It was, I think, April of 1993. In the span of an hour and a half one afternoon, I learned a great deal about the voice-over craft and yet missed a wonderful opportunity at the same time. I was at the Gospel Music Association convention in Nashville, TN. Marice Tobias taught a seminar class that year. I mentioned this experience in passing previously, but in that post, I didn’t deal with the real heart of the matter.
You see the single most important thing I learned that day was the single thing. Huh?
Marice taught us that every good piece of broadcast ad copy has a single point at its heart. If we’re going to do an excellent job of reading a given piece of copy, we have to be able to understand what the heart of the spot is, and build our read around that. To put it another way, to tell the story, we have to know what the point of the story is.
When I’m reading over a piece of copy for an audition, I’ll ask myself, “What’s the point?” Even sarcastically sometimes. Because, the copy has to make one point, and only one point, if it’s going to work well.
So, what do I do if the copy isn’t written well? Maybe makes two or three points? Even more?
A couple of things. Try to synthesize the multiple points into a single “heart-of-the-dog” message, if at all possible. And, commit myself to do the most excellent job possible, no matter what.
Several years ago I heard an interview with the Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on WFMT in Chicago. The discussion turned to the matter of guest conductors, and how some of them were not quite a good as others. Which led to a question about whether a bad conductor could make the orchestra play poorly. The answer? “No, there’s a level below which we will not play. We’re the Chicago Symphony Orchestra!”
I may not be the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but I know that I have to have that attitude about my work.
So, what was the missed opportunity? Marice asked for 5 volunteers from the audience to read copy. My heart burned within me to raise my hand, but I didn’t. I chickened out. Because I felt too shy, too fearful that I would make a fool of myself in front of everyone. The only good thing that came out of that experience was the internal commitment that when I’m part of such a learning opportunity in the future, I would never allow my fears to keep me from getting into the thick of things again. A commitment I’ve kept. And that has made such a difference.