Sprung from Covid jail! In-person networking is BACK.
Earlier this month, I attended my first in-person networking conference in two years.
Yes, everyone was required to be vaccinated. Yes, virtual attendance was possible, too, thanks to trusty, now oh-so-familiar Zoom technology. And yes, it felt to everyone that we all had just been sprung from a two-year jail sentence.
VO Atlanta 2022, the largest voiceover industry event of its kind in the world. And people came from EVERYWHERE. How lucky for me that it was in my hometown, just a 20 minute drive away!
Way back in 2018, this conference was my very first exposure to the wider voiceover community. So much talent and expertise! More information than I could possibly absorb within a few days. Fast forward to 2022, and here I was ... a speaker, as well as an enthusiastic attendee.
Reinventing yourself - and the way you do business - is a constant. Might as well be in charge of the change.
As the past two years have showed us, expect the unexpected. Change is a constant. And it can hit us over the head HARD with a 2x4. Just like Covid did. But even without a pandemic to force us to adapt, we should be able to adjust to shifting circumstances. Especially if we see it coming. Or decide to make a major change ourselves. Plan when you can and anticipate problems.
Because 2x4s and bricks dropped out of the sky onto our heads hurt.
Reinventing yourself later in life
I talked about pivoting careers, rebalancing work and family, discovering your true talents and turning them into new businesses. What I call personal reinvention. Because none of us is just one thing in life. And I've lived it, having reinvented myself more than once, both personally and professionally.
It was a terrific experience. The session was well-attended and the Q&A was full of interesting people who were doing or looking into some reinvention themselves: changing careers, turning hobbies into businesses, re-entering the work force, and creating a fulfilling retirement for themselves.
As a group, we discussed the practical and the psychological. How to take the germ of an idea and turn it into a business. How to navigate the ups and downs of early entrepreneurship. All while juggling existing work and family obligations to prevent anything from slipping through the cracks. Not an easy balancing act. But certainly doable.
It meant a great deal to me when people came up afterwards to say how helpful my session was to them. This is a topic I had been mulling over for a few years. The majority of voice actors begin their careers in other fields, some related to the industry, but most not. I thought this topic would be of relevance to others. I'm gratified to find out that was so, and look forward to addressing other groups in the near future. The subject of reinventing oneself, figuring out life's next phase, is certainly not restricted to voice actors!
Joining a well-regarded blogging community
As a regular blogger over the past two years or so, I am grateful to have been invited to join a group of voiceover bloggers, many of whom are very well-known in the voiceover community. Thanks to Josh Alexander, who introduced me as one of his new blogging buddies in his recent post. You'll find many in this group to be quite entertaining and informative about the business of voiceover, demonstrating (once again) how wonderfully supportive and down-to-earth the people in this industry are.
Another benefit to in-person events! You make - or re-establish - connections beyond what you can do on-line. Or at least more quickly. After all, you're seeing the whole person, probably spending more time with them, and getting a better sense of who they are and what they offer.
People are generally more cordial, too, when there's a real live person standing in front of them. There are always those who like to attack, or at least disparage, from the relative safety or anonymity of the screen. They may not be the types to attend conferences that build stronger communities. Even if they did, very few are "brave" enough to act out in real physical time what they'd perpetrate in private.
Conversely, the many good and decent people attending in-person events are usually happy to be there. By and large, they're there to meet new people as much as they are there to learn, which fosters a more welcoming atmosphere for everyone.
In this (almost!) post-Covid world, it feels like we're springing back to 3D social interactions beyond the imposed 2D limitations.
Can the 4th dimension be far behind?!
The biggest thrill of all was to finally see people IN PERSON. Who knew, before Covid, the degree to which human beings are truly social animals.
I'd made new friends on Zoom through webinars, conference calls, and virtual group practices. When we're confined to our little boxes, Brady Bunch style, we all look to be about the same size. Usually a collection of heads and shoulders. But shazam! Like the genie released from the lamp, it was like we'd suddenly grown to our true dimensions. Funny how some guys I'd imagined to be of average height turned out to be so tall. No one towers over another on Zoom. But I'm a bit of a munchkin, standing a petite 5'3" without heels, so my sense of proportion must have gone out the window these past two years. Being isolated behind a computer screen will do that to you.
Did you ever read Flatland? It's a fictional account of a three-dimensional object visiting a two-dimensional world and the perspectives of those 2D creatures, especially when encountering an object that exceeds their physical boundaries. A middle school mathematics teacher had recommended it to me, and it made a big impression on me at the time. As an adult, I can appreciate its greater message about limitations, social strictures, and especially how we're prone to restricting our own thinking to what we can readily experience. But in this (almost!) post-Covid world, it feels like we're springing back to 3D social interactions beyond the imposed 2D limitations.
Can the 4th dimension be far behind? Well, in a way, technology is enabling that. We can connect with people all over the world in different time zones. We can watch replays outside of their live broadcast. Not truly 4th dimensional stuff (experiencing everything all at once without the limitations of time), but it's a fair substitute. Covid accelerated this development and I'm hoping that this use of technology stays with us, at least to complement in-person events for those unable to physically attend.
Laura's Quick Tips
Get out there and be with people when you can! When you're once again comfortable attending in-person events, feeling that the threat of Covid is behind you, take a deep breath and enjoy being with other people again.
Try something new and different. Have you been thinking of starting a business or turning a hobby into a new career? Take the first step and explore the possibility. After all, if you don't take a risk, you'll never discover the reward.
Give a hug. Receive a hug. You won't realize how much you've missed human interaction until you've had one.
Now that we're all starting to pop out from behind our screens in 3D, I, for one, am looking forward to more in-person networking events. The whole meet and greet thing, making new acquaintances, creating new partnerships. And doing some public speaking.
In addition to talking about Reinventing Yourself Later in Life (or really, any time), I also talk and work with groups on two other topics:
How to Become More Comfortable and Effective On Camera (great for business people or anyone else making videos)
an Introduction to Voice Over (with real scripts, for adults, kids, and teens)