As with most large events happening around the world, VO Atlanta 2020 has been postponed due to Covid-19. This week we welcome special guest Gerald Griffith to discuss all things VO Atlanta and how this pandemic has impacted the conference and our lives. We may not be gathering in Atlanta this month, but we can certainly take advantage of free online learning opportunities while we practice social distancing, including offerings from VO Atlanta presenters. Stay safe and healthy during these tumultuous times and keep on rocking your business like a #VOBOSS.
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
VO Atlanta 2020 has been postponed due to Covid-19
New dates have not been set yet. You should cancel your hotel reservations. A new block will be set up when new dates are set
Most airlines are issuing travel credits and waiving change/cancel fees
Covid-19 is a global event, and we all have to work together to stop the spread
Large events around the country and globe are being cancelled and are discouraged, and even prohibited in certain areas
It can take up to a year to plan an event this size. You start planning as soon as the previous conference is over
You have to be flexible in event planning and adapt based on circumstances
What is unique about doing an event in the voiceover industry, is that there are 900 individual business entities with their own challenges and experiences. It’s not one company who is coordinating an event with their employees
It’s hard in this type of situation, because you want to answer everyone’s question individually, but you have to delegate to handle communication effectively.
I have to look at how this event effects 800 to 900 people collectively
If you have questions, visit the VO Atlanta website, and we have a chat box, where we can get back to you, or chat with you live if we’re around!
We have to protect everyone who would have travelled to the event, both domestically, and internationally
There is a penalty (well into six figures) that VO Atlanta is absorbing
VO Atlanta, and other conferences are some people’s entire livelihood
We do have cancellation insurance in place, but it doesn’t cover all contigencies. These policies have a lot of loopholes. This insurance specifically excludes communicable disease.
Transfers are not covered under the insurance. The insurance does not allow for ticket transfers
Your conference experience is about connecting you with the best in the business. We can still deliver these things! It may be different, but it doesn’t have to be less.
VO Atlanta 2019 content is now available online for free, so we can contribute to the VO Community.
This is all about re-envisioning VO Atlanta 2.0. I refuse to let this be the downfall of something, but instead it’s an opportunity to re-envision what it means to have a conference and come together as a community.
A huge shout out to all of those people who have done nothing but show support!
When the next hurdle comes and you have nothing left in the tank, sometimes you just have to laugh!
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
Check out Vocal Booth To Go and get 5% off with code: VOTech-Guru-5
Keep up to date on everything VO Atlanta
Recorded on ipDTL
Awesome editing by Carl Bahner
>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premier business owner strategies and successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS. Now let’s welcome your host Anne Ganguzza.
Anne: Hey everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, and I’m here with my very special guest, founder and executive producer of VO Atlanta, Mr. Gerald Griffith. Hey Gerald! So nice of you –
Gerald: Hey Anne.
Anne: So nice of you to join me this early morning to bring our BOSSes an update on all things VO Atlanta and craziness that goes on in this world today. [laughs]
Gerald: I know, I know.
Anne: So you’ve had, well I think we all have, but you especially have had some incredibly tough decisions to make in the past few weeks regarding the VO Atlanta conference which I know there were so many of us looking forward to. And I wanted to just kind of talk with you a bit, to bring some perspective to our BOSS listeners because I happen to know my husband who works in trade shows and events, just a little bit about just how crazy this world can be. I thought maybe it would help bring some clarity and some peace to people who are really disappointed that they can’t get together at this annual, wonderful conference. So Gerald, tell us a little bit about [laughs] tell us about your journey in the last couple of weeks in regards to the event.
Gerald: Where do you start? It’s been – if you can imagine the emotional swings –
Anne: Oh goodness.
Gerald: – it’s probably there. Ultimately you get to a point with some of these things where laughter is all you’ve got left.
Anne: Isn’t that true?
Gerald: It’s so crazy that you literally just, you know, when the next things comes, you just laugh because it’s like you have no more, you have nothing left in the tank to apply seriousness to. You just have to go okay, whatever.
