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  • Writer's pictureAidan G

Geoff Allan: From Resorts to Rehearsals

Updated: May 31, 2023

You know Geoff Allan's voice. No, really, you do. If you've ever heard an ad for Burger King or Hardee's, you've probably heard Geoff's dulcet tones announcing the return of the biggest burger you've ever seen. I've certainly heard Geoff enough to recognize that baritone anywhere- although I suppose I have an advantage. He is my second cousin, after all.

As his cousin, I can tell you that Geoff has always had a fantastic voice. So, of course, it was only natural for him to finish school and get straight into... the hotel business. Yes, Geoff was a world-travelling hotel manager for most of his adult life. He'd always had a passion for radio and voiceover, but it wasn't until he was in his 50's, and in Dubai of all places, that he was able to hit the airwaves. Nowadays, he's been a professional voiceover artist for years, with training from industry veterans in L.A., Toronto, Montreal and Dubai.


In this episode, we dive into Geoff's journey from suites to studios. We talk about how he found the opportunity to make such a dramatic career change, where it's taken him, where he'll go in the future, and how much he's learned from his time as a voiceover pro. We also do a hefty bit of reminiscing about the past. If nothing else, Geoff's story stands as a shining example that it's never too late to start doing what you love.

 

For more of Geoff, or to hire him for your voiceover needs, check out his Personal Website or connect with him on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.


You can view some of Geoff's many commercial engagements below:


 

Episode Transcript:


Tara Sands (VO) 00:00:01

The Sound Off Podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill... Starts now.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:10

This week, I'm keeping it in the family. Geoff Allan is someone I've known all my my life. He's my second cousin, and we spent summers together as teenagers, whether it was on a farm in Montebello, Quebec, or the Allan family home in Metis-Sur-Mer, Quebec. He's always had a deep voice, and a lot of people said he should be on the radio or doing commercials or something like that. So he went into the hotel business. But today you can hear Geoff as the voice of things like Hardee's.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:00:45

Glorious match of 100% chargrilled beef with thinly sliced roast beef. Taste the Fame. Only at Hardee's.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:45

Bud Light.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:00:45

Introducing the Bud Light Platinum Sleek Can. Triple filtered smooth. 6%.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:45

And Burger King.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:00:45

The Big King XL is back. Now with double the stacker sauce, two flame grilled patties, all the fixings, and then double that sauce. The Big King XL only at Burger King.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:03

He also appears on screen. And the lesson in this episode is very simple. You can start something any time in your life and achieve success. Geoff Allan joins me from Studio A headquarters, of Worldwidevoicing.com, which may or may not be located in Montreal. Geoff, you are the best dressed person I have ever had on this podcast. Do you have a job interview? What's going on?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:01:29

Well, if I stand up, you're going to see that I'm stark naked. I left my day job to come racing over here just to see you.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:37

That's crazy stuff. I have to, by the way, be very careful about saying something like, oh, you're well dressed. Do you have a job interview? I've had a few people say, no, I've just come from a funeral.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:01:47

Yeah, excellent. Yeah, that reminds me. When I was at my wife's mother's funeral, I was sitting there and I hear a cell phone started ringing, and I go, who wouldn't turn off their cell phone? And I'm looking around and I realized this was in the day of folded phones. And I go "OOH" and I'm in the front row. So I figured, like, oh, my God, it's my phone. It's my phone. So how do you turn off your phone discreetly at a funeral when it's a fold one? So I just was pushing that button as hard as I possibly could, just talking about people dressing for funerals.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:18

Jeff, I'm going to walk you through really, your whole life because I've known you for most of your life. I'm trying to think back to one of the earliest memories, but I know this isn't one of them, but I do enjoy the time that you took my brother Josh and threw him headfirst into the snow and he had his head stuck in the snow with just his leg sticking out. That was awesome.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:02:36

Well, the memory you should recall, that I recall, is our moped ride in Matisse. I think you were an infant that enjoyed being with the slightly older people, and we had the Bianco Moped, and we were driving around, and you got to sit- kind of stood in the front, and that seemed to be an epic moment.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:58

The thing was, the Allan boys had all the toys, and they all went, Vroom, Vroom. And who wouldn't want to get on the back of the moped or the motorcycle or whatever gadget you guys are trying to fix all summer, that never really worked anyway?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:03:10

Well, the good news is we haven't changed. We still have those gadgets. Last year, I bought a 1969 Honda CL125A, which is a very rare twin cylinder Honda. I have that. And I've got a 1975 Honda ST90. So what that really means is that we still live in our infancy, which means we are fundamentally still immature, I guess you'd say.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:31

