Voice-over conferences cost a lot of money. My email chimed with the arrival of the receipt from my hotel in Atlanta before I was five miles away. I have studiously avoided looking at it ever since. Add the astronomically priced meals at the hotel restaurant, the cost of travel, plus the cost of the conference itself, and you have heart palpitation inducing financial stress. If you add on x-sessions at $200 a piece… I have learned to make sure to have an automated CPR device handy before I add it all up. There’s a tip you won’t hear everywhere!

I suppose for many people the money spent doesn’t mean much, but for me it does. I am sure it does for many other people also.

Return on investment (ROI)

Like any business expenditure, it is necessary to weigh the benefits of paying for a conference against the cost of other things that might be needed. Should you be paying for more training instead? A new demo? Upgrades to your recording space? A virtual assistant? A multicolored, computer-controlled LED lighting system complete with disco glitterball for your booth? How about that four level, super plush pet condo with the heated, auto-massaging platforms you have been eyeing for your studio cat? These are tangible things that can have a measurable impact on your success as a voice talent (mostly). In contrast, a conference lasts for only a few days and you have nothing of value to carry away. Or do you?


What you gain from a conference depends on what you put into it, but what is available to receive is tremendous. Intangible, maybe, but valuable nonetheless. Sure, it isn’t the same as being able to get the old glitter ball going and dancing the night away to the music of old disco tunes in the privacy of your own recording booth, but let’s face it. Few things in life can measure up to that. That begs the question: what can you get? What makes it worth the cost?


When I ask people what they get out of a conference, the most common response has to do with people. Seeing friends, meeting new ones. Hugs. Handshakes. Enjoying the company of others who have things in common. For me, nothing has been more valuable than the discovery that I belong to a community that is supportive, accepting… and where some people actually like me (go figure!). This revelation of connection made me very emotional as I left my first VO conference, as I have written about elsewhere. Are we a perfect community? No, we are made up of people. Flawed people. Are we a more supportive community than most? Yes!

At this past VO Atlanta, I enjoyed two separate one-on-one lunches, as well as a breakfast, which were worth the price of admission in themselves. I consider all three of these people to be friends and I care a great deal about them. I would never have met them in person if not for conferences.

What is the price of camaraderie, friendship, and knowing you are not alone?


Ostensibly, this is what conferences are about. The width and breadth of information you can receive is pretty amazing, even potentially overwhelming. The standard breakout sessions are mostly sit-and-get, but don’t dismiss the value of that. Often, there are also extra sessions (x-sessions) available which offer extended interactive training time in a small group setting, which offers a deeper dive on a subject. The question is not whether you will receive much in the way of learning, but whether or not you can contain it all.

If you can cram a ton of credible, actionable, industry specific education into a very short period of time, how much is that worth to you?


If you are like me, you don’t live in an area where you have easy access to industry experts, world-class coaches, casting directors, or agents. Zoom can be okay for some things, but just can’t take the place of being able to be in the same room and read for a major casting director, or chat one-on-one with an agent.

Another kind of exposure is also tremendously valuable. Have you ever wondered about working with a coach, but didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on them only to find they’re not a good fit? Taking a breakout or x-session taught by a coach is a great way to get a feel for their personality, temperament, and whether or not you relate to their teaching style. This year at VOA I took an x-session with Tina Morasco and found her way of teaching very insightful, easy to relate to, and fun. I hope to coach with her more.

What value would you assign to these kinds of very unique opportunities?


I met Jenn Henry at the first conference I ever went to. We ended up working together as volunteers, throwing us in a situation where we had no choice but to get to know each other a bit. Very few people have inspired me the way she has. She is so very real, honest, energetic, and funny, with a healthy dose of Gandalf thrown in for good measure. A real-life unicorn. I was charmed. Then as I sat in her breakout session later, she said something that I needed to hear in a way which made complete sense to me (This isn’t easy to do). To this day her words continue to inspire me to bring everything I am—even the broken and wounded parts—into the booth.

I made a point of introducing myself to Heidi Rew at VO Atlanta 2022. I had previously heard her speak about the beginning of her voice-over career and the struggles she went through. Her story inspired me to keep going when I was considering giving up, and I wanted to tell her so. Talking to her in person solidified that inspiration; with the added benefit of finding her to be a genuinely sweet, caring person who is a pleasure to be around.

Being social is stressful to me, and the thought of doing improv has always terrified me. A lot of people have told me how beneficial it would be… but I couldn’t even imagine doing it. It was Kauleen Cloutier’s encouragement to do it that has been the voice in my head for two years. Why? Because before the subject of improv ever came up, she embraced me and cared about me as a person, even though she didn’t know me from a toadstool sandwich. (This is a common problem I have. Usually it’s not until the first bite that they figure out I am not edible.) Kauleen is so delightful, she is one person I can’t wait to see when I am at a conference. And yes, this year at VOA I finally dipped my toes into The Waters Improv, and much to my surprise, even survived!

