Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vox Erudio vel Viaticus

The department where I work has a need to provide training on our systems and products to external business partners and customers. We provide a mixed model for products and services, which sometimes leads us to interaction with intermediaries and sometimes directly to end consumers. One method we use for training is canned webcasts that users can review on their own schedule.

A few months ago, I auditioned to be a narrator for those webcasts. I made the short list, and this week, I recorded the text of a 44-page training document after my regular day was done. It wasn't quite as long as it sounds, because many of the pages have screen shots that didn't need to be narrated. As it turns out, when I'm narrating user guides, I think my voice could be used as treatment for chronic insomnia.

Back in my college days, I was part of a student organization that did service projects around campus to make the student experience a better one all around. We did things like provide trees for some of the visible, but less cared-for areas of campus, volunteer for awareness campaigns around and events during the local wheelchair games, and other projects. One of our fundraisers was to sell fan-related items at each home football game.

I really enjoyed the street vendor experience. I sometimes got to put on the giant seat cushion and sing my little rhymes to get people to buy the home team paraphernalia. People would often remark on my little rhyming couplets or quatrains. It's unfortunate that a sestina or sonnet would be too long to recite just to sell a big foam hand or baseball cap.

One day, at one of those games, a woman approached me with something in her hand. Since I was mid-spiel, I assumed she wanted to purchase something, so I started to recite the price list. It turned out that she was carrying a business card. She told me that she represented Local Talent Agency, and she was in charge of finding talent to narrate the television broadcast of the half-time show for that year's Citrus Bowl. Would I be interested in auditioning?

At the time, I worked part-time in a mall, and I was used to people hitting me up for all kinds of schemes to "increase my income potential" or "achieve untold wealth by working out of the home" or some nonsense like that, so I was a bit skeptical. She assured me that both her business card and her offer were real. If I showed up at Local Talent Agency's recording studio at 10:00 on Tuesday, they'd record me narrating a draft of the half-time show. Even if they didn't end up using my voice, I'd still get $50, which was a good gig for a poor college student in 1990.

I showed up at the studio at the right time on the right day, and I expected to be sent packing by the receptionist, but she sent me to the waiting room, where I read a nice coffee table book on Art Deco architecture and furnishings for about 30 minutes. Finally, the lady came to get me. We went in the studio. I put on headphones and stood behind one of those shielded microphones to read the show. It was about how citrus fruits were so important to sunny Florida. She gave me $50. I left.

A few days later, I called her to see if they wanted me to come back. She told me that they'd picked someone else. Oh well. My "fifteen minutes of fame" clock reset itself, and I ended up with $50 and a nice story. Everybody wins!

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