I know you've told me the story before, but take me back to the moment when you first thought you would be a good fit for radio or for voiceover.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:03:40

I would tell you that when my mother was in real estate, she would get all these telephone calls. So I would answer the call. In the old days, the listing was on a piece of paper, so phone would ring all the time. Hello? And so one lady who she was trying to sell a house to, I think you may even know the name. Her name was Pat O'Mara. And Pat O'Mara was a friend of Gord Sinclaire. And so I'm answering the phone. She says, You've got a good voice. I know this guy named Gord Sinclaire, but right up until that point, I'd say it was probably, I don't know, the National Institute of Broadcasting was advertising in the Montreal Gazette to go to Place Bon Aventure and to audition to pay for this course. So I go down there, you pay $20, they record you on a handheld cassette recorder. They give you a score, and they say, yes, yes, you'd be an excellent candidate. So all of a sudden, there's all this excitement like it's going to work. It's going to work. So Pat O'Mara, Gord Sinclaire, go meet this guy on Fourth Street at CJD. I go there, I meet a fellow by the name of Bruce Devine. I've got butterflies. I'm panicked. I was at CFKS Radio at Dawson at the time. So I was reading the news, being kind of a late night DJ on that thing. So I go and I see who I think is going to be Gord Sinclaire. But it's this other guy. And I go into this kind of small cubicle office. It's doors closed, and it's got a very low DB threshold. And he goes, So what are you here for? And I say, with as nervous a tone as possible with a frog in my throat, I want to get into a radio. And in the first 5 seconds, he says, you will never succeed at radio. Your voice is monotone. It'll never work. So I go, oh, okay. So I turn around and I walk out and I figured, I guess that career interest is off the books. So I move on. So I go to the hotel, as you know, the whole story, hotels and all this and a bit of securities business. And then I still stay in kind of the theatrical side of the business, which is doing MC work. And whenever I'm in one of these resort towns, I kind of find the local radio station. I do a couple of radio ads. And ultimately what kind of kicked it off was when I went to Dubai in 2001, they were doing a remote spot at the Fairmont Dubai. And I said, if you need a guy to read any part of it, I said, I'm kind of into that stuff. And they said, oh, yeah, we'd love that Canadian accent. So I'm working with TMH International. It's a remote spot in the lobby. And they say, can you read the sports? So the sports, as you can totally appreciate from your background in sports, is about rugby. It's not about like football North American style. It's football European style, which has a different lingo altogether. So when a Canadian guy or North American voice is talking that lingo, it's kind of funny. So I read it off like North American style, hyper excited sports cast. And their phone line jumped off the hook and they said, that guy should come down here. So the moral of the story is I was introduced to ISTN digital transfer of media. And John Deacon at TMH was still there. He said, we can record you anywhere in the world. So I came back to Quebec, you know the story. And that's when I really started researching building a studio. And I knew that being a voice over person, not really in radio but in private media, would be much more interesting because- thanks to you, actually, this is a significant part of the story. Actually, it's a highly significant part of the story. When we were in Alberta, you walked me. You were kind enough to want me to come over to Bear in Edmonton. And I go and I see you there. And we go walking through the studio. And of course, whenever I was near a radio station, I'd have like butterflies in my stomach because I knew maybe someday it's going to happen. But I was always nervous in front of the microphone, like in excitement, in a positive way. And so we walked by one of the guys on air that there was like a corridor and there was a window where you could look in and you could actually see him behind a microphone and he's reading a script, but he's sounding really casual. And here is Emily coming with. The traffic sounded natural, like impromptu. And I looked over and I said to you, I said, Is that read? I said, is that all read? Is he just reading a script? You said, yeah, it's all programmed radio, that's all down to the second. And I thought, oh, my God, I thought, I probably wouldn't survive at that because I would be- you wanna improvise too much. It's like the little bit the Ted Bird, the Terry DeMonte story where you really have to be yourself, and when you're in program radio, it's just tough. Moral of the story is I discovered the worldwide distribution channels forfeiting my local market because I'm an English person in the Montreal market, which you can appreciate. So I secured coaching out of Toronto, coaching out of Los Angeles, coaching out of Montreal on breathing, just to kind of accelerate, get the discipline down. The strongest person, most influential, was Ellie Ray Hennessy out of Toronto. And so she was able to kind of break that through. I was at Second City for a year when I was running part of the SkyDome in Toronto, but Second City was also a breakthrough. You've got to be- the expression is getting comfortable being uncomfortable. And Ellie Ray was very good to pull that out.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:47

