with Kesha Monk
And the BOSS Award goes to… this week’s episode in the Entrepreneur Hustle Series! Anne and special guest co-host Kesha Monk talk about a VO niche – Live Announce. How do you break into this voiceover specialty? Is it right for you? It’s a different kind of pressure, but if you’re a VO “nut,” you’ll love it! Not surprisingly, success is all about doing your research.
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
Sometimes networking online can pay off and lead you to life-changing voiceover career opportunities
These friends (and the universe) may introduce you to new genres and niche industries
Live Announce is where you serve as the announcer for an award show or event, live at the event
Live Announce is unique because it requires special skills, takes place live, and you cannot edit
One way to get into Live Announce is to look at the events you want to announce, research, watch the credits, and reach out to the producers
Get yourself virtually in front of the people who make the decisions
The pandemic has made some key decision-makers more accessible than they used to be
Randy Thomas was the first woman to announce the Academy Awards, the Tony Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the Miss America Pageant. Because of this, Live Announce is now more of an equal opportunity genre, regardless of gender
Don’t give up when you first start contacting people. A “no” might evolve into a “yes”
Start with smaller, local award shows to get yourself in the door
The pandemic has taken awards shows virtual, but this work can still be done from your home studio
For Live Announce, sometimes you get to walk the red carpet, but it also comes with the additional pressure of performing live
Live Announce scripts typically come out the day before the show and might have last-minute changes. You have to think on your feet
Award shows can be hectic. When you put on your headphones, you have multiple people who are talking at once
Knowing how to pronounce people’s names is a big part of Live Announce – meet with producers before a session and ask them to pronounce the names out loud
Stay in tune with the industries that you want to announce for. Do your homework
If you have a lot of experience with pre-recorded announcements or phone systems, these skills may transfer to Live Announce
Visualize yourself being successful. Envision yourself saying the names correctly and succeeding
If you want to do Live Announce, you’ll need a separate demo for this category
Put your strongest work at the beginning of any demo
A Live Announce demo should show a variety of moods and emotions
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
Hear Kesha live in action at the Soul Train Awards
Here’s Kesha on the “red” carpet
Learn more about Randy Thomas here
Recorded on ipDTL
>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.
Anne: Alright, everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with the amazing Miss Kesha Monk. Hey Kesha!
Kesha: Hey ladybug, how’s it going?
Anne: I’m doing good. How about yourself?
Kesha: I’m, well, better now that you’re here with me.
Anne: Kesha, you know, it’s funny, I think about how we met so long ago, with one of our favorite colleagues, and for you I think a mentor, and that was when we met at Voiceover Mastery.
Anne: At Randy Thomas’, Randy Thomas’ place down there.
Kesha: She is so yummy. I just love her. She is so unbelievably yummy. Yeah.
Anne: And I think back then you were training with her, is that correct? You were just starting to train with her, or you were just investigating voiceover when we met?
Kesha: Let me tell you how that happened. Honestly one day Randy contacted me on LinkedIn. And she just said, you know, “you’re into voiceover. I think we should be friends.” That’s really how it started.
Anne: Was it radio, was it because you were both in radio, and she knew you were getting into voiceover?
Kesha: You’re gonna have to ask her. You’re gonna have to ask her that. I don’t know why. I’m really thinking it was divine intervention.
Kesha: You know?
Anne: Hey, I believe that stuff.
Kesha: I really do. I mean Anne, we just became friends online, and then she started having the Voice Mastery events. And I —
Anne: Oh ok.
Kesha: I absolutely wasn’t going to let her have those without me being in the building. So that’s where we — you know, I went down to Florida, to Ft. Myers, she had her first event. And that’s where I met her and you.
Anne: Yeah, that’s right. And I’ll never forget, I’ll never forget that day. It was awesome, so awesome. And so now you’ve trained with her, and you’re doing quite a bit now, fast forward how many years later, but you’re doing quite a bit of live announce. I thought it would be good to talk about live announce. It’s something that, it’s kind of a little niche area of the industry. Not too many people do it and not too many people do it really well like you do. And so I, I thought we should talk about how to get started in that area, that genre.
Kesha: That sounds like a plan. That sounds like a plan. Randy, by the way, and I’ll preface this by saying that Randy, she’s an awesome coach, but she’s such a loving person. She believed in me, and I really do believe that that’s probably a big reason of why I have expressed — experienced so much success in voiceover, because — well in live announce particularly and promo, just because she believed in me and told me that I could do it.
