I have a complicated relationship with networking. Meeting new people and finding connections and possible business connections is exhilarating! But sometimes the shyness that plagued me as a child consumes my body and I just want to stand in a corner. At most business events, I have enough “networking mojo” to feel happy that I attended. But at some, I have to give myself a pep talk and gather the courage to introduce myself to strangers.
I’m grateful to have learned a lesson when I was President of the San Diego chapter of American Women in Radio and TV, now called Alliance for Women in Media. A fellow member showed me her networking technique: extend your hand and introduce yourself. It’s as simple as that! Most strangers will respond in kind and tell you their name. Then we are free to start a conversation.
Using that technique has led to some lovely connections recently. While at the MM&M Media Summit, after a full day of listening to impressive, impactful speakers, I stayed around for a cocktail reception. Not knowing anyone, I had to muster up my networking mojo and use that handshake technique I just described. Hi, I’m Lisa, I said to a young woman who happens to work on the MM&M podcast. Minutes into our conversation, she invites Digital Editor Jack O’Brien to join us. Sharing that time together led to my getting invited to be a guest on their podcast. (Watch my socials as I’ll post the link to the podcast when it gets published in March.)
And then at a Marcomm Meetup, I enjoyed chatting with two creatives from Slice Communications as well as the power team of Rick and Jeff of Baker Sound, where I’ve recorded dozens of voiceovers over the past 15 years or so. Then I had some one on one time with members of an Ad Club committee who I usually only see in tiny video boxes on Zoom. All those encounters made me so glad I attended, even though, sure, it would have been easier and more comfortable to stay at home. There’s power in networking and finding ways to help others.
My point in writing all this is to encourage you to get out there and connect with other humans. If you feel shy about it, just try saying, “Hi, I’m ______.” I guarantee, nobody will yell at you or run away from you!
You may just make a new friend or business contact.
I got a nice surprise today when I opened the new edition of Philly Ad News, the magazine put out by Philly Ad Club about my 20th VoiceOver anniversary. Instead of just a brief mention, I saw a whole paragraph and not one but three photos of me. One of the pictures dates back to my old radio DJ days at WOBM-FM, part of Townsquare Media in New Jersey.
This whole VO anniversary has provided plenty of opportunity for reminiscing. And it’s inspired me to get in touch with old colleagues and collaborators I’ve not spoken to in a while. Looking back at the last two decades reminds me how fortunate I’ve been to have met so many good people along the way. I’m forever grateful for the clients who gave me a shot in the early days. I’m even grateful for the mistakes I made as a newbie. That’s how I’ve learned and grown into the VoiceOver artist that I am today.
In 2003, I started my own company: Lisa Leonard Voiceworks, LLC. (You can read the original anniversary blog post here.). To mark the occasion of my 20th Anniversary, I booked time at Main Line Studios in West Chester where producer Eric LaCasse interviewed me about my career. It was fun to take a stroll down memory lane, while sharing information which I hope will be helpful for anyone who may be considering hiring a voice actor.
I’ve posted 20 different video clips on Instagram over the past month. Some have gone on LinkedIn. And now they’re on my YouTube Channel in a playlist called 20th Anniversary of Lisa Leonard Voiceworks. Each combined video is 60 seconds of less.
I didn’t prepare my responses in advance. My hope is that viewers would get a sense of my experience and professionalism. “She’s been at this for more than 20 years, so she must know what she’s doing!” I also hope that viewers find my content helpful. “Oh, so that’s what I should do before hiring a voice actor!” And a final wish is that the viewer would enjoy a chuckle hearing about some of the more unusual VoiceOver gigs I’ve had. “Yes, my voice really was heard by horse sperm buyers!”
Is there one fact or story you found most interesting, helpful, or entertaining? Please share in the Comments section.
I’ll always regret not seizing the moment in the 1980s. Seeing the lead singer of my favorite band, REM, alone on a Manhattan street, and not approaching him. I chickened out. I could have met my idol, had a chat, maybe even gotten an autograph, but none of that happened. “Michael Stipe is a rock star,” I thought, “he doesn’t want to be bothered.” My teenaged brain, full of worry and uncertainty, said “Don’t do it!” 4 decades later, I still feel badly about letting fear and insecurity get in my way.
I share that story because it’s a good reminder to just do the thing! Over the years, I’ve been talking back to that annoying naysayer in my head. I’m saying, “yes,” and “go for it” these days and it’s given me some positive experiences I might not have had otherwise.
Case in point: this weekend in Toronto where I attended a training conference for Rotary members. 400 of us gathered from all over the Northeast USA and Canada. One of the featured speakers was a woman who is a celebrity in the Rotary world. Jennifer Jones made history as the world’s first woman president of Rotary International. Well, as luck would have it, we were in the restroom at the same time! As she was fixing an issue with her beautiful high heels, I seized the quiet moment to say hello and thank her for the wonderful, inspirational work she did in her year as president. We had a lovely chat and even shared a hug and a selfie!
