narrator

An Opportunity for Jack

I’ll start out by saying that neither of my twins dream of becoming full time voice over actors like me. And though they do not share my dream, they support me in every way possible and are actually part of my small business team in integral ways this summer. In the past few weeks, one of my VO besties reached out and said that one of her regular clients needed 14-16 year old voices to do some eLearning narration, and my twins happen to be 16. So, they submitted demo reads. Again, it is not their life’s ambition, but in the summer of Covid-19 they realize that this is a great opportunity to learn and to do something that most kids never get a chance to do.

A script came in for Jack first. He was delighted. He booked his first paying eLearning voiceover gig, and he just needed a little coaching. I will point out a few things. Anyone who works in voice over knows that it is not really about the voice, although I happen to think he has a really nice one. My twins are both dyslexic. Reading fluently is not an easy thing for them. Jack also lacks the extensive coaching that I had that gave and continues to give me so much confidence every time I step up to the microphone. And that’s another thing, if you have never worked with a coach, you need to learn basic mic technique and basic Twisted Wave skills. I am pleased to say all of this came very naturally for Jack. I think much more than doing the actual voiceover, there are many life skills that kids get from having an opportunity to have a voice over gig.

Following Multi-Step Directions

Following multi-step directions is hard for many adults, and there are very specific directions unique to every voice over job. This booking was for sure an exercise in following multi-step directions for Jack. For Jack’s first booking:

  • He had a pace guide that he had to match.
  • He had a pronunciation guide for Mandarin names.
  • He was told to keep an upbeat, happy tone.

Jack also had a lengthy, four page script to narrate while keeping all this in mind for his first time in front of the mic. It’s a lot of balls to juggle for a seasoned pro, let alone a newbie.

How to Take Feedback

Taking feedback well is something important in many aspects of life, and as a working voice talent, taking feedback in a professional manner is part of the job. After Jack submitted his audio, within 48 hours we received a spreadsheet from the client with minor feedback. Jack had done great work. For four pages of audio, he had only four minor corrections. This is pretty incredible for anyone, and especially considering he is so untrained. I explained to Jack how feedback from client works and how important it is that they have what they need. I also explained that we, as talents, cannot get emotional about it, we simply record and send. As a student who is used to the writing process, this is familiar to him. He was able to go back in the booth and re-record. There was one line that was quite long and needed to be read with more fluidity and different intonation. I gave him direction on the line and instructed him on how to break it down. It sounded great. Learning to take feedback well is a really valuable lesson for kids in voice over.

Interacting Professionally

Maintaining a professional demeanor in the professional world is important. I remember meeting Michelle Sundholm’s sons Ashton and Everett at VO Atlanta in 2018.They were so polite and they were so composed. It is this exact behavior that I am talking about. For Jack, since his interaction was online, it meant several details. First, it meant performing his work in a timely manor. It meant taking pride in his performance and doing his best. It meant sending follow-ups and  hand written thank you notes, both to the client and to the friend who referred the opportunity to him. Jack had to carry himself the way the rest of us do, and he took pride in doing so.

How to Be Part of the Team

Doing all of the above is no small thing, and in doing so Jack took pride in being a part of this client’s team and of being part of the other VO’s team. He understood that they had a choice and that there were other kids who could have booked the gig. He did his best. He was kind and he let them know he was appreciative.

My Reflections

I think it is great that my son got this glimpse of what it is like to be in front of the microphone, to live in my world. As the kids have been working for me doing marketing and social media this summer, doing the actual voice work only helps to better understand what it is they are actually marketing. I also think that the tech skills are great for anyone. Lastly, we are living in an unusual time. Kids had to regroup and reshuffle their summer plans this year. Some people who are pursuing in voiceover audition and audition and never book. It is really great that in this odd time Jack got such an exciting opportunity and he is very thankful.

