When to Talk and When To Listen

“One of the best ways to persuade others…is by listening to them.” -Dean Rusk 

Listening is not just a powerful interpersonal skill and fundamental to any healthy relationship; it’s also a tool that every voice actor should implement as often as we do speaking. But wait: how could listening be as important as speaking in voice-over, and how can we know when to do it? Over the course of the next two weeks, I’m going to examine this very question by covering some occasions when you should listen, and in part two, when you should talk. Are you listening?

Listening to how people speak in day-to-day life should be part of the ongoing practice for every voice actor. Not only could it make you a better listener, but having a library of authentic dialect patterns and emotional references will only make you a stronger actor! In fact, I still wish to petition some college professor-types to create a course in sociology and voice-over, but until then, here are just a few examples of when you should be listening. 


When You’re Creating Characters

Ever find yourself grabbed by a turn of phrase or accent of a stranger? Or maybe the way a coworker laughs? Or how about your family and friends? Every person in our life has their own unique speech pattern, the next great character voice could be lurking at your own family reunion… 


When You’re Driving

When I’m in the car and I’m not shuffling my usual 80’s playlist, I enjoy playing the radio. That’s right, an actual FM radio, ads and all.. Listening to what is out there is often the fastest way to know the ballpark of a read. A client has purchased and signed off on this performance, and whether or not those are the exact choices I would make as a voice artist, there’s a lot to be learned from what’s already airing. The fastest way to get to know what a commercial client may be seeking comes largely from what campaign they’ve already been running in the past, especially when they are changing campaigns.


When You’re Marketing

“Any man who says ‘I am the King’, is no true king” -Tywin Lannister 

Did he just quote Game of Thrones in a voice-over blog? Yes. Yes, he did. This quote from HBO’s recent hit fantasy drama sort of drives home what I want to talk about regarding marketing…which is: not talking. It sounds really strange to give the advice that as a voice-over artist sometimes we need to, well, listen to our audience. 

With so much of voice-over focusing on “your brand”, “your voice” and “selling yourself”, often people forget the most important thing about voice-over work: the work literally speaks for itself. Focus on the work, and then listen to what is resonating with your audience. Place your attention on hard work and improving your skills, and allow other people to speak highly of your VO prowess.


When You’re Stuck

“One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody is listening” – Franklin P Jones. 

If you find yourself in a creative rut, try listening to yourself by simply playing back your auditions from the last week, month, even year. Not only is it a great way to hear what you are doing right, but also to hear your own progress and possibly even target your own patterns to allow you to make stronger choices in the future. 

When You’re TiredThis is such a tough one. But at some point, despite our best efforts, our voices get worn out. That’s right, no matter the steady regiment of vocal warm-ups you’ve employed, or gallons of throat-coat tea you’ve guzzled, it’s time to listen to your body and give your pipes a break. 

Thanks for listening to part one in this series of “When to Talk and When to Listen” and be sure to circle back next week when I cover some key moments to speak up as a VO actor. You won’t want to miss it!



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