Expand your voice-over world – to a Workout Group!

With the voice-over business so heavily focused on home studios these days, and with you probably self-directing most of your projects, how do you stay fresh? How do you acquire new ideas and learn techniques? For that matter, how do you stay sane and get some “fresh air,” literally and figuratively?

One way, as in any profession from plumbing to surgery, is continuing education. A voice-over pro should know, more than anyone, the value of taking advanced courses and continuing to work with a coach from time-to-time. But there are other ways, too. Do you know about “workout groups”? Whether you’re a beginner or an established working pro, a workout group is a great way to get feedback and firm up or expand your capabilities.

The concept is simple. Various VO talent meet and take turns performing, with the others providing feedback. This has long been a practice among stage and on-camera actors. They get together and do scenes. Same with voice actors, but it’s easier for voice artists to get together and perform.

Workout groups vary in nature. Many meet weekly, some less often, for maybe a couple of hours. Some are large, some small. Some are an informal collection of peers; others are led by a coach and might be more like a class. You might find a group that’s free, or (more likely) there is a charge (typically by the week or month), but usually, any charge is nominal. For the benefits you receive, it will probably be a bargain.

There might even be various frills. Some groups record the performances, not only so that the artists can hear themselves, but so that after receiving suggestions or direction, the talent might wind up with a better audition to send off to their agent, or a track to update their demo.

Giving feedback is valuable, too. Naturally, it’s positive. Or rather, any criticism is constructive. After all, those giving the feedback will have their turn at the mic, and you’ll be critiquing them.

"I find when I participate in workout groups," says Edge Studio Managing Director Graeme Spicer, "that I often learn more by having to give someone direction or a critique, than I do actually reading my copy and receiving direction or critique. It’s a really worthwhile exercise.”

Some groups meet in-person, and there are groups all around the country. For example, during our weekly TalkTime! session on June 12, 2016, several workout groups were mentioned. One that was mentioned has been meeting in California’s San Fernando Valley for a couple of decades. Michael Schwalbe, a frequent TalkTime! participant, mentioned the Tennessee Voice-over Exchange, a group of 25-40 people who that meet monthly in Nashville. They enjoy feedback, seminars, mixers, etc. Michael said that some member s drive hours to attend.

Another caller was looking for a group near Lexington, Kentucky, another in Maryland, and yet another person sought to find one in Ireland. We’ll bet they have each found or formed one by now. In fact, a couple of people talked about forming one in southwest Florida. A group as small as five people is enough to comprise a functional circle of peers, as long as they’re at comparable professional levels. (Workout groups are also mentioned in some of our other TalkTime! archive recordings.)

Other workout groups meet online. For example

  • Larry Hudson’s “VO Heaven” virtual workout group. 60 people get together via Skype and work out regularly every week. It’s been going on for six years. The small monthly charge covers, however, many weeks are in that month.
  • Flavor Florida Voiceover Resources may also have workouts, or be able to direct you to one. It’s a Facebook site, with about 130 members.

You can find others by searching online.

Also, participate in our own Feedback Forum at EdgeStudio.com. It’s a sort of workout group, too. You submit a recording (using your own script or one from our Practice Script Library), and then peers will post their opinion and give constructive suggestions. It’s not a “live” response like you’d get at a meetup, but the people who comment are friendly and supportive (such a great thing about the voice-over community!), and it’s free.

Or, if you want your Feedback Forum read to be evaluated by one of our coaches, you can request that, for a small charge.

And yet another feedback idea, also free: Our Monthly Audition Contest.

Each month we publish a short script as a "simulated audition." People send in their recordings, and David Goldberg himself picks three winners. Whether or not you win, this gives you yet another way to practice “performing under pressure” (although there really is none – the deadline gives you plenty of time). And there’s also this: In announcing the results, we explain, in general terms (not naming names) why some people did not win, including performance and recording tips. Follow the contest regularly, and participate; you’ll learn a lot.

Fantastic Idea

I have been a part of Larry's workout group for 9 months and it has helped improve my abilities by leaps and bounds in conjunction with constant technique classes and coaching sessions.

I have started a workout group through reddit. VOworkoutworld. My username is gwell66. We had an amazing first session last night and I hope it's one of many. Join us, it's completely free and is set up so that you can pencil yourself in for workouts that occur at the same time every week or you can even use the subreddit page to create your own random workout anyday of the week! Have an audition and you want an extra set of ears? See if someone else will be available later in the day!

Hope to hear from fellow Edge students and build this into something positive and helpful!


Seeking Audiobook/Narration Workout group

I'd like to start a workout group focused on audiobooks and long form narration (like e-learning and instructional material). Ideally around 6-8 people who would meet virtually bi-montly for an hour or two but I'm open to other arrangements. What I can contribute: in addition to my seven years of full-time voice over experience (another five of professional theatre before that) I've got a masters in oral storytelling and led a local storytelling group for several years. If interested email me at joelrichards.com.

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