Why Did I Want to Present

Last fall, which seems like a lifetime ago given how much the world has changed during the current pandemic, I began researching upcoming eLearning conferences. I was actually hoping to find more conferences in my region. As a working mom with high school aged twins, flying across the country can sometimes be a challenge. I was overjoyed when I discovered the  ICELW conference was to be held at Columbia University in the city of New York, my beloved alma mater. I submitted a proposal to speak about “Best Practices to Bring Your eLearning Module To Life” from the perspective that academics and HR people who never thought they would have to work with professional voice actors like me suddenly find themselves in the position to cast and work with voice talents as professional narrators for their eLearning modules and projects. I addressed questions that they should ask every time they have a project, VO tech and why it matters, and pricing for voiceover, including where it should be and what the price indicates. My presentation went nicely and it meant a lot to be a part of the dialogue. I am very excited, however, to share some of the larger takeaways from the more scholarly presentations during the conference as I reflect on how they will shape both my work, my voice over bookings, and client interactions as the eLearning industry continues to progress.

Reimagining Learning

With an international audience and an enthusiastic crowd, there was a lot of discussion at the conference about how the advancing technology would enable content creators to re-imagine learning. David Guralnick from Kaleidoscope Learning and Columbia University talked about opportunities to use “technology to humanize learning” and went on to present a thrilling example combining AI and interactive technology. In this example, the student asked questions about Ancient Greece and the Acropolis and was able to create a scene where he was present in Ancient Greece having his questions answered. Particularly at a moment when students around the world are relying so heavily on on-line learning, this was thrilling and wonderful to see. The advantages of this were how realistic the scenario is and how clear the examples are. Clearly the new technology enables better communication of content. As a narrator, I have been working with more companies that create K-12 content in the last year, and I am sure such technology would be a huge asset to them.

Critical Thinking

As the technology available continues to improve and emerge, teaching and discussing critical thinking becomes more and more essential.  Antonella Poce from Rome Tre University presented about critical thinking and digital learning. This is an issue I discuss with my own children often. Dr. Poce spoke of the importance of discerning true from false. She talked about knowing what questions to ask. My ears lit up when she said this, as a major section of my presentation was dedicated to this as well. My experience in hearing clients’ pain points is that they often did not ask the right questions at the beginning of work and consequently hired the wrong voice over actor. In her session, Dr. Poce spoke of how many tweets during the recent pandemic have been propaganda from bots. She spoke of the importance of being “correctly informed” so that we have time to do deep readings and reflect on what we learn. In that sense, we should use technology, according to Dr. Poce, towards critical and deep thinking. She also spoke of cooperation, collaboration, and creativity. When I think about my role in this creative process, as both an academic who is now a narrator of this content, I think truly understanding the character we are voicing, and the roles we are playing, opens up the opportunity to really help the end user to engage with critical content.

Interactive and New Technologies

There were multiple sessions during the ICELW conference that addressed new technologies like AI, VR, and enhanced/mixed reality. I was riveted by these sessions as well. Someone brought up that when Steve Jobs designed the first iPod, he did not do a focus group, he just knew it would be a better device and he was creating the technology to drive a potential future experience. That is what a lot of the new experiential learning technology does. There is vast potential, the sky is the limit so to speak. Michelle Cortese, a VR Product Designer at Facebook and Professor at NYU gave a thrilling demonstration of work her students are doing. I was fascinated as a former educator, as a parent, and as a working creative. I could not help but see the intersection between technology and improv, something that so many of us in voice over spend so much of our time training in. The social behaviors that occur were fascinating, and unpredictable, and again as a working creative this made me think of improv which is not something that I typically connect to my eLearning work. Although, under further analysis, the point of studying improv, is that we are supposed to bring it with us into the booth so that our reads and takes on characters are fresh and exciting. What I found so fascinating about the sample that Michelle shared is that all of the content in the VR chat was user generated and is in the moment art. It is a vision and content that comes from the user. When so much of the learning content that we work with is contrived, this opens up a world of creative possibilities for end users. Fernando Salvetti also demonstrated work with enhanced/mixed reality and I was riveted. The possibilities that are simple and user friendly are true game changers. Having worked in eLearning for years, being exposed to such projects is eye opening.

