You have heard the saying a million times…”It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know”. But, bbut, I thought it was about the acting? It is, and of course, as a voice actor, you won’t get anywhere if you can’t act (it’s in the name after all) but the same rules that apply to any other business apply to voice over as well. So, while you may bristle at hearing that axiom once again, in voice over, you really need to be networking. This may occur over the internet, in the form of Facebook Groups or bulletin boards. It may occur through email correspondence. It should, however, also occur in PERSON! Yes, this is a people business. Though as voice actors, we may spend an inordinate amount of time in what amounts to tiny little boxes, often the best relationships still are created, or in some cases boosted by in person interaction. There are a myriad of industry events to attend, from trade shows like VO Atlanta or The Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC) to fun events like the infamous Uncle Roy’s BBQ. You could literally spend your entire year bouncing from one event to another. Something can be gained from all of these events, but…you must have a plan.
Case in point. Over a recent weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to The Voice Over Cafe Holiday Extravaganza. Voice actors and actresses from all over the world were in attendance, no really! There were veterans with more experience than you could imagine, as well as people completely new to the business, and everyone in between. While there was no shortage of great people to meet, this was first and foremost A PARTY! People were there to socialize, and have fun. Still, as someone who had “met” a lot of industry folks through social media, there were very few with whom I had the pleasure of shaking hands. Actually, I take that back, there were ZERO. So, I went into the party with a few networking tricks in my back pocket from my days in B2B sales.
I had my elevator pitch. I knew what I do, what I don’t do, and what I wanted to do in the future, all in a 30 second speech
I had business cards, and they were current! I can’t tell you how important this is. Even if you only get asked one or two times, you have to be ready when the need arises. I actually met someone at the party who could have used some help in this regard. We talked for a while and we eventually exchanged cards. As we did, this fellow asked me to borrow a pen because his “new website was not on the card”. Don’t be that guy!
I had a definitive list of attendees I wanted to meet. Not an actual list, just a sort of mental rolodex. As I went about having conversations (and maybe a few adult beverages) I made sure I talked to almost all of the people on my “list”. Not all were great conversations. Some were as simple as saying “I really wanted to meet you because I admire your work”. Others turned into long diatribes by me, or the other person, the topics of which I can’t even tell you now!
The point is, to use the time to your advantage. If you do it correctly, you’ll meet a lot of people, and have some actual real conversations. I don’t think I gave out more than 2 business cards at this entire 6 hour party, but I made some great friends “in real life” and will have some great stories. It’s worth noting that this party happens annually, and though I was in the business at this time last year, I was still VERY new. I didn’t have any of the things in my list ready, and would have probably had a poor experience had I chosen to attend. Also, I’m not sure I was invited…
Finally, I’m going to leave you with my super secret networking tip I learned long ago when I was working in insurance. The best way to approach a networking event, is to go in with the mindset of trying to make connections for other people. Now stay with me because this is like the Jedi mind trick of networking. It works not only on the people you talk to, but your own mind! When you walk into a room and somebody starts telling you about their business, listen…really listen. Don’t just pass the time waiting for your chance to talk about what you do. Then go to the next person and do it again. Soon, you will find people who can help each other. In the voice over world, you may speak to an actor who told you he needs a new commercial demo. Across the room, you see a producer with whom you’ve always wanted to work. Here is where the magic happens. You grab your new friend, and march over to said producer and introduce your friend, saying something like “hey, I know you do great work, Johnny here was just telling me he needs a new demo”. “Oh, bye the way, I’m Paul”.
What just happened? You found a way to introduce yourself to someone you always wanted to meet, and you have brought them a potential client! You have also helped out your new friend by fulfilling their needs! Networking Jedi mind trick. I have used this approach for decades in every type of business and it always works because it takes the pressure off of everybody. You don’t feel shy because you are working on somebody else’s behalf. Also, it gives you a built in “wing-man” and who doesn’t feel more confident when they have somebody along with them to have their back? You also don’t seem pushy to the person you are trying to meet because you are not talking about yourself.
With all the events in the voice over community, it really does behoove you to check some of them out. Keep the above checklist in mind and as Frankie MacDonald says BE PREPARED!