Everyone talks about Voice Acting Demos, or Voice Over Demos. They’re your foot in the door, your ticket to booking Voice Over gigs. But what are they, really? What’s the best way to make one? How do you find the voice over script for your demo? Today we’ll answer all these questions, and more!
But Really, What is a VO Demo?
Simply put, a Voice Acting Demo is a short snippet of audio that showcases your voice, your range, your acting chops, and your performance skills.
Your demo is how you sell yourself to the world. It’s your portfolio, your calling card, and your business card, all rolled into one. Here are just some of the demos you might want to produce:
- Video games
Your Voice Over Demo should be representative of the type of work you want to get, and it’s important to match the style, script and type of production you want to pursue when you create your Voice Acting Demo (or Voice Over Demo). For instance, if you’re making a video game demo, use the same kind of dialogue you’d hear in a video game (more about recording video game auditions here); if it’s a commercial demo, you want to sound like the types of commercials you see and hear; if it’s an audiobook demo, tell a story.
# 1 Specificity Is Your Friend
If you make a commercial demo and hope to get eLearning work, you may be shooting yourself in the foot before getting out the door. Why? A commercial demo usually consists of fun, very short scripts that are engaging. eLearning, on the other hand, usually has interminable sentences that can sound very boring if read by an unskilled narrator. So the eLearning producer needs to hear you read long-winded sentences to make sure you still sound engaging (like you won’t put anyone to sleep with their content!). A commercial demo won’t do that.
Voice over clients really need to hear you performing the types of scripts that they produce. That’s what tells them that you can do the type of job they have to fill.
# 2 Where Do I Start?
Now, I know a big question a lot of people have is which type of Voice Acting Demo, or Voice Over Demo, should I make? This will depend on three things, your:
- Personal and professional experience
- Natural abilities
I Got This!
Everybody has their own experience and that’s often a great place to start when it comes to creating Voice Acting Reels.
If you’re a teacher, then narrating eLearning content might be second nature to you. If you’re a parent, or a person who loves to read out loud and create tons of characters, then audiobooks might be a good fit. If you’re a TV announcer, or a DJ, imaging might be for you. And if you play (and love) video games and can do lots of accents, you could try your hand at a video game demo.
You Gotta Do This!
Another avenue is looking at your interests: Maybe there’s something you’re just SO passionate about that you’ll go the extra mile and work hard on your acting skills so that you’re able to break through in that industry.
You’re a Natural
And then there are your natural abilities. Everybody has their strengths, you’ll discover these in acting class, in voice acting class, and through
For instance, one of my coaching students is working on commercials, but he’s a natural storyteller, so coaching for and making an audiobook demo might be something to look into.
Let’s Do It, Coach
Whatever type of Voice Acting Demo you want to make, one way to up your game is to work with a coach in that specific discipline. Coaching for commercials is very different than for audiobooks and for video games.
So you want to get very, very specific about the type of demo you aspire to, and get coaching that is related to that.
# 3 What Am I Saying? Line, Please!
And now we come to everybody’s burning question: Where do I get the scripts for the demos?
Voice Acting Auditions
These are a great place to start, except if the scripts are confidential. Never record or use material that is confidential in a demo. That’s a big, big no-no.
If it’s not confidential and you’ve been requested to audition either directly from the client, on a pay-to-play site, or through an agency where the scripts aren’t confidential, you can use that script in your portfolio. (This is typical of many creative industries where we present something to the client and the client doesn’t take it, we can still use the thing we created as a portfolio piece. It’s very, very common.)
Previous Voice Over Jobs
You can also use scripts from previous jobs you’ve recorded. Maybe you never got access to the actual job, or maybe the way they produced it wasn’t as great as it could be, but you can still use that script to record your own Home Brew demo.
Get Creative, Write Your Own VO Script
And guess what? You can also create your own scripts.
If you hire a demo producer, that’s what they’ll do for you. They’re going to base their script on something that exists in real life, but they’ll modify it so that it’s not exactly the real thing. Use this trick to create your own scripts. I go over professional demos (I call them Agency Demos) in this video.
While you want to sound like the real thing, you don’t want to copy existing productions word-for-word. Also, avoid campaigns that are very easily recognizable, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience. This will make you look unprofessional.
Acting Performance Is Paramount
You want potential clients to think, “Wow, this person sounds like the real thing, I bet they would make my production sound great.” But again, you have to coach with a professional for the types of demos that you want to create. If you don’t, you risk sounding like an imitation of what you’re trying to do, and any experienced voice producer will be able to tell that you’re not experienced. You don’t want anybody remembering you for the wrong reasons.
And then if you get the gig, you’ve got to be able to produce the real thing in real time.
# 4 Old Voice Over Jobs as Demos? Not So Fast!
You might be thinking, ‘When I get voice over jobs, I’ll just use those as demos,’ but that doesn’t always work out, for multiple reasons:
- You might have signed an NDA (a non-disclosure agreement). This means that even if the VO production is out in the world and people recognize you, you can’t talk about it, and you certainly cannot use these jobs as Voice Acting Demos.
- Not all productions are created equal. Not all scripts are great, not all producers are great, not all audio engineers will make you sound like a million bucks! (And you’ve got to sound like a million bucks in your Voice Over Demos.)
- You never got a copy of the final product. I have scoured the internet for some of my commercials. I have hunted down producers and borderline stalked them (which I do not recommend you do). Sometimes you just can’t get your work back!
Also keep in mind that when you’re performing on a job, you become a production element, along with the music, sound effects and images. This is why making a voice acting demo is so important: When you’re recording a demo, YOU are the star of the show.
Everything you use, from the music to the script, is designed to enhance and showcase your instrument. And your instrument is what you’re selling; You’re selling your voice and everything that you can do.
Voice Over Demos Put YOU in the Driver’s Seat
As you can imagine, creating your own Voice Acting Demo gives you control over the way you present yourself to the world. You decide what you’re selling and how you’re selling it. But as I’ve said again and again, the most important aspect of recording a Voice Acting Demo is your performance That’s something you can’t buy. YOU have to WORK at it. The rest you can buy and pay for.
# 5 Bring Your A-Game
Aside from not sounding like a cheap knockoff, the main reason working on your performance abilities is paramount is because once you make that demo, people are going to hold you to that standard. You are going to be expected to deliver that level of performance in actual recordings. (This is why it’s a great idea to start with Home Brews).
How you get there is no secret: You work at your craft day in, day out. If you’ve ever learned to play a musical instrument, you know that mastering your instrument doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about being consistent, patient and allowing yourself to grow.
Want some VO advice you can hang your hat on and act on TODAY? Don’t do it alone, piggy back on my success by joining my “Everyday VO” newsletter here to get exclusive tips from me, so you can do VO the Clever Way, Right Away. My name is Lili Wexu. I’m an actress, a voice talent and an author. To learn how to make $$$ in VO, read my e-books about Voice Acting & Announcing.