I take my car to a locally owned garage here in Coupeville. I get along well with the mechanics and I’ve always driven away feeling like my needs were met. When I first moved to the area, I considered a few auto repair shops. One of the things I took into account was whether a shop had Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification. I understand what the certification stands for and know that it’s not easy to acquire. To be ASE Certified, mechanics take a number of exams, which typically only 66% pass on the first try. After passing, the mechanic provides proof of two years work experience and is then given certification. To maintain certification, the mechanic retests in five-years.

Can that model work for voice-over talent? There seems to be a divided certification camp.

On one side, the talent believes that being certified will provide them with peace of mind for having strived to meet the criteria for certification. Instead of listening to countless professionals with varying levels of experience and skill level for guidance as they grow their business, talents could refer to one organization whose goal is to improve the quality of voice-overs. I know that’s general in description but ultimately, that’s what certification is in any profession. Creating a standard by which to be measured. This helps talent seekers to weed out the crud and deal specifically with professionals who are qualified. No more wasted time with auditions that were recorded with a laptop microphone in the kitchen while dogs bark and kids scream in the background.

The argument against certification for voice-over talent is that it is simply not needed. There is nothing wrong with the state of the voice-over trade. People seeking artistic talent are not looking for anything other than somebody who can deliver the spoken word recording they need. Producers try out, through the audition process, any number of talent until they find the voice that fits their project. It’s not necessary to identify through certification that the talent can read as directed; has recording equipment and a decent, noise-free environment to record in. It will be obvious in the audition. It would not matter to voice-seekers that a talent’s web page or marketing includes a callout to their voice-over certification. It would not be clear what the certification represents or how it would benefit the results.

I’m aware of two players in the certification of voice-over talent. SaVoa.org is the first and is now going through somewhat of a reboot or reinvention of itself and appears to be close to taking applications again. The new kid in town is World-Voices.org, which has branded itself as “Voice Over’s new certifying Guild!” and is taking applications.

I’m an advocate for choice but I wonder if having two organizations that provide certification is worthwhile. Remember Blu-ray and HD or Betamax and VHF? While the competing standards had followers and each provided similar capabilities, there was only room for one ruler on each hill.

In my opinion, the best way for either to succeed is through aggressive marketing to voice-seekers paired with manageable ongoing educational guidance for certificate recipients. The first might make it apparent that considering a certified talent is more beneficial and cost-effective since the talent met an established standard. The second would encourage certified talents to continue building their skills with recognized educational paths. I’m sure there are others, but the certification should be couched as a “win/win” for seekers and talent.

I have mixed feelings about becoming certified and would like to hear your comments and opinions. What do you think? As a talent, what would be the advantage or disadvantage of being certified? As a talent seeker, could you be swayed to only work with certified talent?

To be, or not to be a CVT, that is the question.

Read more at the J. Christopher Dunn Voice-Over Blog

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