The Faffcon Experience – Voiceover Camp for Grownups

George Washington III and Mike Wong at Faffcon 2

Me and Mike Wong

Think back to your summer camp days. You remember, don’t you? Sometimes a weekend, sometimes a week or more spent with kids you may not have seen before that moment, but can suddenly become your closest friends. I have an experience like that: when I was in high school, I attended YMCA Leaders School in Decorah, IA. Some of the kids I met in each of those three years are still friends that can call on each other to this day, almost 25 years later. And the reason why we can do that is shared experience: a moment in time when we let our guards down, and were able to share things about ourselves that we weren’t able to in our hometowns, with our high school friends.

On looking back on the Faffcon 2: Electric Boogaloo experience, I am reminded of those days at Leaders School. Because the Faffcon experience is built entirely around sharing: sharing the tips and tricks, the knowledge and experience that all of us have accumulated over the years with peers who are just as eager to share their own.

The morning I arrived, the main meeting room in the Westin Peachtree was buzzing as we got prepared to start. Seeing people like Doug Turkel, Mercedes Rose, and Dave Courvoisier (who arrived a bit later from Vegas) in person for the first time was amazing. Seeing friends I already had met like Peter O’Connell, Vance Elderkin, and Jamee Perkins was just as good.

Then the real value of Faffcon got going. I was unfamiliar with the “unconference” concept, but it is a great one: we decide what we are going to talk about in 1 hour blocks in small groups, with us being the leaders of each of the sessions, like Mike Wong talking about social media and the voice artist, Dan Friedman and Dan Lenard (sporting the greatest handlebar mustache in the biz) speaking on EQ, compression, and sound isolation/suppression, Bruce Miles on characterization. My only regret was not being able to see every one of them, knowing that even 10 sessions wouldn’t be enough.

Voiceover godfather and second nicest man in voiceover Bob Souer held the crowd in his session, telling us to “Invite the Avalanche.” You may agree or disagree with his message of take everything you can, even when you can’t. But there is no doubting his openness and sincerity.

I could go on and on about the sessions. But some of the greatest value of this unconference was in the hallway discussions and talks over snacks and meals. What we do as voice artists is often a solitary existence. We work in our booths and studios mostly alone, sometimes talking to others during sessions, but not really connecting. We see the successes of our peers in our Facebook and Twitter streams. But is was here at Faffcon when we could openly and safely discuss our failures. Our vulnerability, our sense of “what the hell am I doing even trying this.” These are the feelings that make us believe we are alone, that no one in the world is going through what I am, because they are all so successful. At Faffcon, you learn you are not alone.

I would be remiss if I didn’t speak directly to the women most responsible for making Faffcon happen: Pam Tierney (whom I got to thank personally for the honesty I so admire in her blog posts), Connie Terwilliger, and Faffcon founder Amy Snively. They were tireless in their labors to get this organized and running from across the country, raising money for a worthy charity Everybody Wins Atlanta, getting door prizes (I won a great one, a CEntrance MicPort Pro), taking care of us all.

Everyone left with at least one “golden nugget,” that piece of information you would never have come up with on your own, that the person you got it from may or may not even know they gave to you. Tanya Schoenwolf could barely contain herself when she found her nugget, and went on a domain buying spree. I can’t wait to see what she gets going. Doug Turkel gave me one I hope to capitalize on in the short run. And on and on.

I can hardly describe the feeling I had being among all these terrific people and great talents. I was walking around grinning from ear to ear for most of the time.

Faffcon 3 will be September 23-26, 2011 at the Hershey Resort in Hershey, PA (where I am one of the marketing on hold voices, I am proud to say). If you haven’t been to Faffcon, you must try. If you feel stuck for ideas, you must go. If you feel like no one has been through what you are going through, you must come. Faffcon may not be for everyone, but it feels like it. Just like going to camp.

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