Anne: And she really champions you. I mean, I can see her, I see her interacting with, you know, some of your latest gigs that you’ve been posting, and she’s been interacting. She’s such, she’s such a champion for you, I love to see that. I really do.
Kesha: She is, she really is.
Anne: So what, so what’s involved in getting into live announce? I mean, I can’t imagine that it’s easy, number one. It takes a completely different skill than I would say reading just copy where we can go an edit ourselves 100 times over. I think live announce, uh-uh!
Anne: There’s no edit there. [laughs]
Kesha: No, totally. It’s totally high energy and very — it’s full of pressure, but that’s kind of, you know, what floats my boat, you know, you know what I’m saying. But you know again, like we’ve said, you know, in previous episodes, and like you’ve been saying for a long, long time, that it really again doesn’t have a lot to do with my voice, but it has everything to do with educating yourself and understanding and researching what is live announce. And our friends at YouTube, you know they have this wonderful university. You can just go on there any time day or night, and you can just kind of plug in some things, and get some, you know, that’s my research. I kind of watch, you know, and I absorb, and I observe. And to be honest with you, this is exactly how it happened, Anne.
Anne: Ok, I’m ready.
Kesha: I told Randy, you know what? This live announce stuff is something awesome. Like when you do it, I feel everything that you’re announcing, and it’s, you know, you have an incredible magic. She was like, “well, do you want to do it?” I’m like, “yeah, do you think I can?” She was like, “do you think you can?” I’m like, “absolutely.” This is what she said, Anne. She was like, “watch some shows of which you, you know, some awards shows you think you would love to live announce for, tape it, watch the show, but fast forward to the credits. Find out who the producers are. Research them. Reach out to them. Tell them that you want to do it. And that’s it.”
Anne: Wow. Wow!
Kesha: It sounds really simple. So the Soul Train awards, that took me like four years to get that gig. I didn’t get it like through an agent or anything. I just did what Randy told me to do.
Kesha: I researched. You know, she coached me. I kind of self-taught by, you know, watching other award shows, but I harassed all the producers of each and every one of these shows. [laughs] And you know, I introduced myself. Especially now, anne, because of the pandemic, everybody is a little more accessible than they used to be, right? You can easily go on LinkedIn. And again I would definitely advise anybody that would want to do that to be taste — you know, to be tactful when doing so.
Anne: Yes. But, but let me just go back. This is not the first time you’ve done the Soul Train awards. I think it’s your second, third?
Kesha: This is year fourth. This is year four.
Anne: Wow! Alright so then you can’t just say the pandemic made it easier for you, because you had to, you had to get that, knock that door down four years ago, right, initially to get the gig.
Kesha: No. But what I mean, what I mean is, any of the BOSSes listening, are listening to me and are considering using that same method, what I’m saying is, being that we’re in a pandemic, people are a lot more accessible. These producers are more accessible. You can find them on LinkedIn, and IG, and Facebook, and Twitter, and there’s nothing wrong with introducing yourself. Again voiceover is also about relationships.
Anne: Absolutely, absolutely. And I love, you know, I love the whole, like you know — because Randy was one of the first female live announcers to really host a couple of the Emmys, the Grammys. I mean just amazing what she kind of pioneered in the industry.
Kesha: Yes, absolutely.
Anne: And I love the fact that we’re hearing women, more women doing live announce shows quite a bit actually now, whereas before it used to be all male dominated. So I think that that also, it’s a great opportunity for you know, both, you know male and female — in the industry.
Kesha: Yes, absolutely. Yeah.
Anne: So interesting that the way that you get the work is to pound the pavement sort of thing, knock on the doors. I think that actually is really a golden nugget from you. That’s a pretty cool reveal. Because I would’ve thought that you would’ve had to have an agent introduction or something like that.
Kesha: Right, and generally speaking that is how it happens. I just, I don’t know. I — [laughs] I’m being so vulnerable, and I’m, you know, I thank you for that, but I don’t want to scare people, but I’m really kind of a crazed nut for voiceover. I totally am.
Anne: [laugh] That’s to your advantage, I think, actually yeah.
