How to Manage Voice Talent in a Phone Patch: Do’s & Don’t’s
The “Phone Patch” Challenge
A live directed session from a remote location, came to be known as a Phone Patch among voice talent and producers somewhere in recent history. Many voice talent I know inwardly roll their eyes at the mention of a directed session. Most producers/clients I know look forward to the opportunity to offer real-time suggestions for the copy they lovingly wrote. Both parties have reason for reacting that way, and somewhere in the middle lies an optimal use of time to achieve a great delivery.
Phone Patch – The Client’s Perspective
Look, we’re paying good money for a professional voice talent. Not only that, but we’ve already spent resources on copy, a producer, and advertisers. Rather than go back ‘n’ forth in emails over the next week about the tenor, intent, and delivery of this copy…let’s just hash it all out right here ‘n’ now on a live directed session and by the end, everyone is happy that it’s done right!
Phone Patch – The Voice Talent’s Perspective
First, read “Three Reasons Why It’s Important to Remember That Voice Actors are People Too!” Thanks!
It’s not that voice talent don’t want solid direction from the client, or that they’re not willing to take criticism, it’s just that when a client gathers a team to help direct a session, everybody on that team feels like they have to chime in with suggestions or they’re not proving to the boss that they’ve contributed. THAT’S where the live directed session gets tedious, contradictory, and time-wasting. Are all present truly qualified to give constructive feedback?
Phone Patch Do’s and Don’t’s For Everyone
Phone Patch etiquette requires patience and understanding on both ends of the phone call (BTW, we’re not getting into the technology side of a phone patch here. Those finer points are amount to a hardware issue, and most people use a smartphone with earbuds, a Skype connection, an ipDTL “Tel” option, a Bodalgo “call” option or some similar form).
Below see the top 5 reminders for voice talent and client to remember for a productive phone patch.
1 – Scheduling the Phone Patch
Everybody’s busy, and so it’s considerate to try to book your voice talent well in advance. You need it done yesterday? Voice actors understand those demands from the client side, and will do their level best to accommodate. Just remember, they have other clients, and someone may have gotten to them first. Sometimes a phone patch means coordinating several people (agents, copywriters, etc.) a middle-man to be on the call, so that’s a scheduling challenge that should be attended to earnestly.
2 – The Phone Patch Connection
Clients may themselves arrange for the actual digital or analog signal choice (phone, Skype, Google Hangout, etc), but often a producer acts as a middleman, since they may be more familiar with the technology involved. This shouldn’t be a big stumbling block for the talent, as the technology today offers multiple options for making a call (as mentioned above), and any talent seeking good clients must have a “phone patch” in their toolkit. Whatever services, phone numbers, URL’s, account numbers or digital details that need to be shared during scheduling should be confirmed by all parties well ahead of time. In a pinch, a smarphone connection is a good default. IMPORTANT: Make sure everyone understands who is recording. The producer? The Talent? The client? All options are workable, but don’t assume someone else is…maybe they’re assuming YOU are recording.
3 – The Phone Patch Copy
This is essentially why everyone is on the call in the first place, so good copy is of primary importance. For that reason:
- The FINAL draft of the copy should be shared with everyone involved on the call well in advance. This is crucial for the talent if you expect him/her to be familiar with the challenges of the copy.
- The copy should have pronunciations or explanations for any unfamiliar or specialized wording. Acronyms are especially difficult. Pronounced as a word?…or each letter on. its. own?
- If timing is important, the copy should be tailored to those limits. Don’t expect the talent to put 40-seconds worth of copy into a 30-sec spot, and still make it sound “conversational”.
- Most talent are excellent at copy themselves, and may get hung up on odd sentence constructions, misspellings, or bad grammar…so please make sure the final draft is proofread.
- Probably the best format to use for copy is a MS Word.doc. PDF’s are fine, but they’re notoriously hard to edit on-the-fly. Plan to make changes in the middle of a session? MS Word.
4 – Phone Patch Direction/Re-direction
Here we go! The voice talent wants to please. Short of doing an Ethel Merman imitation, they’ll be open to delivering your copy HOWEVER you want it. If multiple client-side people are present on the call, it’s probably best to have ONE person designated to offer directions for the talent. Talk amongst yourselves to reach concensus, but then the main point-of-contact on the job should give the final direction to the voice talent. Be expressive, clear, distinct, and helpful. Many people all talking at once is extremely counter-productive and frustrating to the talent. A good workflow at first is to have the talent read one or two lines or paragraphs and then pause for validation on the read. The client may want the talent to pause after every sentence or paragraph…just be clear that is your expectation. Remember, you will hear big inhalations and un-natural pauses durng the read. Those interruptions are easily edited in post. Talent wants to please. IF they’re getting it right, let them know. FINALLY: This may seem sacrilegious, but you might even ask your talent how THEY might interpret the copy. Most voice talent have been around the block enough to know what emphasis is needed. If not…no worries.
5 – Phone Patch wrapup/follow-up
Everybody’s happy? YAY! OK, how do you want the final recording delivered? To you? To the talent’s agent? To the producer? Do you want .mp3 or .wav file? Do you want out-takes? Should the talent take care of editing/mastering, or do you have someone doing that for you? Do you have any final words of feedback for the talent?
Talent: This one is on you: make sure the product gets delivered as the client expects, and follow-up by phone or email to confirm it arrived, and that everyone is still happy. This might be a good time to ask if they would be OK giving a referral, a testimonial, and/or permission to place them on a future list for occasional newsletter or follow-up contact.
The Phone Patch Culture
When done right, everybody truly emerges from a phone-patch satisfied. The client knows the copy was voiced as expected, and the talent knows there’s little likelihood of pesky re-do’s. Beyond that, a phone patch is one of the most excellent ways to build relationships between everyone. Many’s the time I’ve stayed on the call LONG after the session was successfully completed…chatting with the producer or client about just….anything.
People on both sides are reassured that they’ve been understood, appreciated, and welcomed for their input.
Dave lives in Las Vegas where he was the main news anchorman at NBC & CBS stations for a total of almost 30 years.
But about 12 years ago, he found voice-acting, and started CourVO.com, to launch into freelancing.
Now he’s doing it full-time, ALL the time.
In the process, he’s written more than 3000 blog articles on voiceover and published a book on the subject.
He also founded and is the President of World-Voices Organization,
a non-profit industry trade association for voice-over people
that advocates, promotes, educates, and sets ethical
standards for its global members.
Dave is considered a thought-influencer in the voiceover community
and is known for paying it forward to his colleagues.
Just imagine what he could do for you?
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