Our industry is fortunate to have a community that wants to give back and share knowledge, which very often happens in the form of a conference. VO conferences take place all over the country…and the world!
Voice Over Conferences: Why? What? Where? When?
“If you’re not sure why in the heck you would mingle with other people that do the same thing as you…there’s a great benefit to it…great friendships and support, education, community…all the things.”
Why network with your peers and, essentially, your competition? For the most part, when going to an industry function, most of the people ARE NOT your competition. They are not YOU. We have our unique way of being and doing. Walking in with that attitude welcomes connections with EVERYONE. Still, the attendees are those who do what you do everyday and generally live the same lifestyle as you. As a result, you receive A LOT from interacting for:
- support, empathy, understanding your business issues
- resources, in order to raise your own game and raise the bar
- educating you as to where you stand
- providing community
When committing to attend a voiceover conference, I make intuitive lists for conference strategies. This allows me to not only be prepared and organized (important for someone who gets overwhelmed), but to make the most of my time and enjoy the event to the fullest. I absolutely LOVE voiceover conferences because of the educational opportunities, the chance to see my voiceover kinfolk, and time out of the studio to re-energize my enthusiasm for my business. For me, there’s nothing like being amongst other talent to feel fully at-home and in my lane.
Here are some of my voiceover conference, pre-planning strategies:
What is my focus for this event? Do I simply want to take in all the information and goodness while I’m there? Am I looking to meet certain people? Or, am I wanting to interact with as many people as possible? While it would stand to reason that one would want to do ALL of the above, the plan of action depends on which conference you’re going to, how long you’ll be there, how many other conferences have you been to, and where you are in the learning curve of your business and career. Biting off more than you can chew will leave you sorely overwhelmed and overstimulated.
Plan and order promotional material
In keeping with the questions in the last point, if your objective is to meet as many people as possible (because you haven’t been to a conference before), maybe you want to create promotional item giveaways as ice breakers to conversation? Maybe you want to save your money and simply see who you meet along the way? Again, your choices mostly depend on your conference objectives, but do know that you don’t really need anything other than your business card.
Pack special items that make your hotel stay more comfortable
Because traveling can sometimes be arduous, and you want to have the best possible experience at your event, you’ll want anything that keeps you grounded and comfortable while staying in a hotel. Some things I consider bringing along are candles or aromatherapy (you never know what your room will smell like), granola bars, fruit, and easy snacks, and music or meditations for sleeping or maintaining a relaxed atmosphere in your room. I HIGHLY recommend popping out upon arrival and purchasing as much purified water as you can, if possible.
Plan out schedule in advance
In order to avoid baptism by fire or missing out on something great, I like to plan out my conference schedule looking through the agenda thoroughly ahead of time, providing myself A, B, & C choices on sessions when appropriate. You don’t want to arrive at a conference and be completely stymied immediately. And, sometimes there are SO many sessions back-to-back, you need a plan of action on where to be and when.
Schedule enough sleep
Networking and taking in conference education are both very demanding. I actually schedule approximate bedtimes and waking times in order to be in tip top shape each day. Not sure if I’m the only one who needs 8 ½ hours sleep, (some people seem to be fine on much less), but I will not enjoy my days if I haven’t had my required allotment. (Why you need to think about “sleep for success” as a voice actor.)
Avoid illness at all costs
I hope it goes without saying that you don’t want to get sick before, during, or after a conference. Being able to get on with the business of recording at any time means being completely well. Further, anyone who networks amongst voice actors while being ill will be vilified. Please, PLEASE… do everything in your power to stay extremely healthy. You’ll contribute to the wellness of your whole community. (Here are my tips for being a Vocal Health Ninja.)
Attend sessions autonomously, maintaining your own personal rhythm
Avoid choosing sessions simply because your friends are going. We are all in different places in our career and will benefit from different information. Further, being distracted is always very easy. If you stay focused on your plan for your conference experience, you’ll achieve your objectives for the conference and stay “present” enough to take in all the information. Despite the hundreds of attendees, flying solo can be very effective.
