This past weekend I attended the VO North Conference in Toronto. VO North is a one-of-a-kind voice-over conference that hosts hundreds of international voice actors to Canada’s largest city for a weekend of learning, prizes, and fellowship.
This was the last VO North conference in Canada and was one for the record books. Hosts Tanya Buchanan and Dervla Trainor worked tirelessly over the last year and last weekend to ensure everyone was happy, learning lots of great information and spending quality time with other voice-over colleagues.
This year’s conference was held at the historic Pantages Hotel in downtown Toronto and the weekend kicked off with an opening ceremony held by the weekend’s hosts. There were over 35-panel discussions to choose from, and they were chock full of industry professionals speaking on various subjects and many open-forums about cutting edge voice over topics.
VO North Conference Panel Discussions
I attended a hand full of panel discussions and found them very informative and intriguing. The first panel was Show Me the Money! Understanding Rates and the Nuances of Quoting Properly led by David Toback, Petra O’Toole, and Tanya Buchanan, was fascinating and informative. We were taught to quote appropriately according to the GVAA Rate Guide and other industry-leading rate guides.
I then attended a Speed Networking breakout session which was great to meet other voice actors. Voice-over can really be such a solo gig, so it was so helpful to shake hands, fist bump, embrace other voice actors, and learn about their journey into this exciting industry.
How My Goals Had Changed Since Last Time
When I attended the VO North conference in 2019, I recall taking endless and endless pages of notes, as I was so green in the industry. I came intending to find a commercial voice over coach, a commercial demo producer, and information on how to market myself. I had very specific, clear goals and could narrow down my prospects by the end of the weekend.
This time, I had a different goal: to network and meet other voice actors and meet those I have coached with and follow on social media. I have to be honest and say I didn’t find myself taking endless pages of notes this time around. I would like to credit that to being more knowledgeable this time around. Still, I was able to have open, honest conversations with my fellow voice actors on a variety of subjects and felt that carried its weight in gold over the weekend.
I attended a panel discussion on The Art of Marketing, CRM, and Branding on Saturday afternoon with Dani States, Marc Scott, and Matt Fogarty. I am a big fan of Marc Scott and purchased his Marketing Playbook earlier this year. His marketing program is incredible, and I was happy to have sat in on this session. All speakers gave good recommendations and tips and tricks on marketing oneself, and I felt that I learned some easy action items that motivated me to continue marketing daily.
I ended Saturday’s session with an Improv class with the incomparable Elle-Ray Hennessey. Elle led the class with an inspiring poem reminding the class of the importance of our responsibility as actors to try our hardest to be honest and authentic when auditioning. She reminded us of the importance of how to play, have fun, and make people feel something when they listen to us. She helped us tap into our inner child, and every time I take a class with Elle-Ray, I am left riding high for weeks. I came into the weekend looking for inspiration and left my cup full after a coaching session with the amazing Elle-Ray.
Day one may have been over, but the party continued well into the night with the industry mixer being held at Taco Taco in Kensington Market. I could not go, but I heard from many friends that it was packed full of voice actors and industry professionals and was a great time had by all.
Another Full Day of Learning
Sunday was another full day, with lots lined up, ready to learn. I attended the panel titled Why Them and Not Me? – Demystifying the Casting Process. Industry professionals such as Alexa Magneto, Kaliopi Kuzyk, Alex Nursall, and Sam Ufret were all on the panel. This session was full of voice actors itching to learn secrets from casting directors or anything to give them a leg up on how to set themselves apart from other actors to win the big job.
I dipped out of that session toward the end and attended the “Breaking into Animation – How to Get Started Class” with – Elle Ray Hennessey, Susan Hart, Ellen Dubin, and Michael Daingerfield. Animation panel discussions are always the most enjoyable to me as you can see the attendees sitting on the edge of their seats, ready to learn all they can about breaking into an industry so many are passionate about.
The last session of the day I attended was To Infinity and Beyond! Reaching New Heights in Your Animation VO Career with David Kaye, Eric Bauza, Kim Huron, and Joe Motiki. This session I have to say, was the most inspiring of the weekend. First of all, the amount of talent on this panel was insane. The number of characters these actors have portrayed is endless. Characters such as Optimus Prime, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky the Pig, etc., are life-changing characters.
Closing Out the VO North Conference Weekend
I was looking to feel re-inspired this weekend to motivate myself for the last quarter of 2022, and I felt I was motivated in this session. I should also mention that on Saturday, in the elevator, as I was heading back to the conference after lunch, I met Eric Bauza, – the famous Canadian Voice Talent who is the current voice of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. It was a brief meeting, but we met twice later that weekend. He was so sweet and genuine, and we chatted about how he got started in the business. I added him to LinkedIn and Instagram, and he sent me a very kind message asking if I ever needed advice he would lend an ear.
These are the kind of conversations you hope to have at a conference. Meeting those who are further along than you in your career, looking to make connections, learning those inspiring nuggets, anything that will push you in the right direction to edge out the competition. Although I had to leave the conference early on Sunday, it was a great weekend, and I am happy that I attended. I was able to meet new ones, those I’ve chatted online with for years now, and met celebs.
There are other voice-over conferences to choose from, and I think the next one I would love to attend would be the VO Atlanta conference, the biggest voice-over conference internationally held each March in Atlanta, Georgia.
For now, I want to thank Tanya and Dervla so much for all their blood, sweat, and tears in running the conference. As a voice actor, I can honestly say I learned so much and appreciated them working so hard to bring together a wonderful community.