I think you raise a very important point, and that's one of the things that I've really struggled with, that when you're in radio, you really do have to flash your personality. There are elements of it that are programmed and that you can go through the mechanics every day of throwing to A to B to C. But that personality part. And you mentioned Terry and Ted, and you're the voice of the Terry and Ted podcast standing by. So tell me a little bit about, because it's acting, what you're doing. You're doing a form of acting as opposed to the opposite, which is radio, which is being yourself.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:09:18

Yeah. Well, there's an expression that acting is a shy man's revenge. So when I was at some hotels, like when I was working for Fairmont and Ottawa, not that it's all about hotels, but hotels happened to be the vehicle that brought me to different cities and being in different cities, which I've got a funny story about. Beach Studios, Toronto, World Wrestling Federation. I'll come back to that. I wanted to be the on stage, you know, the guy who introduces the wrestlers, but I actually wanted to be what's his name? Mcmahon?


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:48

Did you want to be the announcer who called the match?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:09:52

I wanted to be a character who emerged to be the lost son of the President of the Canadian WWF that was run by DeMarco. I forgot his first name and I spoke to him about it. He said, well, due a cassette. So anyway, Carl De Marco, Carl DeMarco, exactly. Sounds very funny. So acting tremendous range. So like when I was in Auto, I went to the Ottawa Little Theater. I auditioned for the Keen Mutiny simple role. And they called back and they said, no, we want you for the lead role. And so I said, well, I'd love to do it, but when you're in a business that takes so much of your time and you have to be available, your dreams kind of get shattered so in the sense that you cannot pursue what you want to pursue. So finally, when I kind of cut through and realize that this digital technology and being able to record from your house, from wherever you want with the highest quality standard is achievable, it became fascinating. And so by meeting up with the la rays of the world, the Debbie Monroe, all these other characters in the business, as you know well, your voice has to innate, I do animations and all this, and it is a form of acting, as you say, and being elastic to be able to be comfortable in those ranges. Last week I was recording one Bluey, the animation about a horse, and I was playing the principle of the school. And it had to be kind of like I had to be sort of tough but kind of nervous because Bluey was going to rat on me. And so I had to sort of be a different kind of character and all this. And then there is Donny Duchard, who is in a feminine fashion photographer. This was auditioning for an animation that was related to The Simpsons. It was like a spin off of The Simpsons. And I auditioned as Donny Duchard. I got the number one ranking on him, but they didn't execute it. So what I liked about Donny Duchard is that Donny Duchard, his favorite expression was love it, love it, love it, hate it. So I was walking around the house, always trying to master my love it, love it, love it, hate it.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:53

You and I have been doing imitations for years, but it was just our family. Whether it was Audrey who kind of raised us both at different times. It could have been parents, it could have been grandparents, it could have been great grandparents. But how many characters have you been carrying with you throughout these years?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:12:12

I would say the characters are by imitation. So, for example, Borat, you remember the cabrae and Matisse. I'm not sure if you ever went down to the Cabaret, but the Cabaret was a summer theater where all the kids who wanted to do part of this stage program would do an act. So as you grew out of that, you'd be the host. I think characters that you carry with you, which is a good way to put it, because characters that you try to imitate are usually residual personas of some part of your life or something that you've recently experienced, that it just sticks with you and it's kind of the character of the day. So in this case, Borat very nice. So I dressed up as Borat, and I did this because that was kind of the movie for a while. And his spin off when he was doing Borat in Bruno. What's so much about Bruno? He was so over the top, and that's not a good invitation, but you know what I mean? So I was kind of fixated by some of his things for a while. More so because Sasha Baron Cohen is one of the most disciplined trained comedic actors. He was superbly trained, particularly on how to use hyperbole to bring out a character. So I guess just over time, you kind of adopt your characters and you kind of stick with it. I could tell you a lot about the movie Deliverance, which was a fixation with my brother and I, but I won't do that. Your podcast may be rated PG, so I won't go down the Deliverance road too much.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:41

It's rated whatever the story winds up.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:13:44

Yeah. So the Grand Brothers, Ted and was it Ned Beatty and all those guys, like, we had every line of that movie down Pat. And so that was quite hysterical. So that was what I would call an extended play adoption of persona being in the hotel business.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:01

And for the length of time that you were in there and you mentioned Dubai, did you ever come into contact with Tim Clayton in Dubai?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:14:09

Well, I know the name.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:14:10

But I did not make any direct contact with him because he was actually working at the Bear in Edmonton at about the same time that you'd made that visit there. But he was another one who went to Dubai and really sort of honed his craft and really liked it. So what else was going on in Dubai that really opened your eyes and changed your view to not only hotel but also media and that you could get into it?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:14:34

