Elearning

The Changing Face of Learning

Do you ever spend time around young people? As the parent of teenage twins, I can tell you that they learn and absorb information and academic content VERY differently than I did. I loved going to libraries and digging through stacks. At their age I remember researching on micro film and micro fiche. Everything I read was tactile and had different textures and weight to it but was some kind of paper or scanned version of a paper.

Today, I see my children sprawled across their bed surrounded by multiple devices. They read a lot but they only read books when a teacher gives them an actual book. Instead they read on many devices, seemingly at once. They will have their phone out, their computer out, and an iPad out, and they will be working on multiple screens getting input from all of them. To say that I am both baffled and simultaneously concerned about them getting cancer from all of the electronics is one thing, but the point is, as someone who deals with eLearning content all of the time, that this generation absorbs content differently than Gen-Xers.

As a full-time professional voice over actor who narrates eLearning modules on a regular basis, I am connected with a lot of content creators on LinkedIn and I follow a lot of them on Instagram. I saw this fantastic graphic posted by the instructionaldesignlady pictured here. This graphic fascinates me as I work with content for all platforms, but more and more content is going from mobile learning to Ubiqitious learning, so let’s tear into this a bit.

The Shift From Traditional Learning

Once upon a time, companies used to have to gather all of their employees in one spot to train them. If millennials and xenials don’t like interacting with actual paper, imagine how their heads would explode if they had to do back in they day traditional corporate training, or even get on a plane and fly somewhere to be trained, which used to happen, often!  HR departments began to realize that they could hire folks like me to narrate their training modules, and this training had a great value, because now days of work did not have to stop and large groups of people did not have to be moved to one location to get this training done. I still am hired to do plenty of traditional eLearning on a fixed computer or network, it still happens a lot, and there is still a lot of very creative training like this.

M-Learning Emerged

A few years ago I started to notice a big shift to mobile learning. I attended an eLearning Guild conference in San Diego in June of 2017 and the entire focus of the conference was on everything mobile! Now companies could train the employees anywhere, anytime, and why not have fun in the process. Gamification became a big buzzword. At that point, we went from just being narrators as voiceover actors, to really giving the content creators and instructional designers the characters for the roles that they needed. 

U-Learning is the New Rage

So what is the trend now? As the instructionaldesignlady says, “Ubiquitous learning is the highest form of learning that occurs in a variety of learning environments using a variety of digital learning tools. It’s learning interactions that happen anytime anywhere. This is why perpetual learning is the new normal.” So when she talks about perpetual learning, she is talking about my kids with their multiple stimuli, and at the same time the fact that these devises are glued to them, it can happen any time, any where.

From an employers perspective, if you were trying to reach out to your young, blossoming work force and mold them, now instead of having limited time and boundaries, there are no boundaries in this environment and the possibilities are infinite. If U-Learning transcends the boundaries of eLearning, than the only barriers are imagination and budget.

What are the implications of this?

If we’re connecting the dots, this means that there is a lot more training work and specifically U-Learning work for us to create and brand! There will be plenty to be voiced and narrated, and instructional designers will be busy as can be, because as the landscape changes, the need is only increasing significantly. Further, as the technology improves by leaps and bounds, companies want to have the cutting edge training with the most innovative tech for their teams. I watch with awe as  see the LMS improve, I see more talent in design, so as the overall creative space is improving, there is more and more room for all of is to collaborate and create outstanding eLearning and U-Learning.

Learning from the Best

I’ve said before that it takes a lot to get me to pack up and fly across the country, leaving my twins and my dog, but boy- going to a conference like WoVoCon VI in Las Vegas, Nevada this past weekend sure made me feel like the trip was worth it! Voice over

Time with industry friends goes by way too fast!!

actors from all over the world, casting directors, eLearning companies, and more gathered at the Tropicana to support each other to better our craft, learn about technology, discuss business trends, talk about marketing ideas and best practices, and of course bond! If you have ever been to a VO industry event, you know that professional voice over actors tend to be a pretty friendly bunch, and when you have found your people, somehow a long weekend goes by in the blink of an eye and you leave feeling like you just did not have enough time and you wish you did not have to pick and choose from the outstanding sessions! I moved between some of them and still did not get to everyone. I got to the airport to return home with mixed feelings of joy over what I had accomplished and a long list of people I never got to connect with. But let’s focus instead on the big take aways:

Philosophical Truths

A lot of what I heard resonated with me, but as I sat next to fellow New Jersey voice talent and all around renaissance man Brad Newman, and I soaked in his presentation, I was in awe of his genius. A lot of what Brad said made an impact on me, but when he talked about recurring work bells and whistles went off in my head. One of my big goals for 2019 has been to do more campaigns and fewer one-offs, so I was on the edge of my seat. Brad talked about how in business when preparing to meet a company or when prepping for an interview, you would do your research, learn about their business model and their goals to try to meet their needs as well as you can. He talked about all that we do to understand the end client, so why on earth would we do all of that to only ever work with them one time? Right? I could have jumped of my seat and spent hours discussing just this one aspect of Brad’s presentation, because this really hit home for me.

