eLearning Guild

Why Leaving the Foam Booth is Worthwhile

As a full-time, working mom, working from home is a major perk. I realize often how lucky I am to have my home studio. Whether it’s a day where I can accommodate multiple client sessions and run to m kids’ school to watch a special presentation, or a day when I am feeling exhausted and want to stay in yoga pants and no one knows the difference, working from home is a pretty sweet gig. But I will also be the first to say that in order to be a successful solopreneur, I need to leave to comforts of the home office that I have worked so hard to build in order to broaden my professional network.  I have made amazing connections in both expected and unexpected places because I made the effort to leave the booth!

Connections in expected places

I have blogged in the past about my conference adventures. From voice conferences like WoVo Con and VO Atlanta, to eLearning conferences like DevLearn, I have made very important connections at these conferences. At voice over conferences, I have met

Wonderful industry friends at WoVo Con, a night out with Uncle Roy in China Town the weekend of Sovas, an eLearning Guild conference in Orlando, and the WWRS in Burbank!

industry friends in person that I otherwise only know online from facebook or instagram. The bonds that form are amazing and so meaningful. These folks have become my daily support, my confidants, and my work family. These are the people I trust and confide in. The relationships would never be the same if we were not together in person. We also often refer business to each other, and again, we would not trust each other to share clients if we did not know each other so well, the way you do when you actually spend time together.

I have traveled pretty far for eLearning conferences like DevLearn and other eLearning guild conferences too. These conferences are different because you are putting yourself face to face with the companies who might need your services. Some of my most regular clients are from the smallest conferences I have gone to! The tricky thing about these conferences is that companies often send their sales team, and these are not people who cast voice talent, so as a voice over actor, you have to learn how to access the people that you can work with. You also have to learn the difference between the people who create content and the LMS providers, as they never need our services. It is also important to note that simply meeting these people at a conference and exchanging pleasantries in know way guarantees the connection. Instead, it takes months if not years of consistent follow up to build a rapport and maintain the connection that began at the conference.

Connections in Unexpected Places

I have also made wonderful connections for my business when I was not “on” or in “networking mode.” Once, at an ATD conference in Atlanta, I was totally exhausted. I did not know how I would get through the day in the massive venue with so many booths left to walk through in the expo center. I decided I needed a snack break. I had to take the escalator up four flights, which

This is what the first glimpse looked like. It was an enormous expo and several days there was both a great opportunity and exhausting all at once!

felt like an eternity, and I began chatting with a really nice lady from Boston who is now a client. She also needed a break and like me was desperate for a bottle of water, and being in that snack stand at that moment, seemed meant to be. We chatted and chatted and this instructional designer started venting about talents she had used in the past that had not worked out. The conversation flowed, and the opportunity was natural.  Sometimes it is these genuine, real chats that make the most impact and help people get to know you and then if there is a professional synergy it is that much better!

Recently, I was at the AI conference at NJIT in Newark. To be honest, even though I was only about four miles from my house, I was petrified to be in such a tough part of town and I was seriously questioning the logic in having a potentially great conference at such a venue. Well, there was another young man and woman who also had to walk from the parking garage to the main building around the same time. We just started walking together. I was relieved and started venting immediately. It turns out this woman was a talent agent from Denver and we had so much in common! That first chat has led to multiple phone calls. I am now on their talent roster for voiceover, promotional modeling, and on-camera work:

Laura

So, like my experience at ATD years ago, this wonderful connection came from a genuine, heart-felt conversation and there also happened to be true professional synergy. I did not start out trying to market myself, I just sought out human connection. This is why leaving the booth is so essential!

Time to Pack the Roll-y Bag

After three days in Atlanta I was on the airport shuttle back to the airport. In truth I had never gone very far. I spent the entire time at an airport hotel, for VO Atlanta, one of the biggest voiceover conferences of the year. First, it should be noted that I get terribly car sick and was dreading this shuttle ride. On the shuttle I immediately noticed a gal that looked really familiar but I had not actually gotten to spend time with at the conference. It was the one and only Shelley Avellino. We spent the entire time on the shuttle chatting away. They after clearing security we had lunch before I flew back to NYC and Shelley was off to Vegas. You see, that’s how voiceover is, we treat each other like family. Shelley and I now have weekly chats and I don’t know what I ‘d do without her. That is the magic of these conferences.

