VO Atlanta

I just attended my first VO Atlanta conference and had a blast!

For the 6th year in a row, 600+ people from all areas of the voice over industry gathered at a big hotel in Atlanta to network, exchange ideas, banter, scheme and of course, raise a glass or three. I had never attended in the past because I had heard it was mainly voice talents and coaches but the guest list has now expanded to include casting directors, producers, managers and yes, talent agents. In fact, I wrote to the organizers suggesting I could do a talk about the relationship between talents and agents. Thankfully, they said yes.

I loved the conference to bits. The energy of the attendees. The perfect mix of business and pleasure (in my view). The mix of some people I already know, others I had corresponded with over the years but never met, and all the new people who were so approachable. The pacing of the conference was perfect for my speed: lots of events going on but sufficient opportunity for downtime as well. And the hotel bar of course!

The 3 conference days are divided between 1-hour talks given by various industry professionals, panels, intensive workshops that involve 10-12 talents and a coach, and other opportunities for voice industry types to work on their skills. For example, I agreed to be part of what I can only call Voice Over speed dating. Individual talents had 5 minutes to do a private read just for me and I would critique it. I met and heard 24 talents in 2 hours! This is not an audition for representation but rather just a quick chance for talents of various levels of experience to get some immediate feedback on their reads. I had sort of been dreading it to be truthful. The idea of it sounded exhausting but I really enjoyed it in the end. The energy of the participants was infectious and the diversity kept things interesting. Diversity of ages, of ethnicity, of experience – even location. One minute, it was a tall African-American man from Alabama, the next a soft-spoken single Mom from Phoenix. Then a British guy who had been in the business since he was 15. All of them trying to either break into the biz or get just a little bit better at what they do.

The conference offers plenty of time for socializing – from the opening night welcome reception to daily buffet lunches for all attendees, to the inevitable meet-ups at the hotel bar each night. The last night concluded with a 70’s themed disco party. I was amazed at the number of people who not only knew this themed event was happening but actually dressed up for the occasion. I did not but I liberally sampled beverages including some tasty tequila and hit the dance floor more than once.

I was pleased to do my talk, Secrets of An Agent Man (some of the posts on this very blog formed the basis of my presentation) as well as moderate a discussion panel of other agents. I dropped in on a few presentations from my fellow speaking colleagues and also a panel discussion on the state of casting. There was the usual complaining about declining rates but I don’t think that simple narrative captures the complexity of what’s going on in our business. People are watching/listening to many more platforms than they used to but in smaller numbers per platform. The natural result of smaller audiences is rates/budgets go down somewhat BUT because there are so many platforms and ways to reach people now, the *amount* of jobs have gone up.

I will no doubt have more to say on this topic in a coming blog post.

Long story short: I highly recommend VO Atlanta, whatever stage you happen to be in your career. It’s always great to meet like-minded people in the industry and there is a such an energy and enthusiasm at this conference. Everyone is either a talent or a coach or casting director so it’s a room full of outgoing people. No shy wallflowers here.

After the conference wrapped on Sunday around lunch, everyone was saying their goodbyes and I actually felt a little sadness like summer camp was coming to a close. But the great thing is – I plan to do it all again next year. Hope to see you there!


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