Yeah, I would say there's an expression there. While the rest of the world was sleeping, Dubai was building. So at that time in 2001, there's a lot of conflict across the Gulf in Iran, and everyone was polarized, as you may see today, with other events in the world, whether it's what we know is going on in obvious places. But in every Sequent chapter of time, there's something dominant. And while those dominant activities are manifesting our attention, people are creating opportunity in a quiet, kind of upward spiraling way that we suddenly become surprised by maybe a decade or a generation after. So to answer that question about Dubai, the Dubai story was you look at a map of Dubai from no more than 50 years ago, 50 years ago, and you see fluvial Rivers that come into these sandbars that are going into Delta into the Gulf of Saudi Arabia, and you kind of go, okay, this was sand. And so they had to create a destination because the Dubai oil reserves were less than Abu Dhabi. There are seven Emirates in the United Emirates, and Dubai needed to have an economic vehicle to sustain itself for Millennium, I guess. And so what you see, what you're impacted by is two things. One is an extraordinary investment in infrastructure which makes you understand that everything is possible. And something that was unimaginable was possible, which you can take personally, that what you thought was unattainable is attainable. That's a good key message. But at the same time, it tells you that you need to kind of define that vision and just stay on it. And so those would be kind of lasting comments and lasting experiences from Dubai. And it was kind of a tough place to work in as well. You're working six days a week. There's very little downtime, but it becomes an energy. And so when I return from Dubai, preparing for a trip for another kind of real estate venture, I arrived in Calgary. I was living in Calgary at the time, which I always enjoyed, but I showed up like in a snowstorm. So I've come out of Dubai hot and sunny, and I'm in a snowstorm, and I said, man, I'd like to go back there because the energy was so different. But nonetheless, their path took me back to Quebec.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:16:57

Give me a parallel between building a hotel from scratch and building your voiceover career as a business.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:17:06

Building a hotel is about a plan, but it's also about what is the classification of the hotel. You can build a hotel that's three star, four star, five star. And in the voiceover business, I'm not really saying three star, four star, five star. What I'm saying is segmentation. Who am I trying to serve? And you know how it is. I did a conference once- There's 29 different profiles of voices in the voiceover business, it's probably 50, probably 100. And so if you're trying to be all of them, for example, if you're building a property and you're trying to serve everybody from $100 a night to $1,000 a night, you're going to have a very difficult time building that property. So what does that mean, is that you've got to have an architectural plan that is going to serve the segment you want to serve. You have to make sure it's distributed. So distribution in hotel rooms, they call that a perishable inventory, because if you don't sell the room last night, you're never going to be able to resell it. So in the yield management business, which if any of your audience are familiar with that term, it's when you yield your inventory, how do you maximize your inventory? Well, voiceover is about yielding your time, yielding your inventory. So what's your inventory? Well, I can do ten voiceovers next week for $50 a piece. To get my ten, I'm going to have to do three auditions each because I'm going for a segment that is in a low price segment. So how do I want to spend my time? Or I'm going to try to present myself and penetrate the market into more of a commercial national program in my vocal range that's in this demographic, whatever it is. But I now want to negotiate for $2,000, $3,000 an ad. So that's yielding my time and yielding my segmentation to cater to how I think I'm designed. And so I would say there's a- the most simplistic form to make that parallel between building a property and building your voiceover career is, know what you're trying to build before you embark blindly into distributing yourself and launching yourself. Because you may find that the segment, the clientele, the market you're trying to serve is not shopping for that tone. And you know that well in the business, because you go to the B-to-B's or the P-to-P's, whatever they are, the Voice123's, and the Voice.com's and the more generic sites that are broad market, is everybody's auditioning for each of those scripts that come through hoping one of them is going to catch. But now it's like, I just take the ones that are kind of more relevant, and I really try to do them well so that I have a much higher chance on one great one than a low chance on ten mediocre ones, not to mention servicing your business afterwards. I'll wrap that parallel by saying a hotel, as you can appreciate, is all about personalized attention. How can I look after you? Are you sure everything was fine? I hope to see you next time. Repeat business. Repeat business. Voiceover business. Was your client- If you're dealing with an agency, was your client satisfied with the sound? Is there anything I could have done better? By the way, if you want to call me back anytime you need a test read, don't be shy to call me. I'll see if I can fit you in. And it was a real pleasure to work with you. And I hope to do business again. It's like a tone of hospitality. I think everybody probably has that intuitively in this business, voiceover business. But at the same time, it's a good discipline to have that touch. And I'll close by saying there's one nuance. We talk about one star, two star, three star, four star, five star. I bring this up all the time in the hotel sector, everyone thinks- and this is parallel to any business- that when you are increasing your caliber and quality in any business, that it's an ever ascending straight line curve up to five star. The reality of it is that you go up to one star, two star, three star, four star, which is basically mastering your skill. And then on the tone scale, it drops. So the scope of your service increases. But the tone of your service relaxes, and that's a sign of confidence. So when you're in the voiceover sector, you're going 1234 and okay, I think I pretty well mastered the skill. But you know what? Now I'm going to relax. I can give you anything you want, and your clients will feel it. They're going to feel that the guy is not totally hyper, just trying to do any possible voice. You know how it is. You've got the director on the line and you're reading the lines too quickly and you're going into the next line too quickly. It's like they can sense when you're there. I can do whatever you want. Just I'll listen to your direction. I'll do it calm and coolly, and they're going to go yeah, this guy takes the direction well. So 1234 or I'll accept five to be your five star character.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:37

