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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dottie Janson: The Woman with the Girl Next Door Voice

Photos and article by Connie Springer

“I definitely have an inner ham,” confesses Oakley resident Dottie Janson, who left the corporate world after several decades to become a voice actor and improv comedian. 

Voice actors are unseen narrators who interpret and articulate someone else’s words. The range of work possibilities for this profession is far-reaching, with voice actors used in films, documentaries, trailers, TV programs, commercials, radio or audio dramas, video games, audiobooks, awards shows, phone messages, announcements, GPS, promos, corporate narration, museum tours and exhibits, e-learning and training, and podcasts - and the list goes on.

Janson got into voice acting on a whim. She had moved to Cincinnati after graduating from Purdue University in 1983 to work in I.T. for Procter & Gamble. After a long career, she was outsourced to IBM and, while still working, in 2007 enrolled in a 2-hour Communiversity class in voice acting given by Voices for All, a New York-based educational group.

Working in her soundproof studio space
Unexpectedly, she soon was contacted by Voices for All, urging her to take a master’s class and praising her for her “believable and trustworthy-sounding voice.” Feeling she needed a pursuit to have lined up for retirement, Janson signed up.  Three months after she took the class, she was laid off from IBM.

Continuing to work consulting jobs, she used her severance money to establish her voice acting business. 

“There was a huge learning curve in figuring out how to manage a voice acting business,” Janson says. She worked hard at improving her voice acting skills, building a studio, creating a website, and networking for jobs. Fortunately, Voices for All gave detailed plans for every step, including telling her what setup and software she needed for her home studio and giving her tips on industry trends and marketing. 

By 2010 she opened up her business, Conversational Voiceovers ( Her first opportunity in voice acting came when Dr. Eric Eiselt from the Mt. Lookout Chiropractic & Sports Injury Center hired her to voice the telephone message for on-hold callers. The chiropractic practice is still a regular client. Soon after her first job, she got work for a radio station and then for a home care business doing training video narration.

Janson describes her voice as appealing and natural, that of “the girl next door,” augmented by her top-notch pronunciation and articulation. Janson’s gigs have included perinatal and neonatal e-learning narration for a nursing association, commercials (Drees Homes, Infiniti of Chattanooga, LasikPlus, and Cincinnati Regional Tourism Network, to name a few), telephony and explanatory videos.

A voice actor must figure out her/his best niche. Recognizing her exceptional cold reading and comprehension skills, halfway through working as a voice actor she decided that e-learning (online courses) and corporation narration (such as on YouTube or explaining the use of a product on a company website) were right for her. She likes doing commercials when directed by another person and is currently marketing herself for museum narration. 

Presentation in voice acting is paramount. The actor does not read but instead “says” the words to come across as knowledgeable in the subject. The voice actor has to parse the words of a sentence for maximum comprehension by the listener. To this aim, Janson does a quick read first to interpret the script and to figure out where the pauses in a sentence go. She highlights technical words and looks them up to understand their definitions, important in imparting the information.  Next she narrates the script and edits the file down to the completed narration. This preparation translates to about six hours of work for 25 minutes of final product.

Dottie Janson in her Oakley home — “the woman with the girl next door voice.”
She also must practice breath control in her reading, a skill which she hones by reading out loud for 30 to 60 minutes a day. 

One of her pastimes for the past five years has been doing improv as part of the ComedySportz Troupe that performs most Friday nights at Memorial Hall. ComedySportz is as it sounds: comedy played as a sport, even to the extent of wearing a uniform. Two teams battle it out for audience laughs and points while doing improv scenes based on audience suggestions. 

Janson participates in various improv retreats and festivals and finds that doing improv helps her improve her “character chops” for voice acting, perfecting various voices and accents to expand her repertoire. 

Another of Janson’s talents is figure skating for fun and competition, an activity she has enjoyed since her mid-20s. She practices at least an hour a week and competes in U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships, where she has won medals. Her frequent skating in front of judges and audiences has quelled any stage fright she might initially have had.

Although voice acting is a solitary job, Janson connects with fellow voice actors via Facebook groups and “Work Out Wednesdays,” an audio Skype get-together in which participants take turns directing others on a script. She also takes online classes over Skype given by a full-time Los Angeles voice actor.

With her entire family living in Indianapolis, Janson is torn between her family in Indiana and her friends here, but she says she thoroughly enjoys Cincinnati, a city that is not too hectic and that offers all kinds of things to do without the hassles of a big city.

Janson has advice for those starting out in voice acting. “Begin with getting training. Take a class, find a coach, know your skills and build on them so you can be secure in what you have to offer,” she suggests. “There are too many choices in this business – you must narrow down your niche.”

Dottie works at her computer to edit the narration.

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