Wednesday, 3 September 2014

With A Little Help From Our Friends




With a Little Help from Our Friends
How Monthly Meetings on Google Hangouts
are enriching the VO journeys of 6 voice-over artists

By Carrie Afrin, Debby Barnes, Mike Broderick,
Mel Elliott, Steve O’Neill, and Guy Slocombe

Beginning in April this year, a group of four of us (Debby, Mel, Mike, and Steve) started meeting once a month on Google Hangouts to talk about all things voice-over, share our experiences, and offer each other support, encouragement, and advice.

The experience has been tremendous – one we’d recommend without hesitation to voice-over artists and voice actors everywhere.

We thought we’d share with you how we started our group, how it works, why it works, and what it means to each of us.

How it began
The four of us had a shared connection:  We’d all taken part separately in Gary Terzza’s VO Masterclass, and subsequently met each other through Google+ and Twitter, although to this day we’ve never met in person.

We got along well and found ourselves sharing tips and advice on social media. Mel had experimented with Google Hangouts with a couple of us to test it for use with a client, and then Mike suggested meeting regularly in a Google hangout, as he’d had a good experience taking part in meetings of the VAU Mic Check.

After a flurry of emails and diary checking we settled on a set date and time to meet once a month, with Steve taking on the duties of sending out the meeting invites on Google+.  (Thank you Steve!)

How it Works
We meet on the last Friday of each month at 11a.m., and the meetings run from 60-90 minutes. Because we’re all based in the UK and in the same time zone, it made it easier for us to find a time when we could all meet.

(If you’re inspired to use Hangouts for your meetings, one thing to consider when using Google+ to send invitations is that it seems to apply different time zones to different accounts, even if you select the same time zone (such as GMT) for the meeting. This is something we learned when our first Google+ invite requested we meet at 4am!)

There is no set agenda or formal structure, although we generally start each chat with an overview of how we’ve each done over the month.

From there the discussions can flow across a wide variety of topics from pre-screening Debby’s brand new commercial demo (which is superb), to hearing about booked jobs or interesting auditions over the past month, to learning how Steve’s sharp, new marketing videos are being received by his local business community, to the tricky issues of dealing with awkward foreign translations, or setting voice-over rates.

All discussions take place in a safe, supportive environment, and everyone has time to speak and ask questions.

It’s worked so well that we’ve even agreed to cross-refer each other to potential clients when our individual voices and skill sets don’t suit a given project.

Why it Works
To a person we’re all positive, supportive, and helpful people who ensure that the group remains an open, non-competitive forum. This is critical to the group’s success.

We take a professional approach to voice-over and are dedicated to mastering the craft (none of us would touch Fivver with the proverbial barge pole).  We’re generally new to the industry (with our individual experience ranging from 6 months to three years), and most of us have come into voice-over after a career change – with the majority having worked in corporate or business – support positions.

 Our group also has gender balance (with three females and three males), decent geographic coverage across the UK (the Southeast, Midlands, and North of England, as well as Scotland), a bit of international flair (with 4 Britons and 2 UK-based Americans), and varied voice styles and unique selling points.

What started as the VO Fantastic Four (a tongue-in cheek effort to “Marvel-ise” our little group) has recently grown to the VO Super Six, with the addition of Guy Slocombe who joined us for the first time in August, and Carrie Afrin who will join us in September.

We’ve decided to cap the group at 6, as we feel this would give us the maximum amount of wide-ranging input and advice, while allowing each of us enough time to speak and ask questions.

What it means to us

Carrie Afrin (http://www.carriesvoice.co.uk/) – Female Scottish Voice-over Artist (Scottish Highlands, Scotland)
“I am very new to the group, but I am loving it already!  Everyone has been so supportive of each other, and it is great to have the guys on hand for some feedback on a voice file or a marketing idea.
I like the idea of sharing our marketing efforts and ideas. Sometimes when you try something different in your campaign it can take up quite a bit of time and effort. I’m working on quite a big marketing project at the moment, and I’ve discussed it with the team. This way I can test it out, and if it is successful then maybe one of the others could do it for their campaign. On the other side, if it turns out to be unsuccessful then it is only my time that is wasted rather than a few of us, and the rest of the group know not to bother with that particular activity.
As a group we can test out a lot more marketing strategies than we could individually. The way I see it, increased marketing can only make our individual businesses stronger.”

Debby Barnes (http://www.debbybarnes.com/) – Female American Voice-over Artist (Oxfordshire, England)
What I’ve experienced in this particular posse can never be underestimated.  Sharing lives, stories, experiences, values, and views has been profitable, uplifting and comforting as well.

The individuals involved are marked with the same kind of open, honest, affable and gracious qualities that the Voice-over Community as a whole is marked with. 

And because I haven’t enjoyed the luxury of getting to one of the coveted VO conferences yet (…though I’m panting for the day I can!), this Google+ circle has been such a boon.