In just a second, Geoff shares some of his secrets, like what's inside his studio, what are his favorite mics? And here's my favorite part. He shares his secrets about Google. Yes, there's intense gamesmanship that goes on with it. We also talk about our early media experiences, which was basically making prank phone calls. And what's his experience with the pay to plays been like? Pay to Plays are those companies like Voices.com and Voices123, where you pay a subscription fee to receive auditions. There's an algorithm for that, too, and very likely you're going to want a transcript of today's episode. And you can get one right now at soundoffpodcast.com.


Mary Anne Ivison (VO) 00:22:18

Transcription for the Sound Off Podcast is powered by Poddin. Your podcast is an SEO gold mine. We help you to dig out. Start your free trial now at Poddin.io.


Tara Sands (VO) 00:22:29

The Sound Off Podcast with Matt Cundill.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:22:34

So what has been your experience when you're in the Voices123, or the Voices.com and all that? The pay to play world. You have a very unique voice. And again, it's very broad. So you must look at the script and go a lot of no, no, no. And then yes. And do you do a lot of work in that world?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:22:54

That's an interesting question because I'm challenging the algorithms as we speak with one particular supplier that I went back to. I raised in one of the- you'll see, on one of the Facebook voiceover communities. I've self selected myself as the algorithm guinea pig. And so I've gone so far as buying one of the more expensive memberships. And at the same time, I'm not getting any better a yield, because in this world of post COVID, which again, everyone can appreciate, correct me if I'm wrong is that the voiceover sector went through a little bit of a lull. I think people were kind of businesses didn't know quite what to sell, what to sound like demographically, politically correct, wise, hyper sensitivity to sound and tone. So you don't want to fall into that trap or you're going to be left on the abyss. I'll give you a qualified anecdote to that effect without saying names, is that I was seeing all these people in these online forums and they're doing their demos, and there's a fellow out of the US that does these demos and they're $2,000 US. And if you get that, you get all these things. So I said, I guess I'll update my demo. I'll do it again professionally. And that's $2,000 US I'll kind of reinvest in myself and all this. So I call him, make contact. And he says, well, I can't take it because you need voiceover training. He says, you're not ready for that. This was last year. So I said, okay, well, who do you recommend for voiceover training so that I can kind of re-adapt? He says, well, talk to this guy. So I talk to this guy. I book a session. He says, how old are you? I said, I can see on screen. And I said, you're done. He said, you're done. I said, I'm done? Just like that. So I had a clear impression. The next week I booked four deals at $1,000. I've got my national campaign for a fast food company that I still do, and I cherish that and I make sure I'm dynamic right time. So coming back to these crazy P-to-P's is that when I look at them, I go fishing in there. I am marveled by the strata of how memberships affect what you're able to catch. The memberships are not accessible to the average Joe. So their algorithm is in priority sequence, is in how's your profile. They will send you invitations. But if you're buying the base package and you know what the pricing of all these things are without identifying who and what the channel is, it's in the low hundreds to mid hundreds to high hundreds to low thousands to significant thousands to get your pipeline. And I went into the mid-1000 one as a fishing expedition. And as I said, I'm the algorithm guinea pig. And I've done that now for six weeks. And I've had zero conversion. So just so everybody else who may be playing in these things and they're frustrated that they're not getting business, nor have I. So I write them all the time saying how's it working because it does, S'a marche pas, as I say, donne ma bonne Francais. And so that's it. So just to say that my business comes from what we talked about before, I treat my clients like gold in a hospitable, confident, we're here to look after you kind of tone. And that's my business. My business is return, return, return, doing a good audition like I did, as I mentioned to you, I did a national campaign for a bank that's coming out on TV, I guess in a month or two or so. I'm doing the voice for it as well. But that's just from accepting a piece of business on camp stuff is the same. It doesn't pay particularly well, but if you take it, it's going to lead to the next one. So moral the story is I never underestimate PPC campaigns, your online positioning. I was obsessed with that, which really got my- I was getting high, let's say visits, click throughs from that. Which is a lot of maintenance to keep it as well because Web 2.0 and all the Google standards and all that, you really have to stay on it with an excellent webmaster. And when you lose your webmaster, you've got to reconstruct all this. So those sites, P-to-P, are a channel. Treat them as though they are an invitation for you to meet other people through your audition with no expectation to actually get the business. If you do get the business, fantastic. But where you will get possible future business is that someone who hears you will say, you know what, mark that voice for that other promotion we have. And that I would tell you is how one of those channels did pay for itself. So just rest assured that eventually if you stay in it, you may get an ROI, but not maybe directly through the auditions on the site. But maybe one of those clients will call you and say, we like your voice you did, like, a year and a half ago. And you'll be surprised that that does happen.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:26