It is so important to me to do my very best for clients. I understand that they have unique needs and that every job is different, but I am so excited to build lasting and meaningful relationships and to really get to know what is most helpful to them!

Efficiency/Software Tips

In voiceover, we all know we are only as good as we sound. The software often changes and as there are upgrades to our computers, often the DAW we use changes. I work on Twisted Wave 90% of the time. I sat in on a session on Twisted Wave, and then that session led to side chats where I learned so much that will help me better serve my clients! So, I learned a much more efficient way of splitting files. I already split files by markers. Before this weekend, I would manually type in the names of each file, which could be quite time consuming. Well, now I have learned how to use the markers window and to cut and paste from either a word document or an excel spread sheet. See the video here for a demonstration of what I learned in my session with the great Jim Edgar who can be found at JustAskJimVO.studio/JimEdgarvoices.com:

I was also chatting about this and I learned a great cut and paste trick from Dan Lenard. He showed me how to create uniform space cushions at the beginning and end of each slide! If I were the client, I would love if each cushion were the same length.

Pushing Through

I have blogged before about being a migraine sufferer. I happened to have had a pretty bad headache on the Saturday of this conference. It would not go away. I had to miss some sessions I really wanted to see in the morning. I eventually went down to participate, even though I did not feel 100%. To be honest I did not even feel 30%,  and if I were home I would have stayed in all day. But I flew across the country for so many reasons, and none of them included a day of napping. It was not easy for me, but the biggest challenge, bot physically and mentally, was getting through Everrett Oliver’s session. If you have never coached with Everett, he is truly outstanding. He pushes in all the right ways. He makes you go places you would rather not but as an outstanding booth director he gets it out of you. I LOVE working with Everett. And in truth, as a working professional, when booked work comes in, I have to record, so this was a good exercise. I am not shy but I am much more comfortable in front of my own mic than in a room full of people, even if those people are my tribe. I loved every minute. LOVED. I am glad I participated. I hope to work with this amazing coach again soon.

Final thoughts….

Once you start naming names it gets dangerous…So many wonderful people I love were all there. It filled my heart and made me happy. I wish I lived closer to you all. I am so thankful to work in this industry. I hear music in my head when I think of you. Until the next time, my friends. Thank you. Sending lots of big hugs!!!!

Five Years of Passion

As a working mom, I have talked about how working as a full time, professional voice over actor suits me in countless ways. It seems like yesterday I was sitting at my kitchen island and I was watching a GVAA webinar on eLearning. J. Michael Collins, who I think I have mentioned a lot recently, was presenting the outstanding webinar. Everything he talked about resonated with me. It was not just the rates for eLearning that were appealing, it was that I had come to the voice over from the academic world, so for me I felt an instant connection to an industry that I did not know existed!

I decided during that webinar that I would to an eLearning demo with JMC and I can tell you that demo has paid for itself in

Me with talented coach and demo producer J. Michael Collins.

spades. While I have had many conversations with industry friends about how processed eLearning demos should be, and a lot of folks are confident that there should be little production, I am very pleased with my demo for several reasons. First, it showcases my range from warm, millennial to professional, confident, and knowledgeable traitor and will work across the genres of eLearning. Next, I think my personality shines through. Lastly, it is pleasant to listen to! As most of my booked work is proprietary content and cannot be shared on my website, it is really great to have something that I am happy to share!

I have focussed on building and maintaining solid client relationships in the many years that I have been doing eLearning. While I have been full-time in voiceover for five years, I have really developed the eLearning strand of my business since 2016. Some of my best clients, that I continue to do steady work for, I met face to face at conferences like ATD, Dev Learn, and smaller conferences put on by the eLearning Guild.  I also have worked with some wonderful clients that I connected with on LinkedIn. Regardless of the source of the business relationship, my approach s the same, I treat each client as if they are my most important client and all of my

Finding the right conference to meet your business goals can be tricky! I have a lot of success at the smaller conference. There may seem to be a lot of potential at large conferences like ATD and DevLearn, but it is often easier to find content creators at the smaller conferences.

success depends on them. The result has been great, and as a consequence recent eLearning clients include Walmart, PSEG, Ace Hardware, Victoria’s Secret, Sam’s Club, CosmoProf, Sally Beauty, Club Pilates, and more!

