The Lost Art of Listening

When was the last time that you really listened to someone? Do you remember the last time that you had an extended conversation with someone over the phone? Whether personally or professionally, it seems as if technology has impaired our ability to communicate with each other.

Many people have adopted the mentality that whatever I need to hear from you, I can receive in a short text message, tweet or Facebook post. It seems as if our brains have grown accustomed to paying attention to short and sweet messages only, tuning out anything that is long and drawn out – even when it comes to the detailed instructions that are provided to us by our clients.

I personally know of quite a few voice talents that have lost jobs simply because of not paying attention to the instructions that were provided. One talent lost out because he was expecting to receive a phone call from the client instead of following the simple instruction to make the call himself.

Fortunately, this lost art of listening doesn’t have to stay lost – you can find it again! You just need to make some slight adjustments to your attitude, approach and overall way of thinking when it comes to your work.
In the voiceover business, your ears are just as important as your voice. You have to pay attention to what a talent agent or a client is telling you. Especially when it comes to reading copy, delivering files or submitting a demo for representation.

Do Not Rush to Be “Artistic”

Jeffrey Umberger, of the Umberger Agency, believes that voice talents seem to get hung up on the “artistic” side of their work a little too soon and end up inadvertently shutting the door of opportunity by doing so. Remember, just because you can be considered a vocal artist doesn’t mean that you have the right to use your client’s projects to express your “creative liberties.” You may feel that the script should be delivered differently when compared to the instructions provided by your client, which is why you might decide to take creative control when it comes to the actual recording. By doing so, though, you are forgetting that you are not the one that is calling the shots – that job belongs to your client.
Think about any other actor – such as the A-list actors and actresses in your favorite movies. What happens when they decide to take creative control and not follow the director’s instructions? They are replaced with another actor that can! Your target objective should be to professionally use your art to satisfy the needs and expectation of the Director (the client) and not the actor. You are not striving to achieve an Academy Award nomination for your performance – your job is to simply focus on providing the client with what they need.

The Long-Term Advantage of Building Rapport

Your clients hire you because they feel as if you are the best candidate that is qualified and capable of following their directions and meeting (or even exceeding) their expectations. That is why you got the job in the first place! By making the decision to change the play on the field against the coach’s instruction, you are basically begging to end up warming the bench.
The key is to work with the client. Prove that you can follow the instructions and meet their requirements so that you can build rapport along with a long-lasting relationship with that client. Once you have earned the trust and respect of your client, then you might be able to eventually have a little more breathing room when it comes to your creative input. However, you need to always make sure that your first priority is to actively listen to and follow their clear and concise instructions – no exceptions!

You Got a Golden Ticket

Focus on the details that are provided within the instructions provided to you, especially when it comes to the desired tone, delivery and overall client expectations for the project. If you are searching for an edge over the competition, focusing on even the smallest details that others may view as insignificant is an essential step towards achieving that goal. It will allow you to have a clear understanding of the client, the product and how you can quickly get your name added to their very short list of favorites to call for future projects and other opportunities.

The specific directions and instructions provided by your client should be viewed as the golden ticket of opportunity. Keep in mind that competition within this industry is very steep – the same instructions may have also been provided to many other potential candidates in the past or even the present. Your goal should be to provide them with exactly what they need so that they will not have to search for any new candidates in the future.

Does Selective Listening Make You a Rebel?

If you are not actively listening to your client, does this mean that you are simply trying to “rebel against the man” by resisting their instruction? Not necessarily! I mean, if that is the case, then you are clearly just in the wrong line of work and should seriously reconsider your decision. However, in most cases, it is simply due to the fact that your selective hearing is getting in the way.
Erik Sheppard of Voice Talent Productions believes that either you are very reluctant about freeing yourself from your comfort zone due to a lack of confidence in your abilities or you are overconfident and think that you know what is best for the project. Regardless of which side of this fence you stand, you will still come across as either ignoring the direction all together or not being capable of taking direction – two great ways to get yourself blacklisted by those clients!

Don’t Become Too Distracted by the “Business”

At the end of the day, you are running a business. We enjoy what we do and have fun doing it, but it is also how we financially support ourselves and our families. However, it is important to not become too distracted by the needs of our business that we forget about our customers. Yes – you are a business owner, but that means very little if you don’t have any customers.

You need to treat your position more like the customer service representatives working on the sales floor and less like the upper management tucked away in their corner offices – completely isolated from the customers.

Focus on finding effective ways to please your customers. Make sure that they are able to come directly to you to get exactly what they need without any headaches, complications or exceptions!

Special thanks to good friends and agents, Jeffrey Umberger and Erik Sheppard for contributing some helpful nuggets!
This article was originally posted at Terry Daniel's Blog.