The swinging, swirling world of Telephony. Yep. Telephony.
Nov 01 2016
When you first looked into a voice-over career, did someone ask what kind of VO you want to do? It’s an understandable and reasonable question, but if a coach asks you that at the outset, it should be just to get a sense of where your head is at. It does not mean you should immediately charge down whatever path you mentioned, because — until you’re aware of all the VO genres and their opportunities, and your own potential and capabilities — how can you know what would be the best professional path for you? After all, there are well over two dozen VO genres to choose from.
Many people initially answer “Commercials,” or “Animation,” or “Audiobooks” or “Narration.” Relatively few people start with dreams of Telephony. Yet, voice artists who specialize in Telephony love it! Here’s why.
What’s “Telephony”? In terms of voice-over, it’s any voice recording that is heard over a telephone, as broadly as “telephone” has come to be defined technologically these days. Mobile phone, Internet phone connection, copper land line, fiber optic, cable, no matter. If it involves a telephone and/or a phone number, it’s “Telephony.”
Telephony can actually be “glamorous.” Yes, glamorous. It enables you to make your mark on society. Like some other VO genres, you may be anonymous to your listeners, but your voice could be heard all over. And, if you land a Fortune 1000 company, or an especially innovative client, imagine how that rubs off on you.
It’s very important to clients. Whether they are a Fortune 1000 company, a regional retail chain, or a small manufacturer, you are their voice. You are the first impression of that company when people call. That’s as important as doing a commercial, maybe more, because it’s likely to be ongoing work.
It’s a valuable service. Companies need telephone systems, and telephone systems need voices. Telephony recordings benefit both the company and its callers.
Telephony is a specialized skill. Not everyone has the skillset to do it. You need to speak clearly and unambiguously. You need to understand the production workflow, devising your own workflow, to make your work efficient and your client’s job easy.
Telephony involves acting skills, including emotion. Yes, emotion. Maybe not in “Press 1 for Sales,” but emotion is definitely part of an apology for wait time, or delivering an on-hold sales message.
And most of all …
Telephony can provide a lot of ongoing work. In the U.S. alone, there are 28-million small businesses, and 18,500 medium-to-large ones. And virtually every one of them has a telephone system. Not every small business needs custom messaging, but there are also messaging companies and other service providers who provide recordings to them. They want professionals. And they are always looking for fresh ones.
Another reason there’s a lot of work in Telephony is that it isn’t just one type of work. The genre has five different types of work. And at least two more genres have similar needs:
The 5 types of telephony:
Information On Hold (On-Hold Messaging)
“While you’re waiting, did you know we now offer our lowest rates ever on home loans? Ask our representative about …”
Who hasn’t heard messages like these? Some are advertising, some are customer service messages, whatever suits the company’s marketing and communications strategy. Good ones are interesting, and potentially helpful to the caller. With creativity and thoughtful copywriting they can even be entertaining. Regardless of the message, you make it more enjoyable through the expression, clarity and genuine emotional quality in your voice.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
“To authenticate your account, please speak or press the last four digits of your Social Security number.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Please repeat the number again, or use your telephone keypad.”
A lot of planning goes into a proper IVR system. All sorts of scenarios must be anticipated. Responses to them must be well organized. And it’s not just a matter of the computer programming. You’re not the voice of the computer – you’re the voice of the company. Casting will involve issues of customer demographics, corporate image, native language or regional accent (or none), and other factors. And then there’s the matter of professional capability? Are you versatile enough to span the full range of scenarios? Can you sound consistent from one recording session to another (which might be weekly). Are you yourself just as dependable? Are you skilled and efficient enough to meet an IVR service provider’s turnaround schedule (which might be just 2 days)?
“Press one for Support, two for…”
It’s like IVR, only less extensive and possibly less segmented. We’ve all heard statement such as, “Our menu options have recently changed, so please listen carefully.” Sometimes that’s just a way to get the listener to pay attention, but menu options do change, and you’ll be expected to voice those changes so that they match your original recording. And remember, the large number of companies we’ve mentioned means a large number of potential prompt jobs.
Auto Attendant (Voice Mail)
“The person at extension / 22 / is not available. To leave a message …”
This might be part of a menu-prompt system, or even IVR. But it focuses very much on the ability to record the segments consistently – so that “22” is said in the same way as all the other numbers. Imaging getting paid to record numbers!
“Your deposit of / three-hundred / seventy-/nine/ dollars /cleared on…”
“Our dinner menu specials tonight are …”
“ “Here is the weather forecast for ZIP Code 10001: … ”
The possibilities in this category are almost infinite. And, like the other categories, in addition to performance qualities such as personality, empathy, and clarity, it’s again important also to have consistency and an understanding of industry practices and your client’s needs.
Genres that are similar to Telephony
Other types of recordings fit with the Telephony genre. They’re not played on telephones, but they have very similar requirements, so there’s work for Telephony talent in these, too!
The shared factors include:
- Scripts formatting similar to telephony scripts, broken down in to lots of individual words and phrases.
- Each word or phrase is delivered to the client as a separate audio file.
- The files are assembled (sequenced) to form more complete statements.
- For consistency’s sake, you become recognized as the “voice” of the company, or software, or device – meaning that they’ll want you to record updates on a regular basis.
Here are a couple examples:
“Go 200-feet, then turn left onto Maple Drive…”
Clarity is key. So is consistency. At the end of a recording session, you should sound the same as you did at the start. And sound the same next time, too. Maps are constantly changing and conditions and directions being fine-tuned, so this field involves ongoing work.
And glamour? You’re in the company of some big-time celebrities. For example, Google’s Waze navigation app has offered the voices of Darth Vader and Morgan Freeman. But there’s need for “anonymous” voices, too. Your voice may be anonymous, but not unfamiliar.
“Fill the bin with pellets until they reach the line marked “A.” Then …
There are various types of Instructional Systems. Some are videos, which would be classified as a form of Narration. But some are more like interactive demos. In any case, there’s a “story” to be told, clearly and succinctly, in a manner that instills confidence and enthusiasm in the consumer’s purchase, or the employee’s task, or whatever the system is instructing about.
Did we say “story”? That’s one reason that the entire Telephony category is included in the overarching genre of “Narration” when Narration is very broadly defined. And it’s a way to get yourself into the head of your listener. Everyone who makes a phone call has some kind of “story.”
Edge Studio has 5 Telephony coaches
Telephony is such a diverse, active field that we have five coaches who include it among their specialties. It is interesting to note that their genre and performance backgrounds range from improv to medical narration, from animation to promo to stage acting … so Telephony is in creative company, indeed!
In alphabetical order, our Telephony coaches are:
Learn more about our Telephony specialists. They also coach other genres, so if one of them asks what type of voice-over you’d like to do, you’ve got a lot to talk about. And for a general introduction to the full range of the voice-over industry, consider our Investigate Voice Over orientation.