What If I Did Nothing?
What turned out to be the highlight of my conference never would have happened had I not gotten the courage to say, “hello.” I’m grateful that I’ve become braver and bolder over the years. That spirit is helping me now in the VoiceOver business when competition is fierce and older voices like mine are not as in-demand as they used to be. I’m bravely setting out into the world of social media marketing and sharing my new commercial VoiceOver demo with voice buyers.
It’s still a bit uncomfortable and I admit, sometimes thoughts like, “Nah, they’re busy, don’t bother them” rear their ugly heads. But with recent POSITIVE experiences validating my choices to “go for it,” I’m determined to keep seizing the moments.
Has stepping out of your comfort zone helped you in business? Or life? Please share in the Comments.
“It’s much more than just having a good voice.” That’s something I always say to young people when they ask about my life as a voice actor. “You have to be a good reader. You need to understand the intention of the script. Are you trying to get people excited to buy something? Are you informing employees about new company policies? Or are you trying to reassure patients during a challenging time?”
I mentioned all of the above last week during a Zoom presentation to 11th graders at Liguori Academy in Philadelphia. (My Rotary club has a partnership with the school and this is one of many ways we help serve the community.) Students of the workforce class listened to examples of my VoiceOver work. I played some commercials, healthcare and explainer video narrations, and some awards/event announcements I’ve recorded.
Wanting to impart some wisdom during my 45 minute talk, I made sure to mention some important lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Ask questions. That’s how we learn.
Rejection is part of life. Don’t take it personally. Voice actors, like other actors, audition for many more jobs than we book.
Learn to take criticism. I told them about the audio engineer who said, “you sound sleepy like you haven’t had your coffee yet.” Instead of feeling insulted, I just psyched myself up and gave him a more energetic read. Taking feedback is part of the job.
Be open to learning new things. Successful voice actors continue to attend workshops, learn new specialties, and get coaching. What you think you want to do now, may change along the way. And that’s okay!
Have a good attitude and try to brighten peoples’ days. I reminded the students that being kind, professional, and easy to work with are qualities that people remember. And that usually lead to additional opportunities.
What advice about the working world do you like to give to students?
Well, I finally caught COVID. As I’m home isolating, with a reasonably mild case of it, I thought I’d share some random thoughts as we wind down from 2022.
- I’m grateful to have caught the virus during a typically slow period in the voiceover world. And I appreciate the compassion and flexibility of the clients who need me to record but are willing to wait for me to get back to my full voice before doing so.
- I was worried I might have unknowingly spread the virus to some people at a Philly Ad Club and Center City Business Association networking event the day before my symptoms started. After e-mailing everyone I spent time with, and having heard back from all but 2, I’m relieved to report they have been symptom-free. Whew!
- I used to follow COVID rapid test instructions SO carefully, reading and re-reading each line to make sure I was doing everything right. Today? I didn’t even have to look at the printed instructions. It’s true that practice makes perfect and I’ve had lots of testing experience lately.
- How fortunate that I have had people checking in on me, neighbors who delivered cough drops and friends who sent get-well care packages.
- The family Christmas celebration has been postponed and that’s okay. Yes, we’re all disappointed but, again, thanks to experience, we’ve gotten pretty good at the Zoom holiday thing so we’ll make the best of it.
- Though it’s been very cold here in Pennsylvania, I’ve enjoyed breathing in the fresh outdoor air while walking my dog. After being so congested, maybe I’m just noticing and appreciating those inhalations more.
- There really is something healing about chicken soup. And hot tea.
- How did we ever survive without streaming services and on-demand TV? While being sick is a bummer, there have been lots of good shows to help me pass the time. What have you been enjoying lately?
However you are spending this holiday season, I wish you peace and good health. And if you, like many of us, are dealing with an illness, I wish you a speedy and complete recovery and a wonderful start to the new year!
Today is known as Giving Tuesday. Like you, I’m receiving requests for monetary donations. It’s a huge day for charitable organizations and I hope they all achieve their fundraising goals.
Today’s blog post is not about donations of money, however. It’s about donating time. Sharing talents. Helping where you can.
This was actually the topic of a panel discussion I participated in during the “Global Game Changers Summi,” put on by the ASELxPenn group. Speaking to a worldwide audience over a live stream, some fellow Rotary members and I talked about non-monetary ways of giving.
Some of the questions we were asked:
What does giving back mean to you? How have you given back? How has giving back impacted your life? What recommendations do you have for people who want to give back but don’t know where to start?
I read a post that made me feel better. Wellness expert Kaleana Quibell reminded readers that the re-entry back to normal activities is a very personal experience. And for those who tend to run a little anxious, as I do, this has been a stressful transition period.