More Casting Trends!

So with all of this eLearning work, what trends have I noticed? A lot of clients are writing the scripts for “real” characters with specific voice and tone requests. These are not typical narrators. I am not Suzie from HR, I am playing a role in a scene. as a voice ACTOR, this is actually great fun for me! For example, in a recent project of Sally Beauty, they wanted to voice to be

With an eLearning client Alicia that I get to catch up with at conferences!

conversational, fun, and upbeat! It was no problem, the script was a joy! Last week I was doing a training module for Ace Hardware. I have been doing their work for a while, but this was very different. They really had a specific character in mind. Before recording the entire module, I sent three samples for approval to make sure we were on the same page and that my interpretation matched their vision. I had so much fun putting these samples together. I think that as the technology continues to improve, the content creators will push voiceover actors even further in our roles.

Rates are HIGHER

As a working mom, I am pleased that as the demand for solid voiceover for eLearning increases, the rates that voice actors are paid is also increasing. It is increasing in two ways. First, session fees continue to rise. While I have old clients that still are grandfathered in at their original rate, new clients book at the appropriate industry standard rates. Jobs are typically quoted per finished minute or per word, and there has been a huge jump. When I first started doing eLearning, I was happy to have a minimum session plus $18 per finished minute. Now I quote my session fee plus $35 per finished minute of audio. Frankly, because of the intrinsic value of the content we are providing these clients, I think these rates are right where they should be for corporate clients doing training. 

My Goals

I love doing eLearning projects. Any project is welcomed and makes me happy. As a true Jersey girl who spends a lot of time in my salon getting my hair and nails done, I was thrilled to do so much work for CosmoProf and hope more work in the cosmetic industry comes in. I also love travel, food, and dogs, so if the universe and voiceover gods shine down on me and send me work related to my passions I will be delighted!

When a Solopreneur is Part of a Team

with Shelley and Jack at Devlearn

I did it. I flew across the country to Las Vegas and arrived at Dev Learn, the biggest eLearning conference of the year that the eLearning Guild runs. Any working mom knows that packing one’s bags, getting organized, and getting out always seems like an amazing feet. I even had my hair done. As a professional voiceover actor, a good percentage of my work load is narrating elearning modules, so going to an event like this just makes good business sense for me.

The morning of the conference arrived and with my super cute wheely bag in tow I arrived at the Mirage conference center. Even though I have my own business and run my own broadcast ready recording studio, this morning I was not alone. Before even entering the conference, I met up with other experienced voiceover professionals Shelley Avellino and Jack de Golia. We met for coffee and registered. We spent some time perusing the listings of attendees and discussing who might be good to connect with. I also scanned the list to find my current clients so I’d be able to check in with them. Imagine, we were there to support one another and I walked into the packed expo knowing that there were others there who had my back.

Voiceover is a unique industry. There I was at Dev Learn with the goal of reconnecting with current clients and picking up new ones. The other voice talents there had the same goal. While in other industries we might view eachother as competition, in voiceover, with these folks, we worked together. We supported eachother. We met for lunch and compared notes and swapped contact information. It was extremely helpful. I am not sure which other industries do that. Feeling part of this team was fantastic and was part of the magic of DevLearn.

Staying Current 

With eLearning industry professionals from all over the world, DevLearn provides a wonderful opportunity to stay on top of current trends in an ever-evolving industry. I spoke to professionals from as far as Australia and Russia. While many of these folks were LMS providers and do not work directly with professional narrators like me, hearing about their platforms is essential to understand what the content creators I work with are using.

I also was able to meet a lot of folks who do work in content creation. From mobile learning to gamification, there was so much to see at the amazing Demo Fest. I was also over joyed to reconnect with current clients from around the country. It is really special to see people that I work with regularly in person.

Connecting with Other Working Moms

While it is great to find people who need professionals to narrate their eLearning, in truth it is even better to find universal connections and just have great conversations. I found that I could talk endlessly with a lot of different people at the conference and only had to move on when someone else clearly needed them. I found it particularly easy at the expo to connect with other working moms. This happened over and over again. Whether we had human children or dogs, we were exchanged photos and talking about our loves at home, and the lengthy chats had evolved well beyond the world of eLearning. We talked about everything under the sun from safety to dog treats to our hours. These are the conversations that meant so much to me as I was making real connections and actually getting to know people.

