top of page

Business of VO – The Bosses Talk Demos

How’s my demo? Will you listen to my demo? Is my demo good? Got 50,000 demo questions? The Bosses have got your answers. Take the stress out of the demo process with a calculated, business-minded approach to these all-important audio nuggets. Whether you are making your first or your 50th demo, Anne and Gabby offer practical advice and the inside track to ensure all your demos are solid gold.


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Demos are your calling-card

  2. They can and should be refreshed and changed as time goes on

  3. The creation of any demo should come with a plan and a specific purpose/motivation

  4. If your current demo doesn’t have a story behind it, you may have made the demo too soon

  5. You should ask many questions of your coaches and demo producers regarding the creation process

  6. Every genre of client has different demo needs – the market is very segmented

  7. Target the needs of a specific buyer when creating any demo

  8. Voiceover Veterans have 10 or more demos created over time

  9. Don’t make a demo that is too trendy, observe new genres and see if they last first

  10. Know the level of difficulty involved in the production of a demo

  11. A great demo is current and relevant

  12. If you ask someone who creates demos to critique your demo, they will have an opinion

  13. Demos are very subjective and you must find objectivity in demo feedback

  14. Script selection is paramount to a great demo – generic doesn’t cut it

  15. Don’t choose copy from an online copy database

  16. Too much variety can be a negative in a demo

  17. Conversational is what’s being hired and should be well represented in your demo

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

We love ipDTL


Announcer: Today’s voice over talent is more than just a pretty voice. Today’s voiceover talent has to be a boss, a VO BOSS. Set yourself up with business owner strategies and success with you host Anne Ganguzza along with some of the strongest voices in our industry. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS.

Anne: Gabby, is it not back-to-school time?

Gabby: It is.

Anne: It is the season, and it’s time to get your VO MBA.

Gabby: It is the degree that you always wanted, and we have it at We also have something called a BOSS Booster Basic, which is there to help you and really to just be an advisor and a consulting service for your business.

Anne: You get both Gabby and I — two BOSS brains are better than one — for consulting.

Gabby: It’s true. When we put our heads together, magical things happen, and if you guys have listened to our podcast before, you know that that’s a truthful statement. You guys, go check it out. Take a look at your VO MBA options. Check out that undergrad area on VO BOSS.

Anne: And now, today’s episode. Welcome, everybody, to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my amazing VO BOSS bestie-bostie, Gabby Nistico. Hey, Gabby.

Gabby: Hi.

Anne: Gabby, today we’re going to talk about something that I think everybody talks about all the time, or it seems to be at least in this industry, and that is the all-important demo. What makes your demo stand out? Why is your demo important? All those good questions that everybody seems to ask me on a daily basis. I’m sure they do you too as well.

Gabby: Yeah. It’s a lengthy topic.

Anne: It is.

Gabby: I mean, there’s nothing like quick or short about demos. I mean, holy crud, they’re, they’re such an all-important piece to what we do.

Anne: First and foremost, demos are maybe someone’s first introduction to your business and to your voice obviously.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: You know, everybody talks about them being your calling card, and I agree with that. They are a showcase of, of who you are and what you can do, what your business does. Even more so than just that description, if somebody encounters your demo and they listen to it, and you get work from that, that’s really cool. So I think that’s why it’s so important, number one, that we actually do take some time to look into what makes a demo great.

Gabby: I’ve always likened it to kind of like a model having a really great comp card or portfolio, because without that, you don’t get considered for print jobs. So sort of the same thing here. There’s a lot of stress when it comes to demos, right?

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: Like everybody kind of freaks out. I think really the first thing I want to um impress upon everyone is, is the knowledge that your demos are disposable.

