nerves are not just for newbies

Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O'Connell shares his marketing insights during a VO in TO Voice-Over Meet-Up at Livingston Studios, May 2014

Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell shares his marketing insights during a VO in TO Voice-Over Meet-Up at Livingston Studios, May 2014

Recently, I was invited to be the featured speaker at a semi-regular meeting of the VO in TO group, founded by Patrick Sweeney and Jodi Krangle. For professional, intermediate and newbie voice talents, the group used to meet in a billiard room at a bar in Toronto but recently shifted locations to the Livingston Studios in Toronto. It’s an intimate location, with all the VO recording facilities you could want plus a meeting/performance area – which is where the meeting took place.

If you're a good speaker, you get a mug; if you're a great speaker you get a mug AND a t-shirt

If you’re a good speaker, you get a mug; if you’re a great speaker you get a mug AND a t-shirt

Pat asked me to speak about writing a marketing plan for a voice-over business and that part of the night went well enough. Only one audience member almost fell asleep, which for me is an improvement over most of the snoozers I present to 😉

But it was the mixer after the meeting that made the biggest impact on me. A bright, friendly, young woman who wanted to thank me for my presentation approached me. But clearly she had another voice-over matter on her mind that she wanted to talk about, so I invited her to sit down and talk with me.

She was very new to voice-over although she had some performance experience. She had recently done a training session in a studio and was besieged, evidently almost from the moment she walked into the booth, by a case of nerves. She couldn’t get her mouth to do what her brain was asking it to do. Classic symptoms: words not coming out right, breathing irregularly, the whole deal. This perplexed her and bothered her and she needed to talk about it.

We did. I complimented her for being honest enough to talk about it and work through it – that’s a great start to overcoming most problems. I explained – with many embarrassing examples – how I also experienced vocal performance anxiety at various times in my VO career and that when I am in a studio or speaking publicly I still get nervous. She was very surprised by that, given what she had just witnessed.

I explained that I am able to work through it more quickly and seamlessly because of my years of experience performing and presenting but the nerves are still there. And I explained further – that’s a good thing, offering me a heightened sense of awareness to both the work being done and the audience being informed and entertained.

She and I were joined, during the course of our conversation, by two other experienced voice-over pros and fellow Faffers: Mike Pongracz (one of the 3 AmiVos – who still owe me a 3 AmiVos toque) and Elaine Singer. They too offered up to her their experiences with nerves and how they dealt with it (sidebar: sorry to brag but Faffers really do know best how to listen to and help fellow voice talent, with any type of problem better, than any other voice-over group cause I think Amy started the kind of “lend me an ear” VO philosophy – end of brag).

By the end of the conversation, I think this young woman was heartened by the support she received and the insight she was given. She won’t not ever be nervous again but she’ll now know better how to deal with it. And that’s part of how you develop into a professional in this or any other industry: by being just as scared as anyone else but doing it anyway, while everyone else cowers in the corner.

And I offer this story for those readers who aren’t brave enough to talk about their nerves or their performance fears but still want to deal with it somehow. Just know that your fears and obstacles probably aren’t unique. In this case, everyone and anyone in voice-over has and will still have nerves and anxieties. Even us old guys.

Just do it anyway.

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