Anne: We’re in uncharted territory here. I think all of us together, this is a global event, and it’s unprecedented. We really just need to come together and be there for one another.
Anne: That includes support for all of our, for everything that’s going on, I mean for frontline responders to, you know, event planners and managers and any place that has gatherings for large groups of people which of course now has been discouraged just about everywhere.
Gerald: I know, right? And I think that’s probably one of the most challenging aspects of this. I tend to be a forward leaning person. When something comes up, I tend to go, “how do I work around it? How do we re-envision it? How do we do those things?” But that’s typically based on the idea that whatever you’r e working around is in an environment where it’s a very clearly defined issue.
Gerald: But all of the other things around it are fairly static. So an example might be, let’s say if the hotel, the main hotel contacted me and said, “hey, we had a water main break in the building, and we have to shut everything down and it’s no longer available.” Okay. That would certainly be a major incident. However, it would also say, alright, we can work through this because there are other hotels next-door or down the street, and maybe we can bring in shuttle buses, and we modify things. And we, you know, do things to work around it. In this case it’s everything!
Anne: I don’t think anybody knows what the workaround is quite yet. [laughs]
Anne: Except stay away [laughs] or stay home.
Gerald: Right. That’s the part I think that makes this so unusual, and it probably applies at nearly every level. At a certain age, you’ve probably been through certain things where you know, you work around it. Maybe it’s finances. Maybe it’s, you know, kids or family, or whatever the case is. And again you have the issue in front of you, but as long as you find a way to kind of manage that issue, you get to lean back on all of the other known factors. Right? It’s like hey, I’ve got this issue, but over here I can kind of find some peace. But with this one, it hits every single level, whether it’s the kids’ school, the place where my wife works, which is also in the hospitality industry, there’s the hotel, the other vendors that are involved in things, the attendees themselves, travel restrictions, it’s like, okay.
Anne: What I want to point out, just because I know my husband being in the event industry, the amount of work that’s required to plan an event like this, it’s no small feat. Now I know just because I did small events for VO Peeps for, you know, many years, how long it would take me to prepare for an event. But we’re talking about a major event. I think last year, you had, what, 700, 800 people?
Gerald: Eight. 800 something.
Anne: So to put on an event of that size and magnitude, guys, it really, really does take an extensive amount of work and planning, and it’s no small feat. I mean, it can take up to, gosh, you know, a good year, which makes sense. I know my husband, when he made plans for shows for the company he works for, I mean, literally, it starts a year in advance. And the planning and the booth design, and the, you know, just all of the logistics to get things in place. I mean, he’s hired for that particular purpose. I mean, that’s all he does. So I just want people to get a perspective on just how much work it involves to create event in the first place, let alone try to re-adjust the event, based on, you know, based on a crazy virus that happens to just surface.
Gerald: Yeah. There’s one thing I found myself kind of pointing out to the hotels and different people that I deal with, I think it’s very unique when it comes to doing an event in the voiceover industry, is that in a lot of relationships when it comes to events, there’s a one-to-one relationship. What I mean by that is, if I were an event planner for Microsoft, I’m dealing with putting together an event for Microsoft’s employees, which means that the company is paying for this event, and it’s a one-to-one. Right? I’m a Microsoft representative for the event that affects Microsoft employees, the company is paying for their travel, and everything like that, and we’re essentially guiding them through the process, but it’s all company driven. It’s one-to-one. In this situation, there’s one to 800.
Gerald: One to 900 –
Anne: Yeah, yeah.
Gerald: – kind of thing where everyone is an individual entity with their own interests, questions, challenges, ups, down, locations, experience in the industry.
Anne: And they ask you about it. You know? It’s like, when people have questions, when my husband is planning an event, they can ask him. And then he can respond on behalf of the event. When people have questions about VO Atlanta, they just come to you. [laughs] There’s like 800 people asking you questions. Otherwise my husband deals with everybody in the company asking him questions and he can kind of buffer it. But you have no buffer. Pretty much people say, “oh I asked Gerald.” I’m thinking to myself, Gerald spends probably all of his days responding to people. [laughs]
Gerald: Well fortunately I have an amazing team this year. I have always had an amazing team. But the team has grown this year. There are certain people who will pick up the ball in terms of responding to a lot of things. We’ve had to do a lot more follow-up because people were more used to contacting me directly, texting me directly, having to kind of to push back a little bit which is really hard because you want to answer everyone. But you just realize that if you don’t funnel this all through a certain channel, both to manage it and the other part is to make sure you get back to people in some way, right?
