Networking and learning: partners

Wow, what a wild week! This business of meeting people, making connections, and finding exactly how few degrees of separation there are between me and folks I thought were total strangers is amazing.

First, I attended the annual Ohio school board conference this week in Columbus. I believe this is my ninth conference since I was first elected to my local school board in 2007. In addition to some excellent learning seminars I attended, I perused the large vendor exhibit area in the main exhibition hall of our convention center.
I was able to network as a voice artist with a couple of entities. First, a company called Melhart that sells musical instruments had a display for LED light systems designed to fit on drums for school marching and concert bands. The systems even had a wireless controller so that all of lights on all of the instruments could be synchronized. I gave the rep my business card, he handed me a brochure with contact info, and I promised to forward their company info to my high school band director.

Next, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has a booth each year, and I always stop by to see if there’s any new info I need or can use as a PA announcer. Two OHSAA officials were on hand, one of whom I have worked several basketball games with (he was a baskeball referee for many years). He introduced me to the other official, who I learned had worked with Columbus State Community college, and left there when I came on as a PA announcer. After discussing the people we both knew there and what I was doing with myself now, I handed her my business card. She immediately gave me the name of their director of public relations, and promised she would forward the card.

On Thursday I began a new weekday gig as a radio weather forecaster for RadioForecastNetwork.com. My VO instructor Ron Allan suggested this to our monthly VO Meet-up group (Ron had been an RFN weathercaster in the past), and I know several others in our group have also have signed on with RFN. My gig involves doing the mid-day (10 AM – 3 PM) weather for a total of ten cities – eight in Texas, one in Wyoming, and one in Arizona. Since the earliest of the stations had to have their forecast ready by 10 AM my time, I decided I would start right at 7 AM.

After a training session by phone and being sent an email with detailed instructions and the “weather beds” (lead-in/background music files) for each station, I was on my own that first morning. It took me from 7 AM to 10:30 AM to get them done. Friday I cut it down to three hours. You can imagine how dismayed I was to see that, especially as others had told me it should take no more than an hour or hour-and-a-half.

The challenge in the weather forecasting is to take the dry forecast data you see on the screen and make it conversational and pleasant, in additon to being professional. So, you’re actually getting experience in copywriting, editing voiceover quickly, and production (mixing music and voiceover tracks). But after Friday’s session, I set up a Word document with notes for each station, and I expect to be down to two hours next week, and keep improving each day.

Wouldn’t You Know department : since I wasn’t checking my email for those three hours on Thursday, as I was in the middle of trying to finish the last station, my phone rang. It was Ron Allan with a voiceover job for me, wanting to know why I hadn’t responded to his email (he has a TV station client that calls him frequently, usually wanting something ‘”right away”). After issuing a “mea culpa”, I promised Ron he would have the finished job by noon, and I delivered. The really interesting thing is, the job was to do a commercial for a local business in another state, and it’s the fifth spot I’ve done for this business since September. Ron forwarded their request in his message to me, and the client had written the words “Is Joe available for another spot?”

And as I am typing this late Saturday night, I’m still coming off the disappointment of watching my alma mater’s football team get beat in the playoff for the regional championship by another very fine team. But I still managed to make it a worthwhile experience. Remember in my series on PA announcing how I liked to bring copies of our team’s roster with pronunciations and key players? This game was held at Upper Arlington high school in Columbus, and they have probably the premier high school facility in central Ohio, with PA speakers second to none.

I made my usual reconnoiter to the pressbox an hour before kickoff, and was introduced to the UA announcer, who was overjoyed to see my announcer sheets. After he thanked me, I pulled out my business card and handed it to him, with a request that mention my name to anyone in need of voiceover. He responded by giving me his card – it said “voice artist and PA announcer” ……… what were the odds? And we proceeded to have a nice chat about the world of PA announcing and voiceover, discussed condenser mic choices and whether one should have an agent, and we promised to keep in touch.

As I listened to my new friend during the game, I was struck by his professionalism, not only in his announcer mechanics, but in the quality of his speaking voice. I recorded some samples of his announcing to study next week, and I’m looking forward to making some small adjustments to my delivery.

What was the common thread in all of these events in the past week – they happened because I met someone new, which caused changes in me, and also caused me to begin to seek out others in my voiceover journey – other artists to learn from, new people who might be potential clients, which may create opportunities. In short, networking – creating a connection between several entities that all might have something in common.

Through my co-worker, I met Ron Allan. Through my training with Ron, he has made my voice available for spots for his clients – and his client’s clients also, which has led to repeat work for myself.

Through Ron Allan, I met the head of the radio forecasting network, and now have a regular job there. And because of Ron Allan, I now have a sense of professionalism and confidence to seek out others, and let them know what I can do.

Because of my work has high school PA announcer, and as an announcer with Columbus State,  I was able to make a new acquaintance with a state governing body, and I may have a potential connection within that body for possible work.

Finally, in all of those connections, I have learned something of value I can use for my business as a voice artist. It might be a name, it might be a technique – but it’s something I didn’t have before I made that connection.

How about you?  How did you begin your network, and what have you done to enlarge it and make it more effective?  I’d love to hear from – feel free to click “Reply To This Post”, and let me know your thoughts. (please, no spam messages or solicitations, they will be removed).

That’s all for now.  Until next time, keep your best voice forward, and may your network be “coast-to-coast”.  Take care.

-Z-

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