Kesha: I think so, I think so because I, I really, really wanted to do this, and then you know, I got Randy in my ear saying “you can do it, you can do it. You’re talented enough. You can do it.” And so you know, I was ignored for a year or two, and then you know, and then I got responses. But then they were saying not this year. I thought that was a huge plus. At least you’re emailing me back. In fact in my mind, I’m like, oh am so in there, once they said no.
Kesha: And eventually, and then check it out. This particular production company, they produce a lot of the awards shows in the African-American sector. So they do the NAACP awards and the BET awards, and you know, the Soul Train awards. So if I’m halfway in the door, and I’m already doing four years in Soul Train, you never know. I might be up next for the NAACP award. You never know.
Anne: There you go. That’s right.
Kesha: You never know.
Anne: Wow. And now tell me — so I think it’s pretty interesting. Live announce during a pandemic versus live announce, you know, during no pandemic, I’m sure there’s quite a bit of difference there.
Kesha: It is. It is. It’s funny that you say that. I’m gonna make a video like in another week or two to show people the difference. So last year, right, they flew me in. I had the five star hotel, the limousine. I had my own dressing room. It was so phenomenal. And this year I did it in my pajamas —
Anne: Did you really? [laughs]
Kesha: — right in this very room, totally, totally.
Anne: Now for me, maybe I’ll dress just to feel the part. But yeah, I was — so did you have a preference? Did you like it better at home or, what was the experience? [laughs]
Kesha: Well, I think I’m split 50-50 on that. Because of course everybody likes to be wined and dined. You know, I’m walking the — it’s crazy, I’m walking the red carpet along with celebrities. They have absolutely no idea who I am. If you Google “Kesha Monk Soul Train Awards,” like you’ll see a bunch of pictures like on Getty Images, like I’m this big to-do. Nobody knew who the heck I was. So of course. You know? But at the same time, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s live TV, so, you know. Go ahead.
Anne: Live during the pandemic then. Totally —
Kesha: No, no, no.
Anne: Did you have —
Kesha: It wasn’t live during the pandemic. No.
Anne: Right, ok. That’s what I was gonna say.
Anne: But you had somebody directing you during the pandemic, I assume, or no? They just, they gave you your script, and you recorded it?
Kesha: Yeah, yeah, just pitched them in via Skype.
Kesha: I taped it and sent it to them.
Anne: Wow. Still, but still pressure, I would think. Now for that, you could give them multiple takes, is that correct, versus, yeah, versus when it’s live. So let’s talk about — that’s a big factor, I would assume, during live announce is the whole live thing. I just know like my most, I’m gonna say my closest experience maybe to that is where I used to have to always live record phone systems. And you can’t screw up, you just can’t. And so for that reason, I had two different rates.
Anne: So if I had to come in and record your phone system live, it was more expensive, because I had to have more talent. Not that I’m saying that it doesn’t take talent to do it reading from the script, but for the phone, for me, look, I’ve got to be able to do the additional talent of “I can’t screw it up.” If I do screw it up, I have to keep re-recording until I do it right. But live announce, you really don’t have that option. You’ve got to be right the first time.
Kesha: You really do, and then there are a lot of factors. Like I can spend an hour, you know, laying down tracks with regards to some, you know, doing all of the, you know, what is it? The different categories and the nominees, etc., etc. And then because of the nature of awards shows, you have people who bow out. And then you have people who have been added to the show. An hour could turn into another hour or a late night session. Like it’s a lot of pressure, and when you do it live, it is — so check this out. When I first got into the game, Anne, I knew how to do the announcing. But I wasn’t really familiar with the environment of an awards show. It is hectic, totally hectic. So when you put on your headphones, and you think that you’re about to just read, you hear five billion people in your ear at that same time. “Ok now! No, not now! Five, four, three!” And then you have the other person in the room — it’s a lot. So you know —
Anne: You’re hearing everybody probably directing everybody, and not just you. So you’ve got to be able to filter out when the direction is coming to you.
Kesha: That is the hardest thing.
Anne: I should say that more than my IVR, just so I can say I have another common experience, would be maybe when you’re recording for the pandemic — I do a bunch of announce, prerecorded announcements. I tend to get hired locally for a few gigs you know here and there, like the food awards show, that sort of thing. And I can record them in my studio at my leisure, and my biggest thing is how do I pronounce all of these people’s names, or the restaurant names, or whatever it is that I have to — and so how do you prepare for that, Kesha? Because sometimes you don’t have the names right away, right?