Anne: Sure, absolutely.
Gerald: Because again, they’re an individual entity. And they see things through how it affects them as one person. Whereas from my side I look at how it affects 800, 900 people collectively, and they’re very different perspectives, and neither one is right or wrong. They’re just different. And so you know, fortunately I do have a great team in place. We respond to things as quickly as we can. We direct everyone back to the website and say hey, open a support ticket or chat thing down there. If we’re able to chat with you live, we will. If we’re not, you can leave it. And that way, you know, we can check in on it, make sure if there’s something we missed, we try to make sure we get back. If there’s something that we’ve not responded to, it’s still there. The question is still there. We’ll make sure we get to it versus –
Gerald: – what was happening before, where some people would come up with a question in the attendee box, some people would just post in a regular thread, some people would send me a direct message. Some people would send me a text message. Some people would send me an email. Some people leave a voicemail.
Anne: And then others will leave comments on the forum, and a forum that wasn’t even part of necessarily your domain, so that’s difficult trying to reach out to them. So I think one of the things that I know, when this whole thing started, people kept waiting. There were a lot of events. They were like, will it be canceled, will it be canceled? And a lot of people were uneasy about not having that answer right away. So tell us a little bit about all of the things in the background there that I’m sure you were waiting for answers on before you made this really tough decision to postpone the conference.
Gerald: Okay. It’s interesting, but I’ll allude back to my comment about a one-to-one relationship versus the one to 800 or 900 relationship. Right? Because as many people as were saying, they should go ahead and cancel, there were also people messaging saying “hey, I know you’re probably getting other views on this, but I hope you don’t cancel. I hope you go forward.” Because there are 800 to 900 people looking at things through their own perspective and how it affects them. They may be someone in a state with very little impact at that point, whereas someone else is in a country who has already been restricted.
Gerald: And so they have very different interests, and I have to respect both of those in the process of evaluating what that final decision looks like, not to mention also taking into account the commitments that we have with our sponsors and exhibitors and the venue itself, because you know, this isn’t like 90 days before the event.
Anne: Right, this is a couple of weeks.
Gerald: This is a more like, this is a few weeks before the event.
Anne: And also I want to point out too, is that it makes a huge difference that we’re not just talking domestic. We’re talking international. The fact that you have an international conference brings a whole new light onto this situation as to honoring, you know, our international guests that are coming to the show.
Gerald: Oh absolutely.
Anne: That must have put a whole different spin on things as well because, I know that a couple of my students that were talking to me were like, “well, I don’t know if they’re canceling or not, if they’re waiting a couple of days before to cancel the flight, so I don’t know if I should cancel. Should I wait for the airline to cancel the flight? Because how am I going to recoup my costs that I’ve invested in this?” I know that’s another question that everybody is very worried about. How are we going to recoup these costs? I think the entire global economy is asking that. How are we going to recover from this financially?
Gerald: You know, that’s one of those things, Anne, that we discussed a little bit ago, which was typically there’s one issue, and everybody just maybe put their heads together about how to deal with that one issue. In this situation, there’s so many issues at so many levels, most of which are completely outside of our control that you’re kind of left in a position where you have to wait and see. You have to take – when they say take it a step at a time, that’s all you can do. You have no choice. So in my case, you’re working with the hotel. You’ve got contracts in place because unlike the smaller events where maybe it was 50 people or even 150 people, their agreements are probably way simpler than mine. And so I have to get with the venue and go over the terms of how do you make those adjustments, how do you adjust those commitments, because what some people may not realize is that it’s not as simple as picking up the phone and going “hey, we decided not to hold it.”
Anne: Sure. I’m sure you have a lot of nonrefundable fees that have already been paid.
