(Update: Please note that what I’ve written here are my impressions of these events. All errors and mis-characterizations are my own.)
(Further update: If you’d like to listen to this entire teleseminar, click the flash player at the bottom of this post.)
9:06 PM – The first question is to Dick Orkin. How do you keep the humor in your commercials focused on the product or client? Dick replies that the humor is never the focus, the product or service is and the humor grows out of the story about that product or service. A follow-up question asks how to keep the humor from outshining the product or service. Dick says that’s never really been a big problem because of the way they keep the focus on the story and not on the humor. It’s always about developing the story. A second follow-up question asks if there are some simple steps that a sales team can take to help make sure the commercials for their clients can be as effective as possible. How is the product or service different in a substantive way from the competition and is there anything exclusive about the product or service and use a story to illustrate those differences or exclusivities.
9:13 PM Second question is actually 3 related questions to Pat Fraley. How can I stand out on the Internet from all the other people who have web sites that say they do voiceovers too? Pat says first become really excellent. A web site is really mainly about promotion or advertising one’s services. Public relations, or building a clientÃ¨le, is how you make a career rather than just going from job to job. Building a career is a lot more than just putting up a shingle. You need to find people who are wise, who can help you keep moving to the next levels.
9:18 PM Dan fields the third question. What are the basic elements to consider when branding a radio station? Dan says that there are 3 important questions to ask: Who is your audience? What do they care about? Where does the station intersect the things listener’s lives in an important way?
9:20 PM Question for Dick Orkin. Where did the ideas for Chickenman and Tooth Fairy come from? WCFL radio’s program director gave Dick the task of coming up with some kind of a feature that could capitalize on the Batman phenomenon in the 1960s. Chickenman specifically was to find something that would be a completely opposite image of a bat, and a chicken seemed like the best answer to that challenge. The character was influenced by other television characters of the time, as well.
9:27 PM Question for Pat Fraley. Do you have a routine before you always do before a voiceover session? Pat answers that the key for him is to deal with his anxieties, because even after 34 years he still has to do that. And he does that by concentrating on what’s true and when things are especially bad, praying.
9:30 PM Another question for Pat Fraley. What is the most effective technique to be “present” in a session. Pat’s answer: “I don’t know.” Dan asks Dick to respond. He says he simply concentrates on the story on the page, and builds a back story for 10 minutes before the script begins.
9:33 PM Dan takes another question about working as a copywriter. Do you have to sell your script to the client or do they just accept what you do because of your excellent reputation. Dan begins by mentioning that he actually limits the amount of copywriting he does. Further, he makes a point to each potential writing client that his copy isn’t going to sound like pretty much any other radio advertising. He also requires each client to answer about 30 custom questions prepared for each client, in writing. Also, he doesn’t write commercials, he creates campaigns. (Sidebar: If you have a deadline of next Thursday and you finish copy on Monday, don’t turn it in until next Thursday. Don’t give your clients the idea that your work is easier than it is.) Each professional needs to have a set of standards about which they will go to the mat
9:45 PM Question for Pat Fraley. Have you ever walked away from a spot because you were the wrong voice? He says “yes.” Related question. Have you ever declined work because of something with which you don’t feel right or comfortable? Yes, every week? Dick Orkin comments that he too has turned down work because of his personal standards.
9:50 PM Question for Dick. What is one tool I can use to write more “real” and “believable” commercials? Dick responds: Watch and listen. Pay attention to people. You need to be a people watcher. In airports. Restaurants. While getting a haircut. Everywhere. A related question asks how to writing dialog more effectively. Dick answers be careful not to make characters bigger than life, they have to be woven in to the story. Conversations unfold spontaneously in real life, they need to do the same when writing.
9:55 PM Question for Pat Fraley. How can I build a full-time voiceover career? (From someone who is working in radio now.) Pat says, first become really good. That requires hard work, and a lot of study. Find wise people and learn from them. Dick mentions: listen to other people, rather than spending time what “I” am going to say. Listen, listen, listen. And be in the moment. Quickly.
10:02 PM Question for Dick. Have you ever had trouble from a client about your writing style? Dick mentions that he (like Dan) has standards and makes those clear from the outset. Every commercial prepared by the Radio Ranch is done through a story. Dick is also asked if he’s ever turned down a client because they couldn’t agree on the copy? Yes, it has happened, but not often. He’s not willing to do a bad commercial just to get some business.
10:07 PM Question for Pat. What, about the voiceover business, keeps you awake at night? Pat says he sees it as a temptation to be anxious, not that he has to live in anxiety. But, ultimately, if he’s anxious, it’s about money. There’s always a flow of work and sometimes that flow is at low ebb. You never know that things are going to go better, for sure.
10:10 PM Dick comments that we need to realize that voiceover isn’t so much about commercials anymore. It’s about all kinds of audio. Games. Audiobooks. Internet. All kinds of opportunities. Pat adds that the techniques discussed apply to all of these kinds of audio.
All 3 of these guys are featured at the 13th Annual International Radio Creative and Production Summit in Los Angeles this August (the 8th and 9th). Dan has an affiliate program this year, so if you decide to attend the Summit for the first time and you put my name as your reference in the comment field of the registration form, I’ll get a commission from Dan. On the other hand, if you don’t want me to get the commission, don’t include my name. Your price will be exactly the same either way.
Whatever you decide, I hope I get to see you in Los Angeles in August.[audio:https://bobsouer.com/pix/Ask3Questions.mp3]
(Update: Just above this note is the flash player that will let you listen to a recording of this entire teleseminar. Dan has given permission for us to share this. You can also download your own copy from this spot Dan’s site.)
(Further update: Bobbin Beam’s blog includes her observations about the conversation.)