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Conferences are like a ‘box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.’

The reviews are in for last weekend’s VO Atlanta. Outstanding! Moving! Better than ‘Cats!’ More than 600 voice over actors, producers, agents and managers assembled in one hotel. That’s a lot of talking.

But the weekend was about more than the business of voice over.

Aside from excellent programs on eLearning, improv, audition techniques, working with an agent and marketing, was Paul Strikwerda’s excellent talk: The “Inner Game of Voice Over.” It wasn’t filled with hacks, and industry insider information: It was filled with wisdom, wit and genuine emotion.

Paul stood before us in his signature yellow clogs, and discussed several points to care for our voice over business, which was actually a talk about caring for ourselves, and honoring our life’s relationships.

We played the ‘Dirty Sock Game.’ Uh. Yeah in which Paul drew a black sock, the length of a scarf, from around his neck. Assuring us that it was clean, he tossed the sock to an audience member, instructed them to draw a small card from inside the toe, and read aloud one of the enclosed messages. Paul elaborated on the message.  Afterwards, the person who read the previous message tossed the sock to someone else.

If you missed this talk, there’s a list of takeaways below. *
With each successive card, readers were moved by not just the messages, but Paul’s discussion about each point. Public personae gave way to what is real and good and generous in us. Stories were shared, as was our common bond of humanity. There were laughs. Tears were shed: from tiny ‘Denzel’ type streams that discreetly slip from the corner of your eye, to full-on sobs that unleash tsunami-grade weeping.

Emotions, often manufactured in service to a script, were on display in their naked splendor, as we experienced palpable feelings of unity and grace.
In these professional settings, we gather not just to sharpen skills, make contacts, and discover new methods to work, we make it personal. VO Atlanta, and most gatherings are less about what we do, more about who we are, and our human connection.  Which also happens to come in handy if you’re a voice actor.

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your inspiration, wit, passion and kindness. You re-ignited a flame that burns bright this week, and hopefully, beyond.


*Dirty Sock Takeaways
1. Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable – Find Your Edge, Go Beyond It. Grow.
2. Take Care of the Goose with the Golden Eggs.  – Hint: That’s You!
3. Know When to Say ‘No.’ – Set up your boundaries. It frees you to do what you need and want to do
4. Surround Yourself with People Who Believe in You. – And get rid of those Debbie Downers.  At the same time, give thanks to someone who has been supportive and kind to you in your career, and life.
5. Be Soft on Yourself – Perfectionism is a Nasty Little Tyrant. Stop it in its Tracks.
6. You’re Not in the Mind-Reading Business. You’re in the Script-Reading Business.
– You know what they say when you assume something.
7. You Can’t Think About What You Don’t Think About Without Thinking About It First.
– Okay, this may need its own post.
8. There is Always More to Learn. – While we have breath, there is life. And, there’s always room for improvement. Such a comforting thought.