Gerald: Absolutely! So when they come back, and they say – and we’ve had this in one instance. I’ll give you two examples. I won’t name the organizations, but one of them, the email back was “sorry, sorry you guys are postponing. I’ll go ahead and forward your contract over to our legal terms to see what penalties you’ll have.”
Anne: [laughs] That’s encouraging. [laughs]
Gerald: The other one was very similar.
Gerald: And they were like, “well, sorry to hear about that, but per the terms of your contract, your canceling will generate a penalty.” And I’m talking a penalty that’s well into six figures.
Anne: Yeah, we’re not talking $50 penalty.
Gerald: So it’s one of those things where people just say, “oh, just cancel it, just do this,” you have to wait to a point where, not so much that you’re waiting just for the sake of waiting, but you have to manage those relationships so that everyone can be on the same sheet of music and move in a succinct fashion –
Gerald: – in coming to agreements that say yes, this situation is so unusual that neither party – it gets to that whole act of God thing. Right?
Anne: Neither party is responsible, and how are they going to recoup their costs? Their losses, really? I mean, how are they going to recoup? Nobody is staying in hotels anymore, and then –
Anne: – nobody is going to the events anymore, so there’s a lot of parties involved that now have the potential to lose it all, lose all that money, and who is going to come in and help? You know, you can hope the government will come in and you know, give some help, give some aid to that, but this is some people’s entire livelihood. I think it’s important to note that. As you mentioned, it’s not just your decision. It’s your decision in combination with the hotel’s decision, in combination with guest services, whatever other plans that you had put in place, which I’m sure are much more than just the hotel. I mean, it’s, you know, there’s all sorts of other things that go into play for that. So everybody wants to recoup on their money and everybody is panicked in terms of – I hate to say that word, but everybody is afraid of losing that money, including of course the attendees who purchased the ticket. Now I think you did something very smart years ago where you allowed people to buy insurance on their tickets.
Gerald: It’s included automatically.
Anne: It is included. So talk a little bit about the ticket insurance, and what that does, and how that helps buyers to recoup on any costs.
Gerald: It’s a double-edged sword like any insurance policy. You usually get more into the weeds. It’s kind of like they sell you all the fluffy part, and then, you know, [laughs] and then they go, “well, your issue came up on a Thursday, and we don’t cover that specific thing on Thursdays.” So you run into someone. The insurance certainly covers a lot of things, and it’s a bit of a Catch-22, right, because in the beginning, we had our own little internal policies, and they worked generally well, except it got to be a point where, and I’m not frowning on anybody, but I’ll say that our policy kind of had some things that if you got down towards the end of the conference, you know, we would refund you if you had certain say family emergencies or something like that. I can recall one year, probably about in our third year where you can imagine as a small event at that time, maybe 200 or so people, to have to refund about $8,000 because supposedly all of these people’s moms had died or something. I was like, “what’s this, like a run on moms? I don’t get it.” You can imagine that all these commitments you made got to a certain point, you’re about to execute the conference, and then two weeks out, you’ve got all these claims come in about whatever reason. And it was just the most awkward thing.
Anne: That’s tough. I’m going to tell you from just my perspective and running my Peeps events it was very tough, once I started growing and had more attendees. It became a point where at the very last minute if people could not make it, it got to the point where I really was in a dilemma facing whether or not I could refund those tickets just because I had already invested money in food. I had invested money in the rental of chairs and that sort of thing. It got to the point where somebody asking for a refund at the last minute, it was a really tough call. I can’t imagine it’s easy for you at all.
Gerald: The thing with the insurance, it does exclude communicable diseases. Naturally this is that thing, right, a communicable disease? But the flipside of that is those other items that they cover are covered up ‘til the day of the event, and so if you’ve one of those covered items, you can file your claim up to 30 days past the event as long as whatever it is you’re filing about happened up ‘til the day of the event. Let me give you an example. You’re on your way to the conference, and your car breaks down. You can’t make it because obviously you’ve got to stop and get your car fixed or whatever. You can go in two weeks after the conference happened and file a claim. They’re going to ask you for receipts or whatever, showing what happened, and they’ll refund you every single penny that you paid to the conference, even though you never got out there, never attended and it was the day of the event.