Kesha: Right. And you know in normal circumstances, I would just say go to YouTube. But sometimes what will happen is you’ll still get different pronunciations on YouTube. So what I do is I get with the producers before I go into the session. I have them pronounce it, and then I will record them while they’re pronouncing it, and then I will — it sounds a little complicated, but I’ll phonetically spell it out, and then as a backup, I will listen to the audio, if I have to do a quick reference, on my phone.
Kesha: You know what I’m saying?
Anne: Here’s my reference. I do that for medical narration. [laugh] When I have, if I have to pronounce a particular drug that I don’t know, or even a name at a company, I’ll call them up and say, “can you please leave a message on my phone?” And that’s like the simplest of things but the most helpful. So that if you do need that reference, right, before you’ve got to live annouce it or speak it, you just play it on your phone. That’s a great nugget of wisdom right there.
Kesha: Yeah, and really quick, there’s this huge tennis tournament, like an international tennis tournament, that happens in Indian Wells, California. And I was going to actually live announce for them. But then you know, Covid happened or whatever. I was literally sick on my stomach, because you have all of these, you know, names from like, Russian names and you know, just folks from Yugoslavia and all this kind of stuff.
Kesha: I, I just, I just believed deep down in myself, I would not be here if I didn’t deserve to be here. Getting hung up on a name pronounce — I’m not gonna die — don’t want to mispronounce, but I try not to weird myself out, because you can literally talk yourself out of doing, you know, reading things properly, if you obsess over it, you know.
Anne: That makes a whole lot of sense. I would say maybe, I don’t know what you think, but is it not the mental pressure and stress of having to do it perfectly, isn’t that like the majority of the difficulty in doing live announce?
Kesha: It’s all in your head! It’s all in your head! How many times have we told ourselves, Anne, in regards to like doing a conversational read and regular voiceover, “get out of your head, get out of your own voice?” A lot of this stuff is mental. So if you can, you know, climb that hurdle or jump over that hurdle, the rest should be relatively easy.
Anne: Do you have like a relaxation — I again, I would say not only do you have the fact that you’ve got to read it, or the feeling that you must read it perfectly, but it’s also like on the spot, right, at the minute? You’ve got to be ready to perform at that exact moment when you’re needed. How do you prepare like — I know mentally we’re saying it’s such a — do you do breathing exercises?
Kesha: I do.
Anne: Do you listen to the Calm app? Do you, you know? [laughs]
Kesha: I don’t necessarily, but you know what I do? I do a lot of visualization. I always visualize myself doing it or I hear myself doing it the right way before I do it. It may not necessarily be effective for everybody, but I feel like if I see it, I can say it. If I’m, if I can hear — you know what I’m saying? if I can see myself saying it, then I can say it. Like I see myself winning the Mega Millions Jackpot this coming Saturday —
Anne: There you go. [laughs]
Kesha: — and I’m gonna win. I’m just sayin’.
Anne: I love the visual — hey, it’s visualization. I get that.
Kesha: It’s visual.
Anne: Now, in order to get yourself in the door, do you — let’s talk about demos. I imagine you must have a live announce demo, or is it a compilation of work that you’ve done?
Kesha: I always do — if this is what you’re asking, each of my demos are dedicated to whatever genre I’m doing. I’ll never mix it up. And the thing about live announce also is that not only do I get to announce names, but usually there’s like a, I don’t know what you call it, maybe a narration piece. Ok so, I don’t know, Michael Jackson is up for the —
Anne: A biography or something.
Kesha: Right exactly, exactly. I usually try to sprinkle some of that in there as well. But yeah. And it’s —
Anne: Do you have a demo produced, a specific demo produced just for live announce, correct?
Kesha: Exactly, exactly.
Anne: And when you’re knocking on the doors, that’s what you’re sending. So what’s important, all the different styles?
Kesha: Versatility. Versatility. The number one rule I always try to tell everybody is your strongest stuff shall always go first. You can’t assume that yeah, this demo is only a minute long. You can’t assume that whoever’s listening to it has a minute. Maybe they only have 30 seconds. So with that 30 seconds, I’ve got to wow them in the first five seconds. And then also I try to show versatility, because for instance this year they were doing a tribute to an artist who had passed away. So of course my show open may be nice and energetic, “coming up next,” so forth and so on, but then when I got ready to announce the participants in the tribute, you know, my delivery is a little bit different. So yeah, you gotta — it’s a show. It’s a show, but my demo is a show, to show —
Anne: Right, exactly.