The Bottom Line

As in so many projects I am a part of, the bottom line matters. Dr. Tim Brock of the ROI Institute talked about creating  a framework that balances needs and feasibility. The needs need to be defined at the beginning. This resonated with me a lot. Often voiceover is left off of the budget entirely, it’s an after thought. This was another area that I was addressing in my talk, the price of the voice over. When a company is looking at the ROI, the return on investment in the overall project, the voice over, and typically in eLearning we are talking about a narrator, needs to be a part of that calculation, from the start. As the technology continues to progress and is better and better, the voice over needs to be a part of the initial plan, not a lost minute add on. In Dr. Brock’s talk, he spoke of feasibility, and as the technology becomes more and more advanced, having an overall understanding for the get go of the feasibility certainly makes sense!

What Did I Love Most?

The ICELW conference was fantastic. This blog could have been much, much longer and I could have written about each session! I loved the sharing, enthusiastic vibe! I most loved that it was such a scholarly, international crowd. I have attended numerous eLearning conferences around the country and the talks at this conference really resonated with me. I very much look forward to keeping in touch with the others that I “met” and I hope to attend in person next year! Fingers crossed!

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.

The Sought After Sound….

Whether you are on the casting side or another professional voiceover talent yourself, you are likely aware that one of the hottest current trends asked for in casting specs is the “conversational, millennial read.”  I see it multiple times every day! Coming from rosters, talent agents, and on pay to plays, this read is asked for all the time! Does this mean that you have to be born in that period to voice a millennial spot. No, you just have to understand the direction and sound being sought. The tone, the pacing, the intonation- all of it needs to be both millennial and like you are chatting with a friend. The conversational, millennial read is my jam… so hear goes!

The Millennial, Conversational Voice

If a spec for a voiceover casting asks for a millennial, conversational voice, they really want you to sound like you are in an intimate conversation. To sound like you are talking to a friend should be pretty natural, right? I often prompt myself by saying,“So, Julie…” or “So, Judy” or “So, Liz.” You get the idea, and the person I imagine myself talking to very much depends on the copy I am reading. This can work across genres for commercials, youtube bumpers, narrations and so on. 

Is it easy? Well, we all know that depends on the copy. Some scripts are beautifully written and the conversational read just rolls of your tongue and is perfect. Other scripts are written like a “How to” explainer video and yet they want those to be conversational. That can be a lot trickier. Not impossible, just not intuitive.

You do need to sound young in a millennial read. If you sound like a gravelly grandma or a 50 something this will not pass either, even if you nail the conversational part. So, we all have a certain vocal type and you need to be well aware of that.

What not to do in Millennial reads

There are plenty of techniques that should be avoided at all costs when submitting for these reads. They may want you to sound conversational, and the script may even go as far as to say that they want someone who sounds natural and uncoached, but it is still a professional gig and you want to sound like an expert and not like you fell off the back of a turnip truck and landed in front of your microphone.  So, even if you do it in real life, avoid uptalk. This means that at the period your voice should be making a down turn. If you are making a statement, make a statement. Only questions end up. When I started out in voiceover, my first coach worked on this at length with me but once you are aware that you are doing it you need to stop!

Another major deal breaker that has somehow become a horrendous trend is vocal fry. For some odd reason, this seems to go hand in hand with the up talking. Perhaps it happens when we all want to sound sexy like Scarlett Johanson but we don’t, so we try to add this affect to give ourselves a false rasp. Instead we are just killing our vocal chords. You either have a raspy voice or you don’t. I don’t and I still book tons of work. Will I book if they are looking for a raspy voice? No, and that’s ok. Did you see the movie “In a World” by and starring Lake Bell? Well if you didn’t you should watch it, now! Here is a clip of her being interviewed on Conan and she talks about both of these issues!