One of the biggest reasons that I was confident enough to pursue voiceover years ago was that I did not want to leave my children, Emma and Jack, and commute to New York. I wanted to work from home. So, it seems quite ironic that last year I went away six times to various conferences. Six. S-I-X. I packed my black Tumi bag, and off I went. In truth I feel terrible when my car picks me up for the airport, as if I am leaving my right arm behind. So why do I do it, and so often?  Sometimes it’s necessary to leave the foam booth both to meet clients and for professional development opportunities.

ELearning Conferences

As a professional eLearning narrator, I have made some wonderful connections and ultimately gotten great clients from attending conferences including ATD and eLearning Guild conferences. I have had an opportunity to narrate training modules for some of the best known brands, including Ace Hardware, PSE&G, and Walmart to name a few, all based on connections made at conferences. I have met independent instructional designers and large content providers, but I think leaving the comfort of my padded foam booth and making a face to face connection makes all the difference. Whether I am in Orlando or San Diego, the location is irrelevant. I show up at these conferences to listen to what potential clients’ needs are, so that I can better understand what they are looking for in a professional narrator. I also come so that I can introduce myself in person and let them know why I am different than my peers and how my broadcast ready studio sets me apart. The next conference I will attend is Dev Learn in Las Vegas in October, 2018. If you’ll be there let me know!

Radio Summits

Radio Imaging is another big piece of my professional voiceover business. I have a passion for it and am the female voice of multiple Top 40/AC, Classic Hits/CHR, and Christian Top 40 (REL) stations. From sweepers to station promos, this is a genre that I love from format to format. When my mentor Randy Thomas suggested that I fly out to Los Angles last May for the World Wide Radio Summit at the W Hotel in Hollywood, I was one of about 50 voiceover actors who was there. Not only did I meet top radio industry professionals and talent agents, I learned so much about the inner workings of radio both from attending the sessions and from talking to other attendees.  I was actually amazed by both how many people I met and how much I learned in just a few days. As a professional voiceover actor who does a lot of radio imaging, this conference was well worth the cross country flight.

Professional Voiceover Conferences

I have had the opportunity to attend multiple voiceover conferences. Not only have I learned so much that has helped me stay current in my industry, but I have had the opportunity to connect with folks from around the world that I otherwise only know online. I am going to go point by point about what I love on this, but I could right multiple blogs about each conference below, so this is just a very brief summary:

  • WoVo Con: Located in Las Vegas, I attended as a professional talent, but now non pros can attend as well. I loved the seminars that were offered! I did not attend any master classes but the practical skills that I learned I use every day. I also liked the size of the sessions and felt that it was comfortable enough that I could absorb everything.
  • VO Revolution: In Kankakee, IL. One piece of advice- fly into Midway!! I loved the small intimate setting. I learned so much about marketing and was very inspired. It was a great setting to share ideas and ask questions. This is a great conference for folks starting out or for folks who need a business jumpstart.
  • VO Mastery: In Studio City, CA. This workshops stands out because of the amazing amount of master classes with top industry professionals and the level of access talents have to interact with them throughout the conference. The panels were also outstanding.
  • VO Atlanta: In Atlanta, GA. Last, but certainly not least, VO Atlanta is the biggest VO conference of the year. Voiceover professionals come from around the world to attend this conference. I think I enjoy this so much because it is a great opportunity to connect with other talents. So many themes in voiceover are covered that you could focus on what ever topic you are trying to improve on and attend panels and master classes in that field. From voiceover technique to business tools, everything is covered at this conference.

 

The Other Perks….

So, I love meeting clients in person. I also love meeting other voiceover professionals. But the truth us, I have also gotten to go to some beautiful and fun places when going to these conferences. Last year I was in San Diego for an eLearning conference. If you have never been to San Diego, it is really beautiful. I was also in Las Vegas and had a special evening out with friends from Europe and from the West Coast. We ate at a truly decadent restaurant with an incredible view atop the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. 

In April I attended another conference in Orlando. I had lunch with other voiceover talents and stayed at an amazing hotel with a lazy river! While I am highly motivated to grow and maintain client relationships, and stay on the forefront of the voiceover industry, I confess the travel perks ain’t half bad either!