beyond your expectations”. Humble enough to know that I, myself, am on my own journey of learning and that, for all I have learned, someone out there knows more.  

These are generally two conflicting ideals which typically do not coexist well within one individual. Confidence can often toe the line of arrogance and cockiness, which can be a turn-off to some. And humility can sometimes be interpreted as a marker for weakness, or lack of confidence.

Additionally, what makes this more challenging to present is that different people use different metrics for measuring these levels. What comes off as confident and polite to one may be deemed as arrogant and obnoxious by another. What one sees as gentle modesty might be viewed by someone else as too passive.

Depending on the audience, it’s helpful to be able to find where these lines get drawn by each party and communicate more freely within that space. There are times and places where the “boiler room/closer” style is well received and desired by the client, for example.  Other times, not.

A Guiding Principle.

The second answer I provide, depending again on the audience, is that I am multilingual. Not in the traditional sense of being multilingual, though.

I am instead fluent in two unique and different languages – the language of business and the language of the arts. 

Before I was a full time narrator and studio owner, I worked for over 20 years in the wireless industry within the call center environment. I am no stranger to the vernacular used within big business, the timeframes kept by their leadership teams, nor the reason why communication is so different from one world to another.

There are things you can say at a rehearsal to one of your cast members that you simply cannot say at a staff meeting. In business, you are often discouraged to say what you truly think and encouraged to guard your words and actions. 

At rehearsal, however, if you played that game you’d be wasting everyone’s time and also doing your project a disservice. You can get away more easily with giving honest, straight-forward feedback that would never fly in a traditional workplace.  Such as…

“Okay, people, once more! From the top! And please, can we suck a little less this time? Thank you!”

Performers know that such feedback is real, genuine, not meant to be personal, and is actually very important to the creative process of putting on a show. We can take it. We get how it works.

If you said something in that vein to your direct reports in a staff meeting, though? Whoa, boy!! Completely different results, guaranteed. But being able to be fluent in both languages after over 20 years working in each world absolutely makes me a unique and powerful element when added to a project, especially the corporate videos I work on often.

In preparing this entry for Inner Voice, I stumbled into a train of thought which led me to an even simpler, but more powerful, explanation as to why I am good at this. Why my studio is the one to choose. Why communication is so important to me, and how that importance will benefit my clients.

More than anything in the world, I treasure being clear and understood.

It is the cornerstone of my communications. And, it’ll be Part 2 of this entry, coming soon!

Thanks for reading. Tune in next time.

VoiceOver 1st Grade – Rule #1 – “Listen Closely”

Like many, the members of my household have been forced to relearn a lot in recent months.

I have had to relearn how to re-prioritize my roles here at home. It became apparent in the early weeks and months that home-maker and caregiver of a young child had to be moved to the #1 position. My business needs had to unavoidably be pushed to 2nd, regardless of the cost.

My wife had to relearn her role too. She had to now get on-board with being out of the house all day at work and missing most of the daily goings-on here, while seeing my son and I thrive in our bond. Bit of a reversal of once-traditional household dynamic.

My son had to swallow the large, yucky pill of missing the last 3 months of Kindergarten. Then he had to wash that down with a tall glass of here!-your-dad-is-now-your-teacher-for-the-foreseeable-future! Poor kid.

Facilitating 1st grade via online apps and e-learning modules is not easy.

I’ve had to continue trying to run my business and continue my own education while also repeating some of it through him as well.  I have to be with him pretty much every step, even when he is engaged in the lesson. I can’t go far at all.

I’m basically back in 1st Grade full time, indefinitely.

But my exposure to his end of Kindergarten and beginning of 1st grade has given me a lot of unexpected insight as well. I recognize some of the basics of life and of interaction being taught and explained in plain terms, like I’m a 6 year old, and I chuckle at how simply they can still apply to adult interactions and business communications. Now that recess is over, let’s share what we’ve learned in this limited series of Inner Voice, called “VoiceOver 1st Grade”.

They call it “the basics” for good reason.

No better place to start than Rule #1 – “Listen Closely”.

Naturally, what’s also implied here is a nice, healthy dose of ‘put a sock in it and pay attention‘.

We gain the most and understand the wants, needs, and positions of others when we listen closely and actively. Follow along. Stay with them. Ask clarifying questions as needed, but Listen. Closely. And watch.

Not everyone speaks in the same rhythms or cadence. Not everyone processes data the same. Not everyone prioritizes the same way.

Not everyone sends information out in the same way.

Being in full-receiver mode at all times, whether it be with a six year old and his teacher or with a client, is your best play. Not the silent treatment, but just very attentive active listening.

Their words, but also their actions such as their body language and how they respond to certain things. What frustrates them about the process, what they love, what they dread, what they wish was better.

There’s important information to be found if you listen closely and look for it.

As a father/teacher, I cannot do what my son needs without listening closely to both the teacher and him together. I need to receive all the data I can in order to deliver on my end of the task. What she needs from him translates immediately to what she needs from me, and what he then needs from me.  What he needs from her still has to be picked up by me also, so I can translate it and bubble it up to her.

In the end, I learned where and how I was needed the most by him.

He needed me by his side, interacting with him and encouraging his learning, keeping the environment light and low-pressure for him so as to not traumatize him, and making the home schooling as fun as possible.

That was the message I received from him throughout the Spring and the early days of the new school year. So, right next to him all day is where I set up my work station. Together, we’re getting it done. And I confidently say that if I hold this course he will learn more than his 1st grade lessons this year.

As a narrator/studio owner, I have to give the same attention to my contacts in order to ensure the final product is perfect.

Their expectations have to be exceeded, not just in the work but also in the partnership with me and my studio. Often times they come for a narrator and end up getting a consultant and advisor on audio, or on the pacing of the story they’re telling, or more. In our talks I’ll listen for these opportunities to give them far more than their money’s worth.

A good example is a client of mine who, in an early conversation, expressed distress over the background noise in their previous audio as well as the dividing up of the recordings to assign specific sections to their project.  It actually felt really good to explain to them that I understood what they were saying very clearly, and more importantly that I could solve it for them. They needed more than a voice, and I made sure they got it all.

By listening closely, I was able to hear their pain and worry and was able to address it.

My son needs more than a dad right now. He needs a teacher, a tutor, a classmate, and a playmate. He needs someone to walk him through this and see him safely to the other side.

The end result of all this active listening will be much better, whether it is business or family.