Today I wanted to briefly talk about conferences. There are a lot over voice over conferences out there. There are a bunch going on in my neck of the woods and I can only imagine how many are being put on in LA and NYC. This brings up a lot of questions. Are they worth it? If so, which ones? Am I welcome there?
Frankly the answer to all three of those questions come down to research. Some conferences are worth it and some are not. This falls into the same category as "VO Training" falls into. Since there is a fairly low barrier for entry into this career there are a lot of people out there more than willing to take your money to "show you the ropes." This leads to people peddling their training skills to anyone who wants to know how to get into voice acting. At the same time you have folks putting together conferences for the same reason. So if you are looking at a specific conference that is nearby, find some reviews on it. Ask some folks who have gone. Don't be shy. I have yet to find someone in this business who isn't more than willing to help a fellow actor out. You want to make sure if you go to a conference you are going to get your money's worth.
(Disclaimer: Personally I have not come across a conference that is a "scam." But they are out there.)
But it is important to remember that conferences can't get speakers and trainers and sponsors unless that conference gives those speakers, trainers, and sponsors a chance to advertise their products and services. The key is to make sure the products and services are of good quality. If the only speaker at a conference you are looking at has a resume the ended in the late 90's and most notably role is the narrator in a Ben Gay commercial you may want to pass. Like with most things do your research. Ask questions.
The conferences that do seem to have quality speakers and sponsors are probably one of the most important things you can do for your career. I can't overstate this. If you go to as many events as you are physically able to and you take a lot of notes you will have a treasure trove of information that would have taken weeks of research on your own. And do you know what the really great part is? All that information is a bonus. The REAL benefit is the networking. Voice acting becomes so much easier when you have a network of folks who are also voice actors. We spend a good bit of our time either alone recording, editing, and practicing or marketing and interfacing with our clients for more work. Conferences give us a chance to get out and meet with folks who are like us, can help us, and are just fun to be around.
I also want to address the "Am I welcome?" question. That depends on the conference so research will answer this as well. VO Atlanta welcomes all skill levels while another conference may be a better fit for seasoned actors. You need to find that out before you spend the money.
Finally I want to suggest two conferences that I think are wonderful. VO Atlanta, mentioned above, is the largest voice over conference in the southeast and may be the biggest east of the Mississippi as of this year. It is an amazing experience. Unfortunately I cannot attend this year due to unforeseen circumstances but there is still some time to register. I encourage you to do so!
Next is MAVO. This is the Mid Atlantic Voice Over Conference. This one is having their third year this November and I am really looking forward to it.
Let me know if there are any conferences you have attended in the comments below or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org . I would love to here your conference stories. Thanks again!
PS: I just had to throw this in here. On Saturday of VO Atlanta 2015 my wife, daughter, and I were eating dinner in the hotel restaurant near a main thoroughfare. My daughter was 9 months old at the time and unbelievably adorable (in my biased opinion). On three separate occasions our dinner was interrupted by various celebrities so they could coo over our baby. These folks are giants of the industry, the voice of various awards shows, a voice of a favorite character of my youth, etc and they were interrupting OUR dinner. I was a little floored by that. In my visions I imagined I would be the stuttering fanboy interrupting their dinner blubbering like a fool. My only regret was I did not get photos of them with my daughter. O well....