One of the things that you told me a few years ago when you were building this thing was Google, and the importance of Google, and you touched on it for your company worldwidevoicing.com. And I'm into this too, on the podcast side, because you need a website. You really need a website if you're going to do voiceover or podcasting or any form of entrepreneurial, anything. But you also have to understand Google. So without getting too deep- and this is what I love about you, Geoff, for years and years is how detailed you are. And if you don't understand how something works, you're going to go and become the immediate professional on it. And I'm certain that you know lots about Google.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:28:00

It's very funny. It comes from the real estate side and the hotel side. So what happens is you have a project, let's say, and you engage a consultant and you want to see what your positioning is. And if you go into Google and you go all in URL, colon, all in URL, all that, pick who you think is your biggest competing voiceover artist that you're always head to head with. I'll take Mike Rowe out of the US, so you do all in URL Mike Rowe, and you will see every website that his name comes up on. But you may see agency, you may see distribution. You could put an all in URL, voiceover websites. You're going to see something. If you see someone's particular website, let's say it's pick an artist or pick an agency or pick a studio, Disney, linked, colon, and the full website of what you think is your competitor, every web link that they're connected to will show up. So what does that mean? You go to their website then? If you need to force your positioning, then you will do- when you have their website up, put your mouse into the corner. It depends if they've got Flash media on their website, which is less ideal for organics for search engines. But let's say they don't. You go view source on the right hand side, right click view source, and all the keywords are H1, H2, H3 Tags, which are basically Google bot search tags, will show up. So you can see if you go to a website for your competitor or an agency, you can see what words are driving traffic to their site. So then you then adopt those words or you include them into organic phrasing in your own descriptive website, which will pick up an organic search when those words are blended. You can use the three of them, but extend the sentence and that is how you increase your organic positioning. But it helps to have a kickstart on your PPC or pay per click SEO, paid SEO and PPC, which will drive some traffic. I would confess right now that I have too many keywords that are in my PPC campaign. I have not had the time to manage it properly. I get a bit of organic search because I've been in the system for a while, but I see my competitors are now getting some page one hits above me and I changed my domain name, but I kept my original domain as an extension, which penalized me a bit. So these are all little things. And to simplify the complexity of what it sounds like to your audiences, just go to Amazon and buy either PPC For Dummies, Google for Dummies, whatever it is. And it's $20 and it's the best buy you can make. It's the best investment you can make, because it makes you feel less dumb. And you sort of go, okay, it's not that complicated. So then you go to Google, you do your campaign, then you learn about it, but moreso, do that all in URL colon, pick who you think is your competitor, linked, and all these sites are going to come and you say, man, if that's where they are, that's where I should be. So that's like Badalgo, voices.com voice123. And there are so many other sites now that I've forgotten them because I was just loading up every single one of them. I better be there. I better be there. I better be there, better be there. But at the end of the day, I didn't really get much conversion from it, but I had visibility. So that when you search Geoff Allan Vo, you'd see, oh, he's there. So that's the key. Just watch where your competitor is and be on the same channel. And if you do that, you have a fighting chance. Hotels do the same thing. Hotels, distribution. Pick any product you follow. Look where they're distributed. Voices, same thing. You're a product.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:35

Have you done anything in French?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:31:41

En Francais? Oui, bien sur. I don't do many in French, Matt, because if you have a good French ear, then I sound terrible. But if I say it really fast, then I can get away with it. But if I speak for too long, I sound like I'm bastardizing the language. Some people, French Canadians in Quebec, think that- they say, "Vous vous n'es de quel pays?" For your English speaking audience, is what country are you from? And I go well, in French I say I was born here. They look at me, they sort of recoil a little bit, they go you're not from here. So they think I've got an Austrian accent, so quand je parle Francais, apparement, j'ai un accent d'Autriche. So apparently it's a very corsee accent, but I'm proud of that. I can sound Quebecois, but when I go to Tim Hortons, for example, because these days for your out of towners who are not living in Quebec anymore, you have to speak French when you're going through the drive-thrus. So if I speak in my proper French, the most common response is, excuse-moi monsieur,


