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So, Why No VO Atl?

It’s that time of year again; a Voiceover conference is in my hometown and I’m not attending. ‘Why not?’ you might ask? You wouldn’t be the first. In fact, everyone who knows about VO Atl and my geographical location has asked me that. So, I’ll tell you.

Before I begin, I would like to start off by saying that I am aware this could be the most controversial post I’ve made. I do not take this lightly nor is my intention to speak poorly of anyone who attends or participates in the convention. I am simply giving my honest opinion. Because I was asked to share it.

The first reason is, quite simply, Sticker Shock: VO Atlanta Voiceover Conference has the standard registration price of $547. The convention starts Thursday promptly at 9am and ends Sunday at 10am (Closing session technically ends at Noon). It is hosted in the Renaissance Airport Hotel.

So, essentially, It is $550 for 3 days.

In contrast, Dragon Con, a convention also held in Atlanta, is $115 and runs officially from Thursday AM to Monday late afternoon. It is hosted in six hotels located in Downtown Atlanta.

Neither price includes the hotel stay, travel, food etc. Both events offer guest speakers, as that is one of the main reasons people attend.

“But” you might contest “one is a hobby while the other is your career; doesn’t that make a difference?”

Certainly. Which brings me to the second reason, Demographic: This conference is geared very much towards the “beginner” who has not yet even made a demo. The tracks consist of seminars from Industry Professionals covering topics that can be easily Googled, seen on YouTube, or reviewed in a one-on-one session.

Conjecture, you shout? Here are some Session/Workshop titles being offered:

– Home Studio Acoustics For Today’s Voice Over Professional – Recording Session Set-Up & Manuscript Preparation – How to Self-Direct VO Sessions – What Makes a Great Demo Reel? – Tips to Starting your Voiceover Career – How to Grow your Voiceover Income in Just 30 minutes

The list goes on but my point is made. For the record, I am NOT saying that these panels are not worth your time. They are! How incredibly helpful! But I’ve personally already gone to these seminars and studied with vocal coaches. And frankly, that last example of “growing your income” sounds like a clickbait article. Maybe that means I should attend because I’ve always been told there is no easy answer; success comes from hard work and persistence.

My point being: If you are going to pay $500 for information, shouldn’t you expect to receive personalized feedback?

Which brings me to the Third Point, Student Burnout: I once went to a very small conference that literally only had one panel run per hour. All 20+ attendees stayed seated while the new guest speaker came and told us valuable information. This conference was about F/X makeup and adding electrical mechanisms into costumes, just for clarification. Even still, I spent the entire day writing notes until my hand cramped. My notes looked like chicken scratch and I was more overloaded with all this new information, I wasn’t quite sure where to start with it all.

That’s my personal fear in regards to a VO Conference. Any of them, not VO Atl specifically. Because I truly do believe there is relevant information to me, that would help me grow my career for certain. But I would be frozen in “What If” fear the entire time. What if I went to Panel A when Panel B would’ve been more helpful? What if I already know all of this information and it’s just redundant? Or even worse, what if it all goes over my head and I am left in a pool of self-doubt with no one to throw me a life raft?

At least in a One-on-One session, you can be given a truth bomb and then have someone to help you find the steps to survive. And this wouldn’t be such an issue if the cost was even halved what they’re asking. But with such a high fee, I would constantly wonder “am I getting my money’s worth?”

So, if you don’t go for the panels offered, what’s left? My Fourth Point, NETWORKING:

“Okay” you exclaim “now you’re just ignorant. Networking opportunities are always great for your career, what could you possible have a problem with?” Well, Point One – Paying $547 to “mingle” seems a bit steep. And also, who are we really mingling with? Don’t get me wrong, talking with fellow voice actors is extremely helpful; I personally am planning on using WOVO’s Mentorship program just so I can get the incite of a successful fellow VO talent. I am in NO way saying networking or speaking with others in the industry is a bad thing. But how can it really help grow your career? Anecdotes are fun. Advice is helpful. But can they offer you a spot on their favorite agent’s talent roster? Are they going to walk you through your Marketing techniques and make sure you stay focused on your cold calling? Mingling is great but not Career-building. I can speak to fellow actors until I’m blue in the face but they can’t (usually) get me auditions. So really, what can they do in-person that they cannot do via email, skype, or a Facebook Group? Studies have shown that most Voice over Talent are introverts. So, I guess it’s good practice for talking with clients and agents, if nothing else. But they also offer that directly at the conference,you know.

My Fifth and final point, THE AUDITIONS: The conference offers the attendees several seminars on how to properly audition and I do believe there are a few open-panels that allow you to audition in front of the group. If you’re selected, of course.

You are also provided a chance to have an audition with the guest agents who attend. Wonderful, right? Well, no. You see, only the first 100 people who sign up for that particular panel will be heard. Which means one lucky person could sign up for all the agents who are attending while many others will have paid $500 for an awkward “ooh, just missed the cutoff” apology.

Now, truth be told, I have heard success stories from being added to rosters this way; and I want to wish those who have, a genuine and hearty congratulations. But I am left with the impression that it is simply just a hefty gamble – and essentially paying for the chance to audition.

So, those are 4 reasons why I do not see that the cost (my 5th reason) is justified. Certain experiences and opportunities are but this feels like just another way for Industry Professionals to get paid, truthfully. “Buy my ‘How to Grow your business in 12 easy Steps’ book and meet me in person at this conference.” More power to them, they’re not lying when they say they are successful. It just doesn’t feel like it’s the best use of that money; the investment feels arbitrary.

Let me finish this with a closing thought: I completely respect the attendees of these conferences and those who run the panels truly inspire me. I mean no ill-will when I bullet point these reasons why I do not attend. If I am ever at a point in my career where I can easily spend $550 on a Networking Party, I honestly WOULD attend VO Atl. I’m heartbroken that I can’t meet those I speak with online in person; it would be so fun to hang out all the while representing the Atlanta Talent pool. How fun! But for now, I would rather purchase a few One-on-One coaching sessions and a ‘Business Management 101’ book or two.

So, that’s why I’m not attending the conference in my own backyard.

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