Voiceover Holidays

Not too long ago I flew to Chicago to celebrate the Jewish New Year with my parents and give a talk titled “What It’s Like Behind the Mic” to the residents of their retirement community. The average age at Montgomery Place (their retirement community) is 85, and walking the halls I felt like Usein Bolt.


After giving a brief synopsis of my life’s journey, I asked if people knew what voiceovers were, and together we listed the scores of places where disembodied voices are heard:

·      TV and Radio commercials

·      Cartoons

·      Animated Films

·      In-store Advertising

·      Internet Audio, Web Spots,

·      Explainer Videos

·      Podcasts, Webinars

·      Museum and Travel Audio Tours

·      Smart Phone & iPad Apps

·      Trade Show Presentations

·      Pre-Recorded Announcements: Inflight, Trains, Theaters,

·      Compliance Videos

·      Tutorials

·      Voice Mail

·      On-Hold Messaging

·      Sales Force Training

·      Documentaries

·      Continuing Education — Executive/Medical/Professional

·      Patient Compliance

·      Pharmaceutical Sales

·      Awards Ceremonies

·      Fundraising Videos

·      VOG (Voice of God) — which I recently had the pleasure of doing: Read More


Then we talked about the things that voice actors think about which non-VO people don’t, like:

·      Do you check to see if your clothes are noisy before you put them on?

·      Do you check to see if your mouth is click-y?

·      Do you check to remove any jewelry so you don’t jingle or jangle as you move?

·      Do you check the clock to make sure you will have food in your belly when you’re recording so your stomach isn’t gurgling?


Next we had a blast practicing tongue twisters, their favorite being the Pheasant Mother Plucker, which had the entire group giggling like a bunch of school children:


I'm a mother pheasant plucker. I pluck mother pheasants.

I'm the most pleasant mother pheasant plucker to ever pluck a mother pheasant.

I'm not the pheasant plucker I'm the pheasant plucker's wife,

I've been plucking mother pheasants my whole pheasant plucking life.

I'm not the pheasant plucker I'm the pheasant plucker's mate,

I'm only plucking pheasants 'cause the pheasant plucker's late.


We then spoke about advertising trends in voiceovers, which have changed dramatically over their lifetimes, evolving from the classic Don Pardo announcer style of SELLING, to the recently more popular conversational style of a real person, to the current (emerging) seamless flow style where the production value and story is so similar to the program that's airing, that it’s not entirely clear that you’re watching a commercial.


Script analysis was next, which helped one resident understand why just having a nice voice wasn’t enough to have a career as a voice actor. It’s what we do with other people’s words that determines whether or not we book the business, so everybody took a turn exploring different ways of saying the phrase:

And then I left the room….

We varied the tone, tempo, pacing and inflection, by using the CUPS system (Caring/Upbeat/Professional/Sarcastic) in order to find different ways to deliver the words.

We ad libbed to find different interpretations and it was fun to see their level of engagement, interest in participating, and natural talent (for some) with a microphone in their face.


Finally I shared some of my work and people asked many interesting questions (was that your voice on all of those different samples?!), but the observation that gave me pause was made by a 99-year-old gentleman, who had been a psychiatrist, all his life. He said:

“Classic Freudian therapy requires the patient to lie on a couch, while the therapist is seated behind and out of view. I guess the therapist was delivering a voiceover to the patient, being heard but not seen. Freud must have understood the power of the disembodied voice, and made this one of the core tenets of his philosophy!”

After all, the Wizard of Oz warns us, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” Listen to the voice, its purity, its power. The source is not as important as the message itself.


The nicest compliment came from a resident who approached my mom the next day and said:

“I’m mad at you — and your daughter!” “Really, why? What did we do?” she asked.

“Well, before her talk I skipped through the commercials, but now, I study them, trying to figure out what the attitude of the voice actor is and what physical actions they are doing to convey that message! Upbeat? Sarcastic? Professional? Caring?”

Ahh, warm memories like these are what the holidays are all about. Happy Thanksgiving you Pheasant Mother Plucker, and welcome to the wonderful world of voiceover! :-)