NO Announcers Today

To book these millennial voiceover jobs, your technique should still be outstanding.  Yes, sometimes there is a character who is a news anchor or the specs specifically ask for an announcer read, but that request is happening less and less often. Instead you need to conquer the opposite of the announcer read!  You need to settle in and be confident and comfortable in who you are without sounding like Amy Robauch or Peter Jennings. You have to manage to be charming, relatable, captivating, and believable as if you are sitting on a sofa drinking coffee with your friends and talking about your like. For some reason some folks freeze up in front of the microphone and this other voice comes out. The essence of the millennial, conversational voice is someone who can really feel at home in front of the microphone. Once you can do that, once you can bring your friends into the booth with you, you’ll be just fine and you can really deliver!

Just a Philly Girl…

Everyone knows there is only one type of Eagles fan. Growing up in Philadelphia, I remember dreading the ride home from Sunday school every week. It did not matter whose dad was driving carpool, we would be listening to the Buddy Ryan Show the entire ride which was upwards of 30 minutes. My friend Candace can tell you those rides felt like an eternity. Football was a major part of my childhood, but I do not recall in those years ever hearing women voices as part of the dialogue. I also was not taken to games or included in the pre-or post-game banter. It all kind of happened around me. Still, I felt and continue to feel tremendous pride and spirit for our teams. How can you not when there are so many game day rituals?

Now, years later, I am married to a New Yorker (gasp) who is such a sports aficionado that he will have sports on the computer while he has sports on tv on mute while listening to sports on the radio. Harlan seems to love to watch videos on youtube and ESPN footage of old great plays talking about why they were amazing. Again, All. Male. Voices. So…. Let’s spice things up and try this…

Connected Female Narrator

The music is the same. The footage is the same. The content remains EXACTLY the same. The vocal quality is attached, connected, emotive, strong, confident, proud. But there is one major contrast. The voice of the professional voiceover is now a conversational, millennial narrator. Tradition aside, with more women who audition, the more women are likely to get these roles. But it is not just about numbers. When voiceover jobs are posted, often male narrators are sought for specific roles. Or, when both male and female voices are considered, if there is one female voice and ten male voices, the odds still favor a male narrator. As Britni de la Critiz from the Ringer explains, “women need to have champions in order to succeed in these roles.” With women like Randy Thomas announcing ABC news Nightline for the first time, hope for professional voiceover actors is on the horizon. For the first time ever, Amazon rolled out some all-female football casters.  This is certainly a step in the right direction.

The Winds of Change

Still, it is clear that multiple changes need to happen for women to be considered for these typically male dominated roles. First, those doing casting need to be willing to cast a broad net and listen to auditions from a wider range.  Next, voiceover talents have to be bold and be willing to shake things up when submitting their reads. We cannot be afraid to standout, we must be eager to shine and be heard so that our addition stands apart from the others. Our vocal quality can be nothing short of outstanding so that those castings are just choosing the best read. Perhaps if the casting agent hears 100 reads one way and you zag you get cast.

The Main Event:  Super Bowl Sunday

As a professional voiceover actor, some of us are lucky enough to have a super bowl spot air. There are also related spots on the radio, as YouTube bumpers, and in the days following the big game. But, we all know that across America, come came day, in homes across the country family not only watch the came with eager anticipation, they watch the much anticipated Super Bowl commercials!  What is the viewing audience looking for? Often we want a pang of emotion. A shocking plot twist. A good laugh. A thrill.  Is this beginning to make you think of what we go after in our voiceover demos? Hmmm… See, for a professional voiceover actor, every single day we try to bring out the best in the scripts that we are given, but on this day, the day of all days, these commercial spots are truly incredible. And for the voiceover talents who have been smiled upon by the casting gods and are lucky enough to have some part in the quintessential American holiday we all love, their creativity can flourish.