I can’t really tell you how inspiring it is to hear successful VO pros like Brad Hyland or Jas Patrick tell me I have what it takes to succeed. Or to have Stephane Cornicard personally encourage me to investigate the world of voicing for video games. Or to have my new friend Holly Adams help me see a piece of myself in a new way, which gave me a new tool for my VO toolbox.

Several people I had never met even sought me out to tell me they read and enjoy this blog. I can’t begin to explain how inspiring and encouraging that is—not to mention a huge surprise, since I thought only about 6 people read it.

What is the cost of inspiration? What is the cost of not having it?


All of this adds up to momentum, as the state patrol officer remarked after he stopped me on my drive home from VOA. Apparently I had a little too much *ahem* momentum. I tried to explain, but he has obviously never been to a VO conference. His loss.

In recent weeks I have found myself losing momentum in my pursuit of voice-over. Now, three days since I was at VO Atlanta, I still feel energized. I can’t wait to do the auditions that arrive. The idea of getting new demos done has me excited. I actually WANT to get the business side of my business straightened out (you have no idea how much of a milestone that is!). The momentum I feel now won’t last, I know, but I have it now, and I needed it. Besides, if it runs out, there is always WoVoCon, OneVoice, MAVO, eVOcation

What would you pay for renewed momentum?

The real ROI

I am not encouraging you to spend money you do not have. I know these things are expensive and I can relate to the struggle of balancing FOMO with ROI. The fact is, you shouldn’t prioritize a conference over more basic needs. However, intangibles have an impact that can’t be put on a spreadsheet. I understand the struggle these decision making processes can be, because I have been there. Truthfully, I still wrestle through this each time I decide whether or not to go, and one a year is about my financial limit.

Still, if you haven’t been to a VO conference, you are missing something special. If you can afford it, I want to encourage you to consider attending at least once. I want you to have experiences like I have, and take home priceless things you can hold in your heart, if not your hand.


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17 Responses

  1. I LOVED our dinner and the amazing conversation we had. Now it’s a darn shame they not offer toadstool sandwiches on the menu, as I imagine that would have certainly left an impression. But nonetheless, a big highlight from this year was getting to hang out with you! Thank you for being a part of what made my VO Atlanta 2023 memorable.

    • Ditto. I had no intention of telling you all of my secrets… but that is what friends are for, right? Our lunch was a highlight for me too. Worth the price of admission!

    • It just clicked that I referred to our meal as a “lunch”, when it was in fact a dinner, as you said. Time gets compacted when at a conference! Hmmm… there is a blog post in there somewhere…

  2. You captured the spirit of VO Atlanta perfectly, Jon! And yes, those are truly wonderful people you’ve written about. I especially know Heidi well, as she and her husband and business partner Mike Stoudt were my very first VO instructors. Incredibly sweet and generous.

    So glad to see you in person again! Count me as one of many friends who, yes, actually like you quite a bit. And enjoy your blogs.

    Take care, Jon! And sorry about the unplanned encounter with the state patrol.

  3. Love your blog, Jon. You have such an easy way of explaining your ideas and giving people tangible takeaways.
    I appreciate you giving me a shout out!

    I also enjoy the fact that not every line of what you write is NOT intended to get a laugh. #relaxing ! Hope to catch up with you soon.

    • Thanks, Brad. I would love to do Dallas (there is an easy joke that is just begging to get said, but I will restrain myself), but I don’t know yet. I have to weigh the FOMO against the ROI!

  4. “the discovery that I belong”

    There’s a statement that totally hit me this year. Last year (my first) it was discovery of how things went, being starstruck, in awe. This year, after really working hard at this full time for a full year and building a business …. It was that discovery. I felt out of my shell, like it was “allowed” to mix in now!

    Great blog Jon and I also still have sticker shock but learned to apply the value of friendships and education and association to be so much more!

    • Thanks for reading and replying, Troy! I bolded that statement because it was, and is, a big deal to me. Not just that I have been accepted, but that I have been accepted for who I am, which frees me to come out of my shell, as you said. I have seen your name and logo around, but have we ever formally met? If not, we should!

  5. Love this insightful, educational, fabulous article. Best part of VO Atlanta for me was making new friends and connections (here’s looking at you, Jon).

  6. It was beyond awesome to have finally met you in person, Jon! VOA was so great, wasn’t it?! It was invaluable to have had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with industry peers, and so much fun! I hope to see you at the next VOA!

    • It was so good to meet you in person, talk and share a meal. You are an awesome person (although I already knew that). I count myself blessed to call you a peer and a friend!

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