LMS

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!

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.