Anne: Well, the conference has been postponed, right?
Anne: Not canceled. So –
Anne: – had it been canceled, the insurance would probably not have covered anybody’s ticket.
Gerald: Right, they would not have covered anything.
Anne: Now that it’s postponed, people have the opportunity to still attend, you really don’t have any obligation.
Gerald: Well, the refunds don’t come from us anyways. Just t clarify how this works.
Gerald: When we set up the whole insurance piece, it’s through a third party that’s underwritten by Lloyd’s of London. When we do the agreement with them, agreeing that all refunds, all cancellation stuff will be handled by them, it used to be that – I think the first time we did it, you could do it on an ad hoc basis so we could give people the option of adding the insurance or not. Right?
Anne: Which I think, didn’t you do that at one point? You had that option at one point, okay.
Gerald: Yeah. They changed their process and they no longer allow that. It was either you’re all in or you’re not. We took the all-in thing, but again the catch with that is you have to defer everything to them.
Anne: Got it.
Gerald: Because it really gets super messy because again you’re dealing with a large number of people –
Gerald: – that are individuals. It’s not operated at a company level where the company cancels and then you deal with one department who handles that relationship. In this case you’ve got 800, 900 people that you’re in relationship with. Right?
Anne: Sure, sure.
Gerald: So you get into this situation where everyone has the ability to have some reason that you completely understand, and you completely empathize with, but who is to say who is more valid than the other?
Anne: Like I feel so much for this person that can’t make it, but yet, oh my gosh, I’ve already committed myself to this obligation and this obligation. It becomes a very, very tough decision to make.
Anne: I think that having the insurance was a great idea on your part, you know, years ago, because I think you would probably already have experienced the same thing but on a much greater level than I had ever done.
Anne: So I think that there are people out there, and they think that things are black and white regarding the conference, like “well, I did not get what I paid for, so therefore, I don’t understand why there’s no compensation.” How do you respond to that? That’s a tough question. You know?
Gerald: Well, this week has been so fluid. And in some ways it really forces you to kind of reflect back on what VO Atlanta is in the first place. I remember being on a call with my team, and it dawned on me, and I communicated this to them, I was like, wait a minute. We don’t sell a thing. We don’t sell tickets to a thing. This isn’t rigid. This isn’t T-shirts where somebody says I ordered a medium conference T-shirt, and I never got my conference T-shirt. So what we aim to do is to create a value to someone. I hope people understand that what you’re signing up for when you sign up for VO Atlanta is not simply to just get dumped into a place and hope that it all works out. No, this is a very curated experience. There’s a ton of time put together in selecting the right presenters and speakers. The venue is certainly a part of that, but ultimately your VO Atlanta investment is a lot more than just the equivalent of it being a T-shirt that someone sent you in the mail and they’re done with. If that were the case, it would be a lot easier because then we could just get somebody to manufacture the T-shirts and send it to everybody and call it a day.
Anne: We have not even brought up the fact that you’ve got the other uncertainty in this is your presenters, and how comfortable your presenters were – I know me, for a fact, I mean, I contacted you, and I said, “you know, what’s going on? I’m not sure I’m feeling so comfortable about traveling at this time.” But it was me who wrote to you. And so now you’ve got the added concerns from presenters who may or may not be able to make it or feel comfortable making it, and then of course if there’s a new date, if they can’t make it. That just adds a whole bunch of complexity into it.
Gerald: It does, it does.
Anne: I think a lot of us out here really respect what you’ve done so far and can really empathize with the tough decisions that you’ve had to make in this conference. I’m really, myself personally, looking forward to what’s going to happen as soon as all of these details get worked out.
