Tag Archive for Lauren McCullough

The Faffcon Community

I wrote this a while ago. By the time this posts, registration for Faff 9 will have already happened, but I wanted to share the love of my ‘tribe’ here on my blog. 

Every time Faffcon approaches, I can’t help but find myself thinking about my history with this unconference, and everything it has meant to me. Faffcon was the spark that started my business, the reason that I’m sitting here writing to you, and one of the catalysts that changed