Voice-over professionals all over the globe share an isolated, home-studio/ “cave-dwelling” lifestyle, so this is a welcome hangout. After all, it gets lonely inside our “caves”.

Mike Broderick (http://www.mikebroderickvoiceover.com/) – Male American Voice-over Artist (Essex, England)                                                   
“For starters, all the members of our group seem to be very good and nice people, and I’m so glad to be getting to know them.

They are incredibly generous, helpful, and supportive. Each has gone out of their way to help me, and I’m very appreciative.

Mel has pointed me in the direction of some sizeable auditions (which ultimately connected me to the Voice Realm and auditions through Marc Cashman) and also recommended me and Steve to a video producer.  Steve has shared his tips for creating great voice-over marketing videos.  Debby has informed me of an excellent demo producer (Anthony Reese) to consider when I need a new demo, and Guy has offered to master music into some of my audio files.

In addition, my compatriot Debby and I have discussed the special challenges and opportunities associated with being American voice-over artists based in the UK.

Every month I’m inspired to hear how the other members of our group are booking jobs and chasing their VO dreams with gusto, and I’m very happy to be a part of their journeys.”

 Mel Elliott (http://www.melsbritishvoice.co.uk/) – Female English Voice-over Artist (Leicester, England)
“A request from a client to direct a session using Google Hangouts resulted in my first ‘face to face’ meeting with Steve & Mike.
Having only hooked up on Google+ via the Mighty Mr Gary Terzza, it was a bit of a punt to be honest to ask them to test it out with me before I met with my client for real.
I was astonished how readily they both came to my rescue – fully kitted out Superman style with their pants outside their trousers!  Well, they may well have been for all I could see!  Up until then, other than Gary’s support, I’d pretty much followed the solitary VO journey using the endless streams of information online ... and I can tell you I’ve never looked back.
With the infectious enthusiasm of Debby to add to the mix, our first Google Hangout was a breath of fresh air for me – an excited sharing of experiences, pearls of wisdom, and a realisation that we have something special here!
With Guy and Carrie on board now, too, we’re a force to be reckoned with!  The breadth of background, knowledge, styles and skills coupled with a willingness to share it with each other is, without a doubt, a recipe for continued success and growing friendships for us all!  And I for one am delighted to be part of it!”

Steve O’Neill (http://www.steveoneillvoice.com/) – Male English Voice-over Artist (Hampshire, England)
“When I first set out in voiceover, I found the VO community to be the most supportive, accessible, considered, and balanced group of people I have EVER worked with. Whilst we all want success, it does not come at the expense of other VO artists – a truly refreshing balance.

Having the benefit of being able to video conference with like-minded VO people, the monthly hangout is invaluable. It lets me catch up, have a laugh, learn and find out how other people solve the challenges I’ve been faced with, without fear of criticism or ridicule. I find myself being totally honest (a little too much sometimes!)

It also enables me to test my ideas with a group of people who can offer a balanced, considered and – most importantly – real world viewpoint.

At first we had considered various lengths of time, but monthly seems to work, and they don’t half come around quickly!

I love being able to share, critique, giggle and generally keep in touch with reality each month.

·         Debby is our voice of experience, and one of the kindest people I know.

·         Mike offers a truly rounded viewpoint, and loves the ‘tech’ side of what we do.

·         Mel perhaps has the most similar background to me, and defines the word ‘professional’ – she keeps me in order too!

·         Guy brings a wider spectrum of experience, and has some fab tips!

·       Carrie is a tornado of ideas, enthusiasm and energy – can’t wait for our next session and for her to join us.

I would thoroughly recommend meeting up with your own group of peers/colleagues/friends using Google Hangouts, particularly if you’re looking for something informal and straightforward.

I’m looking forward to the next session, gang!”

Guy Slocombe (http://www.guyslocombevoiceover.com/) – Male English Voice-over Artist (North Yorkshire, England)
“After 20 years working in the corporate sector, I decided to change my life and follow my dream of becoming a professional VO artist and actor.  

I hooked up with Gary Terzza and then went for it (and continue to do so) at 100mph, with the result of now having clients in the USA, UK, Europe, and India in addition to being on Spotlight.   
It was through a conversation I had about ipDTL (Yes, I know, but at least it’s not about the weather) that led me to Mike Broderick’s door.  We were able to help each other out and get a connection via ipDTL in advance of any clients wanting to use this medium.

To me that sums up the ethos of the members of the VO community I have met so far.  We are all in the same boat, locked away in our acoustic-tiled cell with optional bass traps (stop it!) loving what we do, wanting it to be the best and of the highest quality.   

Through Mike I have joined the group, and it has been a real pleasure to spend time with fellow VO artists.  We can share our knowledge and experience to help each other, and you know what…we are all unique and bring our own skills to the table.  

If someone asks me now whether I can recommend a genuine American voice...Yes I can, y’all!”


For more information about our Google Hangouts group, or if we can assist you with your voice-over project needs, please contact: Carrie, Debby, Guy, Mel, Mike, or Steve via our websites.  We’re always happy to help!