Gerald: Yeah. I want to take a moment to really say, you mentioned the presenters, and this goes back to what people actually sign up for when they sign up to be a part of the VO Atlanta experience, is that the presenters have been amazing. Even the sponsors have been amazing. And that’s why I go back to saying, what you’re signing up for is the value proposition, not a thing. Okay? And so, there have been presenters who are like, “hey, if there’s anything I can do” – I mean, there were presenters who were still committing to being on the ground. I mean, we sent out a survey like “are you still going to be here? Are you available virtually, or are you just going to not be available at all?” The vast majority of all of our presenters were like either I’m virtual or I’m on the ground.
Anne: Yes. Exactly. Thank God for technology. [laughs]
Gerald: Yes, yes. There’s still a huge commitment from the presenters who care about delivering on that value, right? And so what I turned it into when I started looking at it that way was, wait a minute. If their conference experience was all about connecting them with the best information in the business, giving them access and connections to the best resources in the business, making sure they had a way to connect with other people around the industry, we can still deliver those things. It will be different, absolutely it will be different, much like everything else in our society right now is different.
Gerald: It will be different, but I don’t think it has to be less. And in some ways thanks to things like the relationships with our sponsors and things, there are other value adds. You’ve been wanting to try out the latest Adobe products. Adobe says “hey, you know, we’ll give you 90 days of the latest entire Adobe Suite.” Mandy.com’s 90 days of their online jobs board. Backstage has a jobs board, their 90 days included. Hindenburg software, their 90 days with theirs. These are all things which you would normally pay for, which because you’re associated with the conference, are being offered to you at no cost. We’re working with a number of other ones to add additional value to that. So the thing I just kind of came to when that dawned on me was to not let the conversation cheapen the conference down to being some little thirdhand T-shirt that you buy at a carnival, because it’s not. It’s a lot of relationships.
Anne: Yeah, so many factors.
Gerald: A lot of factors in play.
Anne: And I happen to know from being with you for the past years in understanding all of the quality people that you have coming to that I think all of us combined are just wanting to deliver a great experience for the attendees. I know myself, I’m committed to helping you do that as well as all of the other presenters. And so tell us a little bit about your policy about being able to transfer tickets from one person to another or not being able to?
Gerald: Okay. So I’m glad you asked that. That’s certainly a question that comes up a lot. There are a couple of parts to it. The first is when someone places an order, it’s seen as an order. We send all of the orders over to the insurance company and we pay a fee, a decent fee, for that policy, which is attached to that order which is by extension attached to that person. So when people get into this whole thing of, “well, let me just transfer it to someone,” it creates this interesting dynamic which amongst other things adds an administrative load to the conference, but it also creates a situation where the insurance doesn’t necessarily transfer to the other person.
Anne: That makes sense.
Gerald: If Anne bought the ticket and she sells it to Mary, and Mary has a covered item with insurance, and she tries to file a claim, but Mary’s name isn’t in the record because Mary didn’t place the order –
Gerald: So now, we’ve got to go through and try to sort out a claim that Mary was denied because they don’t have any record of her.
Anne: That makes sense.
Gerald: Otherwise we get into this thing of now the conference is, are we expected to go back on each individual sale and redo all the insurance stuff to make sure that –
Gerald: You know, so it just gets really, really messy.
Anne: And complicated. [laughs]
Gerald: And in the past, when we did allow transfers, which is part of why we got the insurance as well, and we kind of had to stop certain things, as much as we hated to, was that people got so casual about this whole buying and selling of things. And then we would start getting emails from people like Mary with emails saying, “hey, I bought the ticket from Anne. Can you update the profile so that I can update my stuff?”
Anne: Oh yeah.
Gerald: It’s like, who are you? And then all of a sudden we’re in the middle of these dialogues about Anne’s ticket that she’s selling to Mary, but Mary hadn’t paid her yet, and now Mary is mad because Anne hasn’t updated the [laughs] And it’s like –
Anne: Yeah, it became a logistic nightmare, I’m sure. So.
Gerald: Yeah and not to mention it the goes back to that thing, right? It’s like if we were dealing with 50 people, and two or three people had a thing –
Gerald: Okay, that’s fine. But even do that math, right?
Anne: I can imagine, you know, especially too the fact that you sell tickets so early in advance, I can imagine that that happens so much more than people would even imagine [laughs] selling of the tickets and transferring.