Choosing the “right” session
We all have our own criteria for sessions, but my rule of thumb is to choose those that are unique to the conference and that I can’t pay for one-on-one after the conference. Also, breakout sessions are great to see if a coach is a good fit for you later on. Finally, if there are weaknesses in my craft or my business that I know require further study, I’ll attend those sessions that fill in some holes.
Use one journal, a separate page, and title for each session
In order to make sense of your notes when you get home, outlining your takeaways helps to remember all that you learned. I personally find my notes a great reference when looking back. I appreciate including the title, date, and presenter at the top of each page to find information easily.
Photograph notes for sharing
You’ll often want to go to several sessions at the same time. It’s very effective to agree with another participant that you’ll share notes, given you are respecting the guidelines of the conference and the presenter’s ownership of the content. I take a quick pic of my session notes as soon as each session is done, so I can share them easily, if appropriate. (If you’ve paid extra for a special session, you might not want to do this as per the conference and/or presenter.)
Be on time for meals
Don’t forget to eat. A conference is usually keeping you busy from the moment you wake until the moment you hit the pillow at night. And, when it is an extremely large conference, navigating the line ups for food is a “thing”. In order to cope with crowds and avoid not eating at all, make it a priority to know where and when your meals are in order to not miss out.
Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum
Decompressing with several cocktails can be very appealing. However, it’s not good for our vocal health. Further, a conference is a marathon and in order to be in great shape all the way through (including when you arrive home and need to hit the ground running), you’ll want to do everything in your power to stay energized and healthy. This does not include having a hangover.
Stay on site when possible
When you’ve allotted three or so days to participate in a conference, you’ll want to maximize every moment – attending sessions, yes – but also connecting with new people and reconnecting with friends you only see at conferences. I love dining in groups, but I highly recommend not straying too far from the hotel sites. You don’t want to waste time outside of the conference venue. You’ll lose valuable time. However, one caveat: do make time for fresh air at least once a day.
Stay focused and intentional
Again, as mentioned above, you’ll want to plan your objectives and then, stay focused on your goals with intention. A conference is an investment of time and money in yourself. If you can stay focused, you’ll reap more rewards from maximizing your experience. (You might appreciate this post: Remarkable Focus – One of Three Direct Steps to Mompreneur’s Balance.)
Sacrifice attending a session or two for quiet time
Sometimes, it’s all too much. There’s no shame in having a siesta! If you don’t want to melt into a puddle at the end of the conference, I highly recommend taking a few moments to re-calibrate in your room. While you may miss a session or two, a rest in a quiet place will provide you the energy you need to carry on your conference tactics with intensity!
Networking tips for conferences
Networking at any time takes skill and courage. At a conference, it definitely takes strategizing, planning, and executing with confidence. Thankfully, networking at voiceover conferences really couldn’t be easier. You have A LOT in common with everyone in attendance. Introverted extroverts, extroverted introverts… we’re all quite a crew. But, we have so much in common that striking up a conversation is extremely easy and so rewarding. Here are five networking tips for a VO conference:
Welcome meeting lots of random strangers
Sitting with people you haven’t met, random seating at meals for example, will always provide an opportunity to network… and with a captive audience at that. Don’t be shy about mixing in with anyone you don’t know in the voiceover world. Most people are very good at welcoming you in immediately, including you in conversation, and introducing you to people you’ve never met.
Introduce yourself to everyone
…even in the elevator and at every meal. Don’t wait for others to introduce themselves. You’ve got one to four days to meet a bunch of new friends, many could become your very best friends and/or your support network. Whether in an elevator when you first arrive, early in the morning, or at any random time, put out your hand and be confident about saying hello. (You may already be friends on Facebook!)
Be judicious and deliberate about handing out your business card
Don’t just hand your card out indiscriminately. You’re wasting your time and money. Don’t hand out your card upon introducing yourself. It’s presumptuous. Ask for cards from those whom you are truly interested in – potential friends & clients, industry leaders, coaches. It’s much more graceful to ask for someone’s card with sincere interest and then to elegantly share your card at the same time. Be sure to have enough on hand for when you really want them, but don’t be too concerned if you don’t hand them all out.