Case in point: the 3 days I just spent at a wonderful voiceover conference. While I was so excited to go and learn and have fun with old and new friends, I had a pesky thought running through my head the whole time. “You might catch COVID.”
Having spent almost three years virus-free, I’ve gotten very comfortable in my personal protective bubble. I’m now very used to solitude and masking. So, I was a bit conflicted going into rooms full of, at times, more than 100 people.
I decided to trust my instincts. That meant I allowed myself to give some hugs, and sit near friends during mealtimes. (All of that felt great, by the way!) But I also walked out of a session when I felt too crowded. I sat alone in the back of the room at times to give myself some space. I even skipped a session for a mid-day meditation and nap in my hotel room. Old me would have felt badly about appearing rude or anti-social. But Post-Pandemic Lisa knows I did what I had to do to feel safe and comfortable.
That’s why it was nice to read Kaleana’s post, and all of the comments that followed.
“Whatever barriers you need to put up to protect your physical (or mental) health, just do it. You don’t require anyones permission to take care of your needs.”
How has your transition to socializing and in-person conferencing been? Please share in the Comments section below.
How do you persevere when faced with challenges?
I’ve never been into sports but agreed to go to the archery range with my friends in the Poconos. “It’ll be fun!” they said. In the span of an hour, most of my arrows fell to the ground or stuck to the far corners of the target.
The photo captures my proudest moment when I got two arrows sort of close to the bullseye. Nothing landed right in the center so I certainly didn’t master archery. But I tried. And I improved. And I got more comfortable and confident as time went on.
The whole experience reminded me of most things I find challenging in life. Initially, I am nervous. Will I do it right? Will I get hurt? Will I hurt anyone else? Then I get guidance or coaching. In the Poconos, one archery friend said I would shoot better if I raised my elbow. The other suggested positioning my feet differently. Someone else said I should close my left eye.
My brain struggled to implement all those tips at once so then I missed a bunch of shots in a row. I was overthinking.
But then I took a breath, centered myself, and finally, things clicked. Don’t I look happy in that photo?
I’m glad I stayed in the game, even when things got uncomfortable and difficult. I kept showing up even though I was tempted to put down the bow and arrows. I’m reminded of that old ad slogan on the lottery commercials, “You gotta be in it to win it.”
It’s the same with auditioning. It’s a “necessary evil” of voiceover work even when it takes time away from other things we might rather or might need to do. I know and accept that auditioning IS part of the job of a voice actor. I’ve got to get my voice recorded if I want to be in the running for certain jobs. I keep stepping up to the microphone, wearing my metaphorical Katniss Everdeen pouch, so I can have a shot at work that I love to do.
Isn’t that the way with all careers and any important undertaking? I think about my earliest days doing voiceover work. Ooof, some of my early missteps were cringeworthy but it was all part of the journey that got me to where I am today.
We all get overwhelmed and overloaded sometimes. We focus so much on that big bullseye goal that we don’t always think of the mechanics or the process of what we’re trying to do. We know where we want to end up, but we don’t always stop to think about how we have to adjust our stance, practice our craft, or take care of all of the parts that aren’t as much fun. We forget that we can take a breath, center ourselves, and keep working toward where we want to be.
What’s your best tip for persevering when things get tough or when you get too much “in your head.”
Self-promotion can be difficult for solopreneurs, regardless of how critical it is to our business. I know, I know: to run a successful company, one needs to have a strong online presence. I’ve attended webinars, workshops, and Clubhouse conversations with social media experts to learn more about the tips and tools I need to get my voiceover business noticed. I’ve watched YouTube videos on how to stand out in a crowded sea of online content.
And yet, this “tooting my own horn” thing just feels, well, weird.
Like, not natural.
I came face to face with this discomfort last month when I asked two clients if they would please write a few sentences for a testimonial. Having studied Donald Miller’s Storybrand, I know that third-party recommendations are invaluable when it comes to getting your business noticed. I rely on them all the time when seeking a new restaurant or travel destination, don’t you? So it makes sense that recommendations and testimonials could help others find my voiceover business as well.
The clients were happy to oblige and quickly emailed some ringing endorsements.
So why did I just leave them in my inbox?
I’d been feeling conflicted. I knew that to promote and help grow my VO business, I should share those testimonials and let potential clients read about how I’m “a top-notch voiceover pro” who is “passionate about her craft.” Yet I kept resisting because posting testimonials feels like a big ol’ brag. I’m confident in what I do and I’m proud of my reputation for taking direction well and being so easy to work with. Yet, I felt a bit icky the other day when I loaded the high praise into a graphic and then posted it on LinkedIn.
Is self-promotion just a necessary evil that we solopreneurs need to suck up and do? Or is there a better way to encourage potential clients to give us a try? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.