How to Get the Most Out of Group Voice Over Classes
With the whole world moving online in the span of two months, remote is the new normal. We’re zooming, jumping on GoToMeeting and GoogleHangouts. We’re also taking this time to up our education and skills, or taking classes online. If you’re in the performance arts, and particularly in the realm of voiceover, private coaching and custom learning from a mentor is the gold standard, but the classes may cost more than you can commit to right now. Group classes like “The Voice Over Study” that I successfully beta-tested in March and April, are an affordable alternative. But how can you get the most out of them?
In this post, I dive into how to get the most out of group classes and explore a few that are out there including my new offering.
What is The Voiceover Study?
This 6 week online performance-oriented course is an opportunity to gain weekly practice in a variety of lucrative voiceover genres with homework assigned between classes. The goal is noticeable improvement in performance and a greater awareness of what you need to get there. We cover targeted script analysis, connecting with the message, tapping into your best reads, and finding optimal ways to show your range.
It begins with a three-hour intro to commercial voiceover, the most lucrative of the VO gigs. Before putting a booth in my house and bringing my business online, 60-70% of my biz was in commercials and about one-third of that commercial business was in national spots. One of these spots won a Cannes Lions, an even dozen of them helped win Addys and Clios and three others were nominated in SOVAS Commercial categories. My partner in the Voice Over Study, Lisa Suliteanu (also my daughter and a fulltime millennial VO) voiced her first regional commercial at the age of seven, her first national gig a year later and last year voiced a Telly Award-winning spot.
Taking the skills introduced in ad work altogether, we then split the group in two and each week focus on a new element of performance expanding into explainers, elearning, docs and audiobooks, always with a view to commercials. We keep in touch between sessions to stay on track with homework, and share inspiration, ideas and successes. I’ve run an annual weekend government-sponsored ACTRA workshop for three years for local actors that resulted in directing and producing voiceover demos for them. The VoiceOver Study is longer and is focused on honing skills. The course adds up to a total of 12 hours, which is spread over 6 weeks with 10-12 people split into two groups. We set it up this way to ensure each participant has time to perform, get feedback, make the adjustment, try again, learn and grow.
Other Great Group Classes, Workshops and Webinars
Another great ongoing class led by industry expert and Las Vegas actor Melissa Moats is VoiceActors Studio. She has a weekly course on performance among other elements of the voiceover industry. Led by top quality coaches with classes capped at 15 participants, they recently switched this course from in-studio to online. They have options of four weeks ($349) or eight weeks ($549) with a one session drop-in rate of $99. Melissa’s ongoing classes are one of many great courses her creative team offers. Her (one-off) speciality courses are even more popular.
A one-off class is chock full of notes and ideas. Plus, the time commitment and price point are lower. They are offered through GVAA, GFTB, VoiceoverXtra, Edge, VO Peeps, Get Mic’d, Syllabus, and others. Some are webinar-type, some are participation-oriented. Most are led by industry coaches or leaders (J. Michael Collins, Anne Ganguzza, David Rosenthal, Elley-Ray Hennesey and a host of others) in the field who have either signed on to work with these organizations or created their own. For more insight into what’s available, check out Stephane Cornicard’s voiceover training Facebook page.
Mentorship is another offering. For example, GFTB holds monthly script reading sessions with direction. The mentors are all successful industry professionals who coach or know how to give direction as well. Sometimes there is an opportunity to perform and get critiqued or to audit and watch others do the heavy lifting.
Then there are peer-led performance sessions. These sessions can be free and ongoing, like The Mic Check VO Workout hosted by Nathan Cundiff and Michael Montes, or paid like Larry Hudson’s VO Heaven which is $25 a month. Both are twice weekly. So, how do you know what’s right for you?
Make sure the Group Voiceover Class is a Good Fit
The coach is critical in making your decision. Like other voiceover veterans, taking coaching sessions and classes is how I’ve stayed current and successful. I look for people who have been successful in the industry or who have been intimately involved in casting and therefore have insight into what books. Over the past few years, that’s included courses from casting agents, fellow voiceover colleagues, directors, and even a standup comic. Your coach’s credentials are as important as their ability to teach and direct. They need to be able to impart info in a constructive way and guide you to where you need to go.
This profession is a long game. There are many things to learn along the way. Does the class you’re considering investing in meet your current needs? You need to know where you are in your voiceover journey and what you need to improve to answer that. This knowledge is not always a given, as we don’t know what we don’t know. Questions to suss out: Does the class match your level of experience? In other words, is it for people who are brand new, those with a little experience, or a lot of experience? Is it geared toward actors (theatre and film) who want to transition into voiceover? Can the coach help you if your background is in broadcasting or teaching or something entirely different? Are you new to VO?
Tips for Getting the Most out of Your VO Class
- Active Listening – More than a critical technique to give nuanced theatre and film performances, active listening is a great technique for learning too. Hopefully, your leader or coach has control over the room and is able to keep over-sharers at bay and draw introverts out to participate.
- Take Notes – Take handwritten notes, it has been shown to help with conceptual learning more than typing. It helps you synthesize what you’re learning immediately and keeps you actively engaged and focussed on what’s being taught. Reviewing notes afterwards solidifies what is new and serves as great reminders moving forward.
- Structure – Does the structure meet your needs? As artists, we can forgive some creative rambling if we can pick up enough shiny pearls of wisdom along the way. The best classes are given by those who can deliver good content on time.
- How interactive is the class? Is it a lecture or interview or do you get to participate throughout? The best learning comes from being active within the class. If the class is performance-based, do you get to perform? How much and how often? For how long?
- What is the Quality of the Feedback? This speaks to your coach. Are they able to direct you? Can they give you insight into how to get where you need to go again? Feedback is critical to helping an actor improve. What is said and the way it is said can engender “aha” moments or lay flat.
- Does the Class Give you Homework or other Takeaways? Did you get tips or strategies to implement after the class or between classes? In The Voice Over Study, each participant learns new performance techniques to access every week. As with all the voiceover classes I teach or coach, I offer “homework” – things to implement and work on after the session – craft is an element we must ever-polish in order to book, to stay relevant and to keep performing.