Kesha: — the different range and versatility and stuff.
Anne: How long, I’m gonna say like, after a session, after you’re doing a live — those shows can be long.
Kesha: Yeah, they can.
Anne: You’re not talking about like a 20-minute session in the booth. You’re talking about hours. Several hours, right?
Anne: Several hours of being under that kind of pressure. And so is there something you do in between times to prepare for the next — like are you getting the script, how far in advance are you getting the script?
Kesha: The script comes the day of, always. There are always last-minute changes when it comes to these award shows. But you know, I get, I have to — it’s high pressure, but I have to be calm.
Kesha: Them being hectic, and they always are — like I could never work in their genre, because they’re always yelling and cursing at each other.
Anne: Well, and you’ve got 20 people yelling, you know, different things. They’re probably —
Kesha: All at the same time.
Anne: They’re used to that. Anybody that’s behind the scenes, that’s producing a show, they’re all on one frequency, right, they’re all on one channel. Well, maybe you have a different set of people on different channels, but I can’t imagine in order to run the show like completely, you have to have everybody being able to talk to everybody else. You’re hearing all the background stuff, then you got to — when it comes to you, do they, is it “Kesha,” or they address you as “live announce?” Or you know, how do they get your attention?
Kesha: Announcer, announcer.
Kesha: Voice of God, sometimes they say voice of God.
Anne: Oh nice.
Kesha: Yeah. It is [laughs] I’m getting excited just thinking about that. That is so much fun to be — it’s not fun as it’s happening. But you know, you were just saying —
Kesha: It’s really crazy, but you know one thing, one thing calms me, that yeah. It may be a 3 -3.5 hour show, but I’m not talking that whole 3-3.5 hours. In fact I’m really at a minimal, I’m really not talking a whole lot. When you’re looking at the script, it really isn’t a whole lot.
Kesha: So you know, you have to — listen, Soul Train is something that I grew up with.
Anne: Sure, me too.
Kesha: I’m familiar with the brand, I’m familiar with the — right, I’m familiar with the temperature. I’m familiar with the culture. So you know, doing my homework prior to all of those shows, which basically means paying attention to the records and artists, that always helps. So you’re not waiting until the last minute to figure out how to pronounce someone’s name.
Anne: Sure, sure. Well, I think there’s an advantage because you were familiar with that. What if there’s, I know there’s like, I don’t know, conference — at least back when we could travel — and there would be like international conferences where I was helping to cast the voice of God for a medical conference that was happening in Italy. And so they were looking for a specific, you know, a specific sound, and I just was like, wow, this is, this is something where you may not be familiar with the conference, but I love how you said you do your homework. Right?
Anne: If you’re applying, obviously, or you’re auditioning for the voice of God, then I would imagine the same roles apply. Right? You’re gonna find out as much as you possibly can about the event that you’re going to be live announcing and what sorts of I guess responsibilities might be your way. Will it just be announcing names, will it be, you know, narrating a specific biography, you know, lots of different things?
Kesha: Here’s my strategy, right? I want to be able to live announce possibly anything and everything in the world, right? But as I’m starting out doing the live announce, I purposely go after things that I’m familiar with. And then by the time I do my fifth or sixth live announce gig, and I’m ready to do something like the Emmys, where I may not necessarily be familiar with all of the names, but you know, I would’ve found my groove by then. You know what I’m saying?
Anne: Yeah, absolutely.
Kesha: So yeah, that’s definitely what I do. I make a conscious, it’s a conscious thing to try to apply for or go after things I’m already familiar with.
Anne: Absolutely. Good advice, Kesha.
Kesha: Yeah, girl.
Anne: Thank you so much. I’ll tell you what, I can’t wait to hear you in many, many, many more awards shows.
Kesha: I think this is our year. This is our year, Anne.
Anne: Yeah, I think so too!
Kesha: I’m telling you, I have a really good feeling. Yeah so, thank you.
Anne: Gonna give a great, bit shout-out to our sponsor, ipDTL. You too can record like a BOSS and find out more at ipdtl.com. You guys have an amazing week. And we’ll see you next week. Thanks! Bye!
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to Coast connectivity via ipDTL.