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:11

Yeah, well you taught me how to do prank phone calls.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:33:17

Yes, oh yeah. Those are the best. Except the last time I was officially spanked by my father which I was 24 years old, I guess. No, I'm kidding. I was in our basement and we used to phone the same number and this lady who would answer that number was always very engaged, she wanted to continue the conversation. So we had said we're going to come and take away your washer/dryer because you didn't pay your credit card bill. And so my father picked up the phone, I did it almost by behavioral boredom- we had a black and white Motorola TV in the northeast corner of the basement, the telephone was in the South West corner of the basement so he would be watching that way, and the phone was red in color, it hung on a wall and I could put a chair next to it, he was watching TV and I'm on the phone and these are the push button phones. So as engaging as a television was, I found the phone to be the equivalent. So I just pick up the phone by behavior, phone the lady and then my father picks up. And this is where my older brother learned that because you're the oldest, you're responsible for the youngest. So my father apologizes to the lady and calls us upstairs, we were spanked four times with a wooden coat hanger. The rule was the more you cry, the more you get, which I sort of thought was like well that's kind of like, don't you want to hear me scream? Don't you want to get the satisfaction I'm being punished? No, the more you cry the more you get, so you have to hold it in. So that's the last crank phone call I did before I was an adult, which doesn't mean that I stopped doing them. So then when I became an adult, then I had a buddy of mine, Jay, who you've met. So I had an English teacher who you would also remember from a common school who was from Britain.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:54

It's Miss Shaw.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:34:55

Yes, that's it. That's it. So I always found that she kind of played favorites in the class, and I felt that I was the underdog. I was underestimated, and I had potential, though I had a certain jealous envy towards some of her favorites. So I said, in a fit of boredom with my buddy Jay, when we're adults, I said, let's call Ms. Shaw, what else is there to do? And I will tell her that I'm in the hospital, that I could imitate this other co student from- it had to have been, I think I was in my early 30s, late 20s at the time. So immaturity, I guess, had yet to escape me. So we phoned her and she answers the phone. So I go, Hello, Ms. Shaw. So I'm talking to her. Then I tell her who I want her to think I am, and she's delighted she can remember. She can remember that person. So I said, oh, it's incredible. I said, here's the problem. I've just been in an accident and I hit my head, and I know that the alphabet has 26 letters in it. She's an English teacher, by the way. I said, I know the alphabet has 26 letters in it, but for the life of me, I can only figure out 25. So if I can run- bother you. If I run through the alphabet, would you mind terribly to tell me which letter I've missed? So I start going, A-B-C. When I get to J, she says, do you mean to say you've forgotten the alphabet? And so we find that the most hilarious thing, and I can't control myself anymore. So I then blurted that the doctor was coming, and so I had to hang up. But that was my funny teacher crank phone call as an adult story.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:31

What does your mother think of your voiceover career? Because I know she's heard you on TV, because I know she likes to watch the hockey and she likes to watch football. And you've got that Burger King ad that's running across Canada ad nauseam during the sports shows.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:36:46

Honestly, Matt, I don't think she's really phased by it. It never made any sense. She kind of gets it now, but it's a different planet. In her mind, I build hotels. It all gets kind of murky. I don't just build hotels. I do big real estate projects and manage them, less so hotels even. But for her, all that voiceover stuff is just kind of a blur. Like when I say I'm doing an on-cam commercial and you may see me. I think she saw me on the Salon Pause commercial. I played a pharmacist or a doctor. I forgot what it was meant to be, but I just talked about the product, which is a good product. I use it for my back. So nonetheless, I got away with being perceived as a doctor. But I think she saw that, but it didn't compute. None of this computes. Like, I don't get what you do.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:37:30

Well, that's the same with my mum. And they're related, so it all makes sense, really, right?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:37:35

The only thing that will sound impressive is if I say I'm going to my investment office downtown and that's where I work. That's the only language that makes sense. But I don't have that. Nor do I do that.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:37:47

Where's your studio located?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:37:49