Gerald: It just becomes a matter of scale where, again if you had two or three people do something, and your group size was 50, you could probably manage that. I kind of miss those days, right, where you could do everything on a one-off basis. [laughs] But even if you said that, right, you said now take 50 and multiply it until you get to 850, and you say, what was two or three people at 50 is now two dozen people or so, right? In the future might we have some system or software that allows people to go in, and they can just pay a transfer fee or something, and they can put in the information –
Anne: Right, right. That would make sense.
Gerald: Perhaps. That would be great.
Anne: But again, that’s another logistics thing that you’ve got to add into the conference which of course adds resources and money, which actually I think would be a great add-on, but yeah. I know what it’s like to have to be able to make that work on the backend. That’s going to be a time-consuming task.
Gerald: And one quick note on this, Anne. I mean, just since we’re in this space. I know you’ll get this and I know it’s harder for some other people to accept or embrace the reality of, but it’s one of the arguments that I have to have a lot of times with the hotels. I have so much respect for the fact that you all are individual business owners who are paying for stuff out of your pocket. And the cost for operating the conference in a space and at a scale that they’re used to dealing with an Intuit or Microsoft or the U.S. government, or state and federal agencies is absolutely bonkers because people don’t realize that lunch you have that’s included on average is $50.
Anne: [laughs] Isn’t that the truth? Yeah, coming from the corporate world, Gerald, I completely appreciate that. Yeah, this is not like a –
Gerald: Fifty. Dollars! [laughs]
Anne: This is not like a – yeah, this is not a $5 meal. This is $50 for a breakfast that’s –
Gerald: And listen, I agree with them 100%. I’ll sit there and argue all day it’s not worth $50, but guess what? The reality is it’s $50. And that means – that’s just the lunch, right? When you got a ticket, let’s say you bought a regular ticket, and you had lunch on Friday and Saturday, $100 of your ticket cost, not accounting for presenters or travel or anything else, just your two lunches.
Anne: Yeah, yeah, lunches.
Gerald: Not the Saturday night party, not the reception, not the Sunday morning, nothing. Just those are $100. And listen, I want to make it clear to people. I’m not throwing that out there to make people feel bad or whatever. It’s to offer some perspective.
Anne: Well yeah, absolutely. I think perspective is important here.
Gerald: It is. The resources that are there from the conference that would have happened in a week or so, we have still to turn around, cover certain expenses and things, and go through this entire planning process with the venue again –
Gerald: – who is also reeling from their own issues where they thought they were going to have all of these different events coming in week after week, and all of a sudden –
Anne: Yeah, sure.
Gerald: – it’s a blank slate.
Gerald: Well listen, Anne. I’m going to tell you this part, and this is just again to provide a little context is that the conference means a lot to me too. And when things happen, it’s hard. I hate being on this path, but I think it’s important because you do have those who have whatever thoughts about what goes into it and what should or should not happen, but as you know, my brother passed away on New Year’s Eve.
Anne: I do.
Gerald: Meanwhile I’m in Florida dealing with the funeral. When I wasn’t dealing with that funeral, I was sitting there still working with my team on putting things in place for VO Atlanta 2020 because that’s what we committed to do. And so it’s not just some fly-by-night thing. It does hurt a little bit sometimes when people are like, “yeah, yeah, you just keeping people’s money.” Really, wow? Is that really what you think this is all about because I promise you that I don’t get up at 3:00 in the morning just for the fun of it. I get up because I’m working on something conference related.
Anne: And I actually know that you’re up at 3:00 in the morning because you have actually written me [laughs] at odd hours of the morning. I do know that it does cross your mind [laughs] that this conference does cross your mind, yes, at 3:00 in the morning. Yeah, I got that. All right, Gerald. [laughs] Thanks for clarifying that.
