My SAG-AFTRA Presentation On VO Demos (Part 1)

Hey there!

SAG-AFTRA asked me to come in and talk to members about the strategies and tactics performers need to know about to be competitive in today’s marketplace.

This is Part 1 of 2, recorded in front of a live audience of 300 in the Cagney Room at the union’s Los Angeles headquarters.

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Hope this helps!


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hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
and while back sag-aftra asked me to
come in and do a presentation they got a
sold-out crowd for it on voiceover demos
so I spent some time talking to
professional performers about the
strategies and tactics that you need to
know to be competitive in today’s
voiceover marketplace take a look at
part one what I’m gonna do is share with
you my observable realities as to what
is world-class
when it comes to doing voiceover demos
the best thing that I think I’ve done is
taken a look at who does what and how
successful they are at it and tried to
learn from what they do versus what
people who aren’t so successful do I
take a look at who the audiences and
then I do nothing but focus like a laser
on who that audience is now can anybody
tell me who the audience is for a
voice-over demo casting people casting
people and what is the number one
complaint that you might think casting
people have about voice-over demos they
sound manufactured because they are even
the most amazing voice-over talent with
bodies of work they manufacture their
demos because what they want to do is to
provide the very best series of examples
of what their core natural voice can do
for the casting person’s clients that
seems pretty intuitive yeah and to that
end what I’d like to first start with is
what not to do beginning with the idea
that when you do a voiceover demo it
should be very broad so that your agent
can then put you up for everything but
what the casting person wants to know
when they first listen to your demo and
try and determine whether or not to
bring you in for an audition to bring
you in for work is whether or not your
core natural voice is exactly what the
client is look
so the idea that you include accents and
dialects and characters and regionalisms
and you know that really cool animated
thing that you did for the Cartoon
Network like three years ago it’s
awesome it’ll be like spice in your demo
they don’t care they are confused when
they see everything or you trying to be
everything to everyone so the first
thing not to do is not to try to do that
but to go with that brand that very
brand that vocally you have you have a
brand visually on camera you also have a
brand vocally so you need to identify
that brand and never ever stray from it
for commercial voice-over demos for
animation and video game demos go crazy
but when people say do you have a demo
they usually mean do you have a
commercial voice-over demo the
commercial voice-over demo enjoys an
interesting station in the portfolio of
your demos because it will be grudgingly
be accepted by other categories of voice
buyers in lieu of a demo in that
category because that’s where most
voiceover people stop they stop at a
commercial voiceover demo or maybe a
narration and a commercial voice-over
demo but they don’t do things like an
animation demo unless they actually are
in that work field to begin with and
they maybe put one together
does anybody know what IVR means anybody
engage in IVR practice you have an IVR
practice you have a thriving IVR
practice that’s great because there’s
more work in IVR than in any other
category IVR stands for interactive
voice response when you call the bank
and you want to get your balance there’s
a series of recorded messages that guide
you through that process
somebody has to record that and that
somebody is often me it’s often you and
the more you look for this work which is
by the way covered under the non
broadcast contract so it’s Union work
when you look for this work you’ll find
it but do you have a demo for it is it
something that all those buyers who are
not the buyers that do commercial voice
over not the buyers that do network
documentary in air
not the buyers that do animation that
the cast animation they’re all
individual categories of people who can
buy your services so my admonition to
you is to build that portfolio of demos
just like you would build a portfolio of
looks for headshots commercial demos is
what I’m gonna concentrate on and I want
to give you 10 or 12 really important
tenets as to what to do when you’re
about to do a commercial demo and I’m
also going to give you some things to
avoid when you’re first starting off
doing a commercial demo how many of you
have gone to a studio and had them sit
you down in front of what looks like one
of those hardware catalogs that lists
every you know nut and bolt and rake
that they don’t carry in stock but they
can order and have in by Tuesday just
filled with copy going back to chockfull
and nuts
and pepsi the voice of a new generation
and you know our third Godfrey’s
original stuff that he did with Lipton
tea and then they say go ahead and pick
something that’s awesome go ahead and
pick something it’s great pick a few
things we’ll just we’ll that’d be great
that is the worst possible mistake you
could make because you will recognize
things you’ll remind me we’ll be
reminded of things that you’ve heard on
radio or seen on television
you’ll be attracted by clever writing
you’ll see all kinds of stuff that might
be a great you know a calling card for
your demo none of which may actually
serve your core natural voice so the
first thing you should rely on a
producer to do for you is pick copy that
is absolutely appropriate for your voice
and when you come in be open to be
directed be open for the order that
things will be put in be open for the
production values that may or may not be
assigned to each one of those things be
open to the process and just be the best
you you can be the best you you thing
you can do to prepare for a demo is
drink a lot of water slowly just sip
water be hydrated that’s all you really
need to do I’m gonna speak from the
perspective of what I do with my clients
I don’t really know what other I mean I
do know what other producers do I know
what I do and I know what I have found
to be extraordinarily successful for my
clients in terms of finding that one
moment when the casting director can
listen to it and go yes absolutely or
unfortunately no not right for this but
thank you for saving me at a time of
trying to figure out if you’re right or
right when you go looking for a producer
/ director do not shop based on price be
aware that what the market will bear is
not what you have to pay just like you
don’t have to go to a thousand dollar
headshot photographer to get really good
work you don’t have to go to a two or
four or six or eight thousand dollar
demo producer to get that one final
deliverable which is about a minute
minute and a half long demo the Delta
between that and someone like me who
charges $6.99 I defy you to show me that
Delta but because they have the ability
to market themselves and they know that
that first job is how you do the math
well if I get that first national gig
man that’ll pay for my demo sure that’s
not the way to think about it the way to
think about is you’ve got better things
to do with your money so be careful also
be careful at the other end there’s
someone in town called the $99 demo guy
there you get what you pay for
I’ve listened there you get what you pay
for so you don’t have to spend tons and
tons and tons of money the average cost
for a demo across the country this is in
Chicago New York here 2995 you don’t
have to pay that much there are plenty
of people who do great work for less
than that so there you go that’s part
one talking about the strategies of what
did you learn anything is there anything
there that was interesting for you
anything that was a surprise to you
anything you have questions about let me
know in the comments below I’d love to
find out what you think about that and
then we’ll do part two tomorrow we’ll go
back and see what that was all about if
you have anything you want to ask me
about demos happy to talk about them in
general in the comments below if you
want to subscribe to the channel so you
know when new videos come out go
and you either click on a subscribe
button somewhere on the page or on my
head there if you want to see the latest
video that is part of the channel go
ahead and click on that frame and it’ll
play for you I’m David H Lawrence the
17th I so appreciate you watching and
I’ll talk to you tomorrow