This studio is just north of Montreal in Laval. This one is pretty well equipped. So this is Neumann Sennheiser 416. Focal speakers. This is part of the investment. So kind of going back to breaking into the business is, what is the best business? I started with an Audio Technica 4040. I was next to a HVAC room where I could see the sound of the fan on Pro Tools, but I couldn't hear it because the human ear doesn't pick up those frequencies. But your microphone does. And so, changing the equipment, I had a Summit Preamp, which was really excellent at the time. And I went to Economic, downtown Montreal, and I said, what is a good microphone cost? And I said, that Neumann TLM 103. I said, how much is that? He said, that's 1000, 1100, 1200 bucks. And I said, well, that's expensive. And he said, no, that's not expensive. That's a starter microphone. I said, really? What's an insane one cost? They said, well, they can run up to $5,000. I said, $5,000. That's insane. I said, what does Don LaFontaine have? And they said, well, he's got a famous mic. Anyway, so I rented one and I took it back. It's got the preamp, it's got all this. And I said, wow, that sounds good, but it's kind of cumbersome. I said, what's the next one? They said, Well, Neumann U87. So I said, how much is that? 4000. All this equipment, Avalon 737, Neumann U 87, Pro Tools 12.8, Focal twin Be's, probably 18,000. And $20,000 worth of equipment. That all paid for itself in one year.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:20

I think Don Fontaine, it was the Sennheiser 416?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:39:22

It was the Manley, Manley Gold was what he used. So it had a gold plated capsule, like on the filter. And it was a Manley. Sorry. Thank you for prompting me to remember what it was.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:35

And I thought I was being smart by getting up and going to talk on my Sennheiser.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:39:42

Sennheiser seemed to get a pretty good rating, the little Shotgun 416. I don't use it much. Never really. But I thought I'd have it just to say that I had it.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:39:49

It's great to know that you got to a point where you can say, I have it just because I have it and it costs 1500 bucks, but okay, good for you. Jeff, I love you. Tell me about your business. During the pandemic March 2020 hits, a lot of people, especially a lot of voice actors who don't have home studios, really began to panic. What did it mean for your business?


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:40:09

Well, it was a complete stall, like a total stall. A business right across the board, really, the so called day job, but also voiceover prospecting. There just was nobody. And you said it years ago. You said you can tell what the barometer of the economy is by the demand for voiceovers, the number of auditions and all this. And I think you said it by saying that voiceovers are like a weather forecast for the economy. So when people are planning a campaign, they're going to be engaging the talent, as you know, 3, 4, 5, 6 months before a campaign will go to market. So if they're just talking on month zero, that okay, let's start investing. That means they sense the economy is going to be coming back in the next several months. But when the economy comes to a crash which people don't foresee, it's a cold stop, and it's a very long relaunch period. So what did the COVID period mean to me? It meant to take advantage of a retooling period. So a retooling period means, okay, what will new distribution look like? What will the sound have to be? Look at the trends in sound. What will the trends be in two years? And you know what, the answer to all of this, is that it's more of an imperfect sound. If you sound too polished, it's like it's a little bit too old school, like you sound. We don't want that FM announcer sound. You've got to sound like it's conversational. It's a relevant tone to the generations that are targets of the relative campaigns. And so that's what it was. So what did COVID mean to me, was a time to pull back because no matter how hard you prospect, there was no business. So it was a question of retooling, redistribution, rechecking. I let go of one agency because instead of going higher volume at a lower price, I decided to go lower volume at a higher price. So in other words, ratchet up the mix so that I'm not bottom feeding as much because the other agency was just trying to book business. And so I'd spend 3 hours in a studio for $300, less 20% commission. And I said, man, this is just not viable. I'd rather sit retooling my business and making $250 on those terms, driving down and all that. So that's what it is. So it was retooling.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:42:25

Geoff, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast. It's great to see my second cousin again. And it's with immense pride. Every time I hear you on the TV doing Burger King, I just say, "You know that's my cousin Geoff, right?"


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:42:35

Well, there should be four on air so I've got a couple of banquets coming out. I've got the Burger Kings out there. TV show, Cyclone if you're watching a French TV. I'm in a hot tub with Veronique Cloutier. I was going to share that link until I saw myself turn sideways exiting the hot tub and I repulsed myself by my stomach, that seemed to be distended when I walked out. I'm body shaming myself. So I didn't share that on social media, but in case you need to see other evidence of your second cousin I'll send you some private images. Matt, congratulations on your success as well, and if we lived closer then we could share more intimate times and other stories and crank phone calls and imitations. But we'll save that for the next time.


Matt Cundill (Host) 00:42:35

Geoff I hope to see you at VO North.


Geoff Allan (Guest) 00:42:35

Yes, we'll be there. I'll have a small table signing autographs for those who choose to show up at that table.


Tara Sands (VO) 00:43:27

The Sound Off Podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the Soundoff Media Company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.


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