Gerald: [laughs] So yeah. It’s like that. My team is much the same. Granted they’re probably not going to be on with me at 3:00, but we’re all committed to creating a great experience and opportunity for the community, and it’s one of the reasons I did not mention this earlier, even our panels and stuff, I made the, all of the conference content from last year available to conference – people that had registered, but actually I’m going to go back and even for people who have nothing to do with VO Atlanta, we’re going to make like our panels and things, where they’re general discussions related to VO, we’re going to make those available to the general public, no cost or anything. You may be asked for like your email address or something, but other than that, you’re invited to go in and watch our panels and things like that from 2019 and –
Anne: Thank you. Providing services.
Gerald: It has nothing to do with buying anything. Go in, you’ll be asked for your email address, but outside of that, you go in and watch it. You know, enjoy it. And that’s just a part of us wanting to be a contributor to the overall community, whether they’ve ever given us a penny or not.
Anne: Gerald, thank you so much [laughs] for joining me today to talk about this, and I’m so looking forward to your developments and what’s going to happen next, and turning this into a really awesome conference.
Gerald: Anne, you know, you and I talk, and you know I don’t joke much about coming up with new ideas. [laughs]
Gerald: But I can tell you I was sitting there looking at the conference material where it was like Envision 2020, and then it dawned on me that this is all about re-envision VO Atlanta 2.0. The year 20, I put a dot in there, and it was like VO Atlanta 2.0, because I refuse to let this be the downfall of something –
Gerald: – but instead to be the opportunity for us to re-envision what it means to have a conference, what it means to come together as a community. And listen, I know we’ve addressed the questions and concerns that people have had. Great, that’s fine. But I want to give a huge shout-out to all those people who have done nothing but show support, and encouragement, and understanding, and patience, and tolerance for change. You know, my team has been absolutely amazing in this process. And so it’s one of those things where, that’s why I said, you know, when people aren’t around, they’re like just refund everybody.
Anne: Not quite that simple.
Gerald: Just like myself, my team has put in a lot of work to make this happen, and as voice actors, you know, if you worked really hard for a client, imagine that client just saying, “hey, we changed our mind. You know, just walk away.” It’s like no. You would expect that you, your time should still be valued. Right?
Gerald: So when I have a team of people, I’m not even counting myself. When I have a team of people who worked on this for nine, you know, seven, eight, nine months, even before getting to this point where it becomes almost like day to day every day –
Gerald: Wow, to just pretend, you know – no.
Anne: I think it’s so important now, and this goes beyond the conference, that we all just, you know, come together, globally, you know, and just show kindness and compassion. And we’re all in this together, and well, you know, I’m confident that we’ll come through as long as we can show kindness, and empathy, and love. I think that that’s what this is really all about, and I hope that we can come out the other side much better people.
Gerald: I think we will. I think it’s like most moments like this, they define people, and they reveal character. It will reveal character for those who have understanding, patience, and empathy for others. It will reveal character for those who see it as an opportunity to showboat and draw attention to themselves, and it’s going to draw out the worst of people. And it’s going to also reveal the best in people. And that happens in every situation. This one won’t be any different. I’m going to continue to get up every single day looking for a path forward. Because when someone looks at whatever they invested in being a part of this conference, I want them to honestly be able to say, wow. They went so far above and beyond what I ever expected that it, it was just so worth it.
Anne: Gerald, thanks again so much. I’m so honored to be able to talk with you, and shouting out to all the BOSSes there, sending love and healing and health –
Anne: – and all good stuff. Shout-out to all of, all the technology that I so love, that will continue to keep us together as, you know, as friends and colleagues. Big shout-out to my sponsor, ipDTL. Kevin, you are the best. I know you’re probably working triple time now trying to keep those servers up and running. Another shout-out to my amazing friend and colleague Tim Tippets for his –
Gerald: Yeah, yeah.
Anne: – helping to build this amazing studio. Right now I’m coming to you from the Vocal Booth To Go, a nice four by six a Vocal Booth To Go. Shout-out to Tim, owner of Vocal Booth To Go. You too can sound and connect like BOSSes by finding out more at ipdtl.com and vocalboothtogo.com. Thanks so much, guys, and we’ll see you next week.
Gerald: All right, bye.
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host, Anne Ganguzza, and take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.