Why Voiceover Actors Need to Know How to Communicate Across Generations

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Four people meet at a restaurant for lunch. Samuel is 71, Alice is 50, Brad is 36, and Zoe is 20. A sign at the door reads, “Please wait to be seated.” Samuel says he sees an open table and walks over to claim it while Alice waits patiently. Brad checks his social media and Zoe says she already reserved a table through the restaurant’s app. Although they all share a common goal, each one deals with the situation in their own way. Their generational way.

Why is it important to understand these generational views? Because we all have to work together and the generation gap can affect our daily decisions and interactions. Millennials are hiring baby boomers. Generation Z is training Generation X and so on. In your voiceover career, you’ll be working with people from every generation and understanding these views will help you better interact with others. The following are generalizations, but I want to help paint a picture so you know what you might encounter when working with different generations.

Baby boomers (born 1944–1964) like Samuel are hard-working, generous, and respectful. They’re used to taking charge and enjoy feedback and constructive criticism. They’ve slowly adapted to today’s digital world but might consider it distracting or even rude to use a cell phone or tablet during an in-person meeting. Millennials and Generation Z, however, think that using technology is an absolute necessity. Since Samuel’s generation is made up of rule makers and self-starters, he chose to take initiative and grab an open table.

Alice belongs to Generation X (born 1965–1979). They’re more cynical and have an attitude of work to live, instead of living to work, and are sometimes known as the “me” generation. GenXers grew up with technology. For this generation, working with you feels much better than working for you. They always want to have a voice in how things are done and are quick to take charge of any project, even if it is beyond their scope. They are also rule-followers so in the above scenario, Alice chose to follow the directions on the sign.

Generation Y or Millennialss (born 1980-1994) like Brad are global-centric. They’re optimistic, goal-oriented enthusiastic workers, and team focused. They grew up with the internet and enjoy getting constant, consistent feedback on their work. It’s very important for them to be in constant contact via social media and technology. Brad couldn’t be bothered with where to sit because the others were handling the situation. That freed up time to catch up on social media.

Zoe is from Generation Z (born 1996-2015), also known as the “I” generation. This internet- savvy group grew up with a cell phone or tablet in hand. They can typically process information faster than other generations and easily multitask. They can watch a YouTube video on their tablet, take notes on their laptop, and look up an article on their phone all at the same time. They have shorter attention spans because their online world is constantly updated and they prefer to work independently versus on a team. Since Zoe is a child of all things technology, she used her cell phone to reserve a table during the ride to the restaurant.

READ: Voiceover Training 101

So, with this knowledge in hand, how can you successfully work with different generations throughout your voiceover career?

1. Be patient.
Baby boomers particularly require patience when it comes to technology. They can work with it, but they have a steeper learning curve because they didn’t grow up with it. It seems there’s always some new piece of technology coming out before they can learn the last thing from the week before.

Sometimes you’ll need to be willing to conform to their way of thinking, learning, and moving through life. Maybe a face-to-face meeting wouldn’t be so bad after all? Or, maybe it’s time for them to learn how to use Zoom. Either way, be patient with and educate each other.

Be real.
No matter what generation you’re working with, be sure to keep things real, upfront, and honest. Always tell it like it is. Give feedback in a straightforward manner, but make sure that it’s useful feedback. If you come to the table with a problem, try to provide a viable solution. Be thoughtful, respectful, and to the point, and you’ll get along just fine. Keep in mind that everyone processes information in their own way. And remember that although Generation Z may be multitasking, they’re still hearing you.

3. Be connected.
Every generation has its own ideas about how to communicate, but it’s important to recognize how differently we all achieve this goal. A baby boomer may not text you back directly when they think a phone call will be faster and more efficient. Technology moves fast, so don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with each other and try different ways of staying connected as individuals and teams. Change isn’t bad. It just takes a minute to keep up with!

Understanding how each generation learns, thinks, works, and moves through life might shed some light on your next communication at work. Remember, everyone wants to be accepted. Everyone wants to do a good job and get along with each other. And every generation likes to be recognized for a job well done.

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Rhonda Phillips
Rhonda is a voice actor, coach, and creator of the online course Introduction To Voiceover.
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