In the middle of the conference a client invited me to a sushi dinner at the Mirage sponsored by Vyond, formerly known as Go Animate. At this dinner, I found myself sitting at a table of women all in instructional design, all working moms. These women were amazing. They were bright and innovative. We were all from different places: Toronto, New York, California, Tennessee, and Michigan. Despite different climates and different backgrounds, we were of similar ages and we were all working moms. We all somehow managed to get all the way to Las Vegas for DevLearn.

Our conversation moved from light banter to some pretty deep topics. We covered faith, skimmed politics, and touched on issues relevant to client relationships. Being surrounded by intelligent, sophisticated women, this table at the Vyond dinner was a microcosm of the DevLearn conference. We represented what is possible in the industry when folks come together and exchange ideas. It wasn’t all pats on the bag, we challenged and questioned each other too. It is, after all, only from this kind of honest banter that real change and genuine creativity can flourish. And I believe that we were there, in this self-created circle, where we somehow felt safe enough to be open with these other people what we were only just getting to know.

The Sum of it All

So when we think about where our training comes from, and when we think about who creates the content for major companies, I am proud to say that I have met the curators of this content and that I am part of this process. The magic of DevLearn is vast, but for sure as a creative it is a joy to be a part of this process.

Professional Voice Actress - Laura Schriber

Last year I made the bold and previously unprecedented move to fly to Atlanta for the annual ATD conference. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Anyone attending, literally anyone, was a potential client for me. Besides the enormous marketing potential that the conference venue gave me, I knew that I would also have an opportunity to learn so much about an industry that I already was extremely passionate about. I arrived at the Atlanta Conference center via shuttle on the first day of the expo and as I descended down what seemed to be endless levels of escalators to reach the expo level, my enthusiasm and anticipation grew. With my bag of information about my professional voiceover business  and swag for potential clients in tow, I was ready. On the way down, I stopped to get a bottle of water. I began chatting with a women who was also attending for the first time. She was also stopping to get a bottle of water. Over our shared thirst, both for eLearning and for water, we realized we had so much in common. As it turned out, my warm, professional sound was exactly what her company needed for their training modules and my water buddy has become a longtime client. Put simply, I am the solution that they need- the comforting, warm, relatable professional voice for an elearning narrator who is pleasant to listen to AND delivers my finished audio promptly.

A Relatable Narrator

First, my meeting was so fortuitous because I had the professional, corporate sound this new client sought in an eLearning narrator. My voice gave a vibe that was both warm and relatable. As a professional voiceover actor, sounding geniune is essential in all genres and especially in eLearning work. When I have the opportunity to meet a client and speak with them person to person, and they realize that the same warmth carries through when I narrate their eLearning modules, I am able to deliver a unique and desirable finished product that appeals to their employees. Why does it matter if I sound warm and not just sophisticated and savvy? They actually need the content to be listened to. Evert word. All the way. So I can sound like the ivy league graduate that I am, or I can sound like the hip millennial that you are happy grabbed the seat next to you at the conference table. The latter always wins out.

Next, as I narrate eLearning work, even though the modules I am given are often very straight forward corporate policies, I am ALWAYS playing a role or character. I learned this technique early on in my training. I decide who my client needs me to be, whether it is Susie in Human Resources or Kim in IT, and then I flesh out my character even further. What is their story? Once I decide who I am playing, I commit to the scene and you can hear it in my voice. As a professional voiceover actor, this technique absolutely makes me a stronger eLearning narrator.

It’s the Teacher in Me…

Lastly, as a former teacher, when I am with people in eLearning I fit in seamlessly. Whether I am talking to an Instructional Designer or an LMS creator, as an eLearning narrator I love the eLearning and Training community. I often say that I have found my people, and perhaps because I identify with them so easily, finding my voice in this crowd happened quite naturally. When doing what you love to do, and what you are passionate about, it is much easier to break down a task, analyze it, and deliver.

Keep Em’ Listening!

Companies hire professional voiceover actors like me to narrate their eLearning modules because these modules have an intrinsic value, the companies spend so much on the technology, and ultimately they want the voice to sound fantastic too. The voice can make or break the entire project.

Friends and family often ask me about my work. Sometimes they do not even know what eLearning is and I have to explain it. Sometimes they do. Recently we had dinner with a good friend of mine who is a Vice President at a major pharmaceutical company. When I told her about some of my recent projects, she said “oh- you’re the training that I play in my car and I skip right though?” Well, my answer is that if they cast my voice and the listener is connecting, then- no! With the right voice to draw in the intended audience, content should not ever be skipped. By using a warm, professional, connected voice as the eLearning narrator, clients should be delighted upon final delivery and employees should connect to the eLearning with ease.