I don’t know where you will be this Super Bowl Sunday, but I will be in my house surrounded by my family and wonderful neighbors. Even though my beloved birds did not make it this year, every year we host a great party. We have lots of delicious food, a lot of our friends, and our family. And as a girl whose Sundays have revolved around football for more winter’s than I’d like to admit, I can say with certainty that as much attention will be paid to the commercial viewing as to the game next Sunday.

It is my hope that if I revisit this topic in a few years there are a lot more women involved in all levels of sports casting and narrating such videos on a regular basis! If the Eagles can make it to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t seem like such a long shot…

What triggered these thoughts?

Since Thanksgiving, I have been working out regularly with my 15 year old son Jack. Jack and I have been work out buddies before, but never with such regularity. So what motivated me, a full-time working mom of 2, to stick to my routine this time? Well since 2016 Jack has been on growth shots. He was not producing enough growth hormone and was so small he was not even on the charts. Now, with the help of Nutropin, after just two years he has grown more than two feet and is bigger than I am! But, as with all strong medications, there are terrible side effects and one of them is that Jack’s blood sugar is quite high. The doctor suggested that losing weight would help. 

Jack and I joined the Max fitness challenge and have loved it. As a professional voiceover actor, I spend my days in a padded foam booth. Getting out every night for out 7:15 class has not only helped me reach me health and fitness goals, but has been invigorating in so many way.  Often others in the class will comment about how great it is that Jack is there and ask why he came. Not thinking any thing of it, I would answer honestly and explain about the growth shots and Jack’s sugar. Often as busy mom’s we won’t make a change for ourselves, but for our kids we will move mountains, right?

Well one night this week Jack told me that he would prefer that I “tell the truth” when asked why he was there. I was blown away, as I thought my reply could not be more honest. Jack said he was going to Max Fitness because he was looking for a harder, more challenging workout. That was it. He objected to my response because it made him sound like a “lazy schlub.” This really got me thinking. Two truths. Two sides of the same coin. But Jack’s perspective was surely the much more optimistic one. Jack’s outlook was full of hope and did not focus on any possible negative outcomes. This had me reexamining so many facets of my life. That very day I had been complaining that I had such a tough day, when actually four great things had happened. Instead of focussing on the great things as my kid would have, I was sweating the small stuff and letting everything that did not go my way define my perspective, and I realized that was ridiculous!

Just in Time for Grattitude Day

My conversation with Jack gave me a lot to reflect on. It turns out that Friday was National Grattitude Day. For someone who spends a lot of time working as a professional narrator, narrating other peoples explainer videos and projects, it was time to change my own narrative! Ironically, I am often chosen for projects because I sound hopeful, but I continue to be so hard on my self.

Well, this grattitude day marks the begging of a conscious choice to celebrate my successes instead of fixating on my own shortcomings. It is an irony of life that I am often specifically hired for the vocal qualities of being upbeat, energetic, and happy while internally I am measuring all of the things that I did not finish or the additional jobs I had wanted to book or the blogs that were never written or the friends that I never saw. After so many years of wanting to accomplish so much, it is easier to maintain this pattern of self scrutiny when we set the bar so impossibly high.

When the reality is that we are working more than 8 hour days, booking work in a super competitive industry, and somehow still managing to feed my family, help my kids with their homework, do the laundry, workout, and see friends from time to time. When I look it at that way it seems that working mom’s everywhere should not only be celebrated by our families, but we should be doing a heck of a lot more to remind each other  how proud we are!

This is My Fight Song…

A lot of times when candidates run for office they have a song for their campaign. When Jack and I are in our gym class every night, and I am just breathing and trying to make it through, a lot of times it’s the music that helps me get through. I focus on the song. The beat, the rhythm, the lyrics all help me pass the time and survive what our trainer has us doing. On Thursday the old song “Get Ready, Cause Here I Come” was playing and if there ever were a song that captured the spirit of how I feel, it is that song! The lyrics do not fit exactly, but boy does it get to the heart of how I feel. I feel like I am still just at the beginning of life’s journey and the world better be ready for me, because here I am:)

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.

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!