Anne: Yeah, you know, that’s actually – I, I like that, Gabby, because it takes a little bit of the pressure off. Everybody should understand that demos are, you know, refreshable.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: As you progress, and as you learn more, and as you become more accomplished at your vocal abilities, yeah, absolutely you can refresh those demos to reflect who you are and reflect your voice at the, at the time. And I think it’s important to note too though everybody starts somewhere. There’s always a journey [laughs] involved in a demo. Whenever I’m talking to people and people ask me, “what you think about my demo?” I always say, you know what, there’s lots of back story going into the demo. It’s not necessarily is it good, is it bad? How much coaching have you had, right, how much work have you done, what’s your experience level, and you know, how much did you work with your, your coach or the demo producer before you got there? So many questions. So many things that go into a demo as it sits there on your website, or as you deliver it to somebody via email. There’s so much of a story behind it, and I think it’s important that in order to evaluate it properly, you kind of need to know all aspects of the story, and that’s yourself included. Like, where are you in this journey?

Gabby: I think sometimes though you, you maybe assume that there is a story. I have met a lot of people over the years where there, there’s no story.

Anne: It’s just the demo.

Gabby: It’s just a demo.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: Whether they did it themselves, whether it was a coach who did it, or you know, someone that they just paid money, it’s just there, and ironically, that lack of a story I think is pretty indicative of how new someone is in this industry, how green they are, and when you start to ask questions about that journey, what were the motivating factors for you and your coach at the time of creation?

Anne: Right.

Gabby: When someone doesn’t have answers to those things, you realize, oh.

Anne: Maybe they weren’t ready.

Gabby: Possibly. That to me is usually an indicator that they weren’t ready to make the demo, or they got taken by somebody who just wanted their money and just said, “hey, yeah, we’ll just make a demo.”

Anne: Right.

Gabby: And there was really no thought process put into it.

Anne: I think that when you go into a demo, you need to be educated. You need to be asking those questions, and you need to be assessing what point are you at in your coaching? What point are you at in your career, in getting ready to, to be able to find work and sell your business or sell your services. I think that you need to be thinking about all of those things, in addition to the coach and the producer that is creating your demo, I mean…

Gabby: Who the hell are your clients?

Anne: Yeah, exactly.

Gabby: I mean, truthfully, that at the end, that’s the question at the end of the day. I think we’ve expressed this a few times. You know, it’s not about you.

Anne: Right.

Gabby: It’s not really about your voice. It’s about the buyer.

Anne: And what is the buyer looking for? Absolutely.

Gabby: Right.

Anne: What is the buyer — what problem is the buyer trying to solve?

Gabby: That’s why we have so many demos nowadays. Voice actors —

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: — have these huge catalogs of lots and lots of segmented, market segmented demos. And I think for, for people that are new that are coming into this, they are like, “oh my God. It’s overwhelming. Like how did you guys do this, how do you afford it, like this is a lot of money that you have spent on all these demos.” First of all, it’s not overnight, you know. Right?

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: It’s cumulative.

Anne: Isn’t that true? Yeah, how many demos you have, Gabby?

Gabby: I, I don’t know.

Anne: I think I have over 10. I must have, I feel like I have over 10 easily. And you’re right, you’re right to point out that yes, each one of those demos is targeted to a specific buying audience, and I think that’s something that’s so important when you are getting ready and prepping to do a demo that you understand who that audience is, and you are crafting that demo to speak to that audience.

Gabby: And that trend is not going to go anywhere.

Anne: Right.

Gabby: As a matter of fact, it is going to become more so.

Anne: We are going to have 50 demos by the time we are — [laughs]

Gabby: I hate to say it, but we kind of are. Like that’s the direction we’re moving.

Anne: Yup.

Gabby: There’s going to be this real hyper-segmentation. Some demo coaches are out there promoting and touting um segmented demos that, I don’t know, I don’t know how valuable they really are. I don’t know. You know, sometimes it’s a little too trendy. Sometimes it’s a little bit too specific. And sometimes engaging in that process can be really, really worthwhile. It used to be just even a few years ago, e-learning was just sort of lumped in with corporate narration.

Anne: I was just going to say, Gabby, remember the “narration demo?” [laughs]

Gabby: Yeah, right.

Anne: And everybody had one.

Gabby: Right.

Anne: And now, it literally your narration is split off, and I’m a, you know, hey, I’m a big fan of that because there are all different types of narration, and there are all different types of people that you’re selling to based on what type of narration you’re doing. So yeah.

Gabby: Exactly. E-learning kind of branched off and telephony branched off.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: All these things took on their own little life forms.

Anne: Corporate, medical.

Gabby: I think it’s pretty essential. Does it mean that you have to break the bank every time? No. I think something really interesting that voice actors don’t spend enough time looking at is the technical level of effort that has to go into the production of a demo. The more highly technical the audio value of the demo is, the more likely you should hire someone and work with them outside.

Anne: Oh, very much agreed. Yeah. And that’s also I think prudent for people to actually go to a, you know, somebody that’s been producing demos for a, a long time. So if they don’t produce a good demo, then well you know, maybe they shouldn’t be in that industry. But if, if demo production is what they do, then you can trust in them, we hope, you can trust in them to produce something that is going to be current and relevant in the industry, and that people will be likely to hire you from.

Gabby: There’s also a subjectivity factor that please don’t disregard, because while yeah, I agree with what you just said, there was a small moment of hesitation where you’re talking about, you know, whether or not the demo’s good.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: Good is such —

Anne: Yes.

Gabby: — a subjective word.

Anne: It is.

Gabby: What does that even mean?

Anne: It is.

Gabby: What is that?

Anne: I think, Gabby, that’s why I started talking about every demo has a story.

Gabby: Mm-hmm.

Anne: Because there’s so many people that will say, “will you evaluate my demo?” You know, here’s the deal. So many people are quick to evaluate demos and they say, “oh, it’s good. Oh no, you know, it’s good, it’s bad,” whatever it is. First of all, if you are asking somebody that produces demos to evaluate your demo, they’re going to critique it. They’re going to say something. And, and I think one of the reasons why I mention that there’s a story behind it is that I’m not in this business to, to slam anybody, or to slam anybody’s demo production. I’m really here to find out, OK, where were you when you made that demo? How much coaching did you have, and then evaluate based on that. But I’m not in it to slam anybody else just to get a sale. That’s certainly not me. That’s not my, that’s not my style. I don’t think, you know, for any good demo producer out there, it’s not their style either. Like in any industry, you’re going to have to watch out for people who might be in it for something other than just producing an amazing demo. And I think that’s why I was going on about the story, because I like to find that out. So a year ago, I’m in a different place than I was 10 years ago. So my demos have refreshed and updated as I’ve progressed.

Gabby: But you’re right. Every single person that you ask, especially people that make demos or have a stake in making demos, everyone’s going to have a different opinion.

Anne: They are.

Gabby: What your job is as the owner of that demo is to differentiate the advice that you’re getting, what’s fact, and what is really relevant right this second?

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: And what is something that is so subjective, you could just kind of go, “oh, OK.

That’s that one person’s opinion”? The subjectivity factor is just never not going to be there when it comes to demos. So we have to sort of dissect some things and, and try to look at what is objective about them? I think everyone’s going to agree that your script selection is paramount to the creation of an exceptional demo.

Anne: Oh yeah. That is one of the areas that is so important to me that I look at for, for being current and relevant… of today. So if you made a demo four years ago, those scripts may or may not be as relevant. So usually I have something to say about the scripts or the content of the demo, say, you know what, you may want to refresh that. Back when the industry wasn’t so flooded, and there was just a commercial and the narration demo, the scripts used to be much more generic. And I think that, you know, today, you have to be a little more relevant, a little more current, um so it doesn’t sound like your demo was produced in, you know, the 1950’s.

Gabby: Big thing too is make sure or know that your demo producer really is presenting or creating copy for you. I hand-select everything for every demo client I have. I know you do too, Anne.

Anne: Yep. I do.

Gabby: It’s, it’s critical. You want to minimize the chances of lots and lots of people using the same script on their demos in any given time.

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: And that’s how we do that. Now, if your copy is coming from an online source, and I’ve seen this too where sometimes demo creators are like, “oh, go find your own copy,” oooo.

Anne: Yeah, be careful of that.

Gabby: That always scares me.

Anne: Well, because typically the person is going to go find the copy in some online source, and that online source, everybody’s gone to.

Gabby: Everybody’s using it.

Anne: Just find that copy, then everybody’s demo sounds —

Gabby: The same.

Anne: The same. So yeah. I think a good demo producer and a good coach will help you to get that copy.

Gabby: Yeah, they’re just not going to leave you to your own devices —

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: — to just, you know, Google away. Let’s talk about variety, right? This is always a big, hot button thing when it comes to demos. Like how much variety should be there?

Anne: Well, that’s a good question. I think that there should be enough variety for your vocal abilities and skills at that point. I mean, I think a demo should, should definitely show a range umm of abilities. I think that you need to show all aspects of content in that industry. There’s all different types of companies that hire you. There’s all different types of scenarios that you can showcase your voice in for any type of demo, so I think that variety is important there just to showcase where your abilities are and where your acting is.

Gabby: I, I agree with most of that. I that you have to think long and hard about the type of demo you’re creating and how much variety is too much. Animation demos, video games, things like that, you know, characters, sky’s the limit. The expectation is variety. Whereas I think commercial, in-show narration, promo, it’s limited. There’s, there’s only so many hoops that a client expects you to jump through. Because the market’s so hyper-segmented, people are really looking to, within the first few seconds, hear a representation of exactly what they’re buying and have that be consistent throughout most of the presentation. They don’t want wild changes. If someone could question are you the same voice actor —

Anne: Yes, yes. I agree with that. I think when I was thinking variety, I was thinking more in terms of what in — variety of industries, variety of brands.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: Within that genre, that would be able to hire you. That’s where I am talking variety, not necessarily vocal variety, where —

Gabby: Right.

Anne: — you’re right, people are like, “is that even you?” Because then I think you’re going into character mode for genre that may or may not call for character mode, especially like commercial, right? There’s a trend in commercial, you know, that, that conversational, and if you’re not leading off with that as like your core voice right now, I think you might want to rethink who you’re working with.

Gabby: Bingo.

Anne: Because that’s, that’s what people are hiring. So that has to be prevalent throughout the demo, I believe, for that genre So whatever is hirable for the genre. I don’t think you’re ever going to go wrong with conversational and engaging.

Gabby: Whatever the trend —

Anne: Yep.

Gabby: — is where we need to be. You’re right, it’s got to be first piece out of the gate.

Anne: Yep.

Gabby: Lots of newer folks to this get really wrapped up and really invested in the variety piece. Please know that — [laughs] and I, and I love this because a close friend of mine in voiceover said this, and I couldn’t agree with her more because it’s so accurate. She said, “we’re in such a boring time for our industry.” There’s some truth to that. She’s talking about performance. She’s talking about commercials specifically and how the commercial segment of the market has become kind of blah.

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: There’s a little bit of a predictability. Everything’s, “right, just make it conversational, talk to your friend, don’t oversell me, don’t care so much.” It’s boring. But if boring is what’s being bought, then be boring.

Anne: I don’t know if I would call that boring. I mean, I understand where you’re going with that. I don’t know if I would say it was boring. I might say it might be predictable.

Gabby: Potato, potahto.

Anne: Potato, potahto.

Gabby: [laughs]

Anne: Think about how you buy.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: That’s what I always try to bring it back to. Think about how you buy. And we are more educated now, and so if I’m going to buy a product, a commercial product, right, I’m usually out there researching somewhere in Google [laughs] right, about the product, where I can get the product, maybe the comparable products. And so I come at that commercial with a much broader knowledge, so I — obviously I, I’ve talked about this a lot of times, why advertising is using the comfortable friend, you know, boring, you know, quote boring read, and that’s because we’re already educated, and we need to just convince each, each other. “Yeah, this is like, I bought it, and this is great.” We’re not impressed easily. That’s the thing.

Gabby: No. The consumer is over-educated —

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: — and under-influenced, so —

Anne: Yep, mm-hmm.

Gabby: — we have to be savvy to that.

Anne: Yep.

Gabby: OK, so script selection, variety, what else? What’s another key component that you think is just a, a stable for a great demo?

Anne: Oh, I mean, absolutely knowing the market. Understand the market in which you are selling your product. If it’s commercial, if it’s, you know, e-learning, if it’s medical narration, whatever it is, understand that market. Come at it with an intelligence and come at your demo production with that intelligence of that market, and if your demo is not including that knowledge and that sense of serving that particular industry, you need to say hey to your coach or hey to your demo producer and say, “what’s really important here is this, and I think we need to address that in our demo.” So I think it’s something that you as an intelligent individual, right, understanding your own demo and your own market, need to work with your coach or producer along, along with them to help produce I think a demo that really speaks to that industry and resonates to that industry.

Gabby: Yeah. A huge percentage of performers, not just in voiceover, any form of performance, have been the victims of “I have this, this presentation. I have this reel, this demo, this portfolio, this manuscript — whatever it is — now what?” And they have no idea.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: They have no idea how to sell it, shop it around, what to do with it, how to implement it, which leads us to of course another episode of VO BOSS that we did not long ago which was just that, you know, “I have a great demo, now what do I do?”

Anne: Exactly. Know the market. Know the market before you go into demo production too. I think, there’s — look, Google is your best friend. How many times do I say that? Anne —

Gabby: Totes.

Anne: Anne Gangooglezza.

Gabby: Anne Gangoogle.

Anne: Google your industry, know about it. I mean, there’s so much to be said for having a level of, of intelligence and understanding the market that you’re selling to, and bring that to your coach. Bring that to your producer, and, and, and —

Gabby: I’m going to, I’m going to give a great example because it’s one that I’ve heard you talk about specifically before with demo clientele and candidates. I’ve heard you consult with people who want to do a corporate narration demo, and they say things like, “I want to have a museum piece. I want to have something, you know, for like a museum tour.”

Anne: [laughs] No! And I say no!

Gabby: You’re like, “no! We’re not doing that.” And people get a little miffed I think, and they’re like, “why, why not? I hear those all the time. I go to museums, and I, I hear it.” And your answer is always what?

Anne: Well, there’s a finite market for that, and so I, I try to look at the broader sense of the market. There’s a finite number. And you’re probably better off with a piece that can demonstrate something in the aerospace industry or in the automotive industry for narration than you are for museum, [laughs] because there’s a whole lot more automotive companies and a whole lot more branches of aerospace. It speaks to a broader audience, and it gets you — it’s a bigger market.

Gabby: Well, it comes down to, if you’re going to take up 10 or 15 or 20 seconds of a precious demo, where you only have a limited amount of time —

Anne: Yes, exactly. It’s precious real estate.

Gabby: Right. Because it’s precious real estate, are you then using it to its best and fullest potential?

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: Or are you wasting it on a wee, tiny, little market segment?

Anne: I want you to critique your own demo. Tell me who is the market, how big is that market, and —

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: — is that spot reflective of the type of material that they would typically ask you to uh voice —

Gabby: There you go.

Anne: — and pay you for? There you go, boom.

Gabby: So those handful of components are really the things that are concrete in the creation of the demo. Probably the only other thing that I think we could add to the list is just good, solid production value.

Anne: Yes.

Gabby: Which, if the person that you’re hiring does not have skills in audio production, I mean why are you hiring them in the first place?

Anne: But I want you to also think about a style. But the production also adds a creative flow and a musical to that demo, and that is, it is also important. I’m not going to discount production. And, and I think that working with a good producer that, that has that is part of the magic of a great demo.

Gabby: There you go. So it’s, it’s the VO BOSS take on demo success.

Anne: Well, it’s like a product.

[both laugh]

Gabby: As always, we want to give a big shout-out to ipDTL, our awesome sponsor, because without them, Anne and I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything let alone demos. [laughs]

Anne: Yeah, without my ipDTL. For all things BOSS, guys, you can find us just about everywhere on social media. Listen to us and subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play. Gosh, you can even hear us on Alexa.

Gabby: Thank you so much, guys. As always, have an awesome week, and we will catch you soon.

Anne: Bye, guys!

Gabby: Bye!

Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.