Don’t ask people to listen to your demo
…unless you have a really good reason. We all have demos. Lots of them. If someone is interested in listening to your stuff, they will. If you want advice, ask for their business card and connect with them after the fact.
Reach out to each person
I try to reach out within a week after meeting those whose cards I’ve collected. I send a personal, individual email. It continues the thread of conversation and helps remind you of each other after the tsunami of introductions and conference excitement. Doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to say. A simply, “great to meet you…hope you arrived home safely” will do.
Use Social Media Effectively for your Conference Experience
Social media can be overwhelming at any time. When conference time comes around, there is plenty to share, but less time to participate on social media. Why do it?
The benefit of sharing your experiences at a conference is threefold:
-Attending a conference gives you something to post about! An event provides a wealth of opportunity to collect shareable content.
-Your conference experience is branded content, meaning it’s “you doing your thing”. The photos can be used at any time, not just during the conference.
-Participating on social platforms can work as a networking tool, connecting you to conference participants who are also using the conference hashtags.
Some people seem so adept at posting their experience before, during, and after…they make it look easy. In my experience, it’s not. It’s a juggle. It takes away from being present. I’ve come up with some simple steps to make both my conference experience and my participation on social media as easeful as possible.
Grab as many photos as possible: many with others, a few selfies, and some branding photos.
An archive of photos of the people you’ve met and of the friends you spent time with will serve you well… You can tag people on social media and keep the conversation going after the conference. Group photos are especially great for tagging lots of people, making new friends on social platforms, and adding variety to your photo storyline.
I would caution you, however, to not include yourself in every single photo. That makes for really boring, egocentric posting.
What are branding photos? …photos that extend further than selfies …interesting photos that have meaning for you or those for which you can derive meaning… ie. An item in the hotel, at the event, on your travels that you can use to elaborate on your experience.
You’ll be so grateful to have a photo collection, after the fact, to share during and after the conference, throughout the year, and even to share before the next conference.
Pre-conference, be sure to familiarize yourself with hashtags that the conference is using, so you can check out other people’s posts and join the conversation.
If overwhelmed by posting on social media during a conference, post at the end of the day or in the morning before emerging from your room so you can be fully focused during conference time.
Write down (or immediately post) quotes from presenters. Use bits and bites of conference wisdom as posts (during or after the conference) and even elaborate on them to expound upon what you learned.
After the conference, reminiscing with photos, even long after, is a great excuse to have something to post. You can include some of the conference swag, mention presenters you learned from, or reacquaint yourself with the people you’ve met.
Instagram – choose your fav pic of the day, or two, and write an informative caption.
LinkedIn – keep it super professional and relevant, only posting one photo before, after, OR during the event.
Twitter – follow conference hashtags to engage with others who are posting “live”. When possible, post quotes of speakers during their presentations.
Facebook – post a collection of photos at the end of the day, tagging people and maintaining a variety of photos that aren’t all just selfies.
Once you find your rhythm, collecting content at a conference for social media purposes can be navigated easily. You’ll be grateful for the effort you made!
Are you attending a voiceover conference this year? Let me know in the comments, maybe our paths will cross!
For a list of upcoming conferences, see here:
A great post, Natasha, and a great resource. Conferences, especially the larger ones, can be overwhelming if not planned for in advance. I’ve even gone so far as to write down a few things to say and questions to ask so I don’t get lost in conversation with people I don’t know yet. As for the benefits, you really need to attend—with an open heart and mind—to realize how much there is to gain. It is so much more than just learning.
Glad you enjoyed, Jon! Indeed, “be prepared” helps receive the most out of these very intense conferences!
Thank you for this post. I have attended a wide variety of conferences over my career in a different field and had a pretty high level of comfort with them (and a good group of conference buddies). But, this year, I am attending Atlanta VO which will be my first voiceover conference and I’m going alone so it is a VERY different experience. I hope we will cross paths there and I hope I can implement all of your great suggestions as well!
It’s intense!! Looking forward to meeting you, Audrey!!