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  1. Wow, David! I’m really liking these videos. Keep them coming! You have a gift for communicating clearly and effectively!

  2. Ths was excellent information. Thank you for sharing. Do most voiceover talent know instinctively what their “core” voice is, or do they learn what t is through input from a producer or coach (the accurate core voice)?

    1. Everyone’s different – it depends on the talent and their ability to hear their work on a critical level. Some need the help of advice from others, some know accurately what their brand is.

  3. You’re right about the demo pricing. I paid $1500 for a pair of demos (price has gone up a bit since then but not by a lot) from a nationally known talent and respected voice coach and they sound great… and she’s an excellent teacher to boot. 3 Grand for a 1-minute demo is obscene. It’s gouging, pure and simple.

  4. David, I find most of what you say VERY enlightening and well thought out. I’ve been working in vo for many years, have had some success (and some national exposure) but haven’t been able to break through to the point where I can say “I’m a full time vo talent”. It’s always eluded me, but I sure do appreciate your messages every day. thank you. Thomas

  5. Thank you so much – and I’d be very interested in knowing what content I create that you don’t think is all that enlightening and well thought out – I’m always looking to get better and iterate toward awesome!

  6. Great stuff, David! I have a commercial demo and narration demo on my website ( and would love to have your opinion of it. Is this possible?

    1. I offer pretty in-depth analysis and support for my clients and their demo portfolios – I don’t do hit and run “Hey, that’s great! Tighten it up here.” kind of assessments. I find those to not be very useful.

  7. David, loved it; about to watch the part 2! To answer your question to us; Interesting and surprising things for commercial demo: 1)avoid the broad types/different style reads on the demo. 2)Focus on your brand/core voice style, and stick with it. And the perspective of what the casting director is looking for from hearing your demo was priceless.

    So often as actors we try to be all things to all people. I’m changing course from that thinking from now on. Thanks!

  8. HI David! $699 for a demo?! Wow you are a saint! I’m getting ready to start a full out marketing campaign, and would love to get more info about you producing my demo. Right now I rock my DIY demo (found at Do you work with people remotely? I record on an Audio Technica 4040 here in good old Indiana. I look forward to hearing from you (I took your Believe 2018 course- amazing!) I apply the fundamentals we learned in setting the right mindsets in every aspect of my life.

    1. Even though that video is several years old, and we’ve raised our prices since then, that’s still our demo production price for our Pro members – non-members pay $999 for all demos except animation, which is slightly higher (which is still 1/2 to 1/3 of what you’d pay elsewhere). You can get all the details (and yes, we produce remotely) at We can discuss after you read that information.

      And thank you for your kind words about the Believe course – I’m so grateful that it’s helped so many performers!

  9. This is a great video, David, thank you, and really starts to get into the specifics of what it takes to be, and appear as, a professional voiceover talent. This is the kind of stuff that people breaking into the industry would never know.

    I, for instance, I have no idea how to pinpoint what my core voice is, and what market of voiceover would find it the most useful.

  10. Confirmed what my Producer of my demo told Me….”let’s find your ‘money voice’ (natural voice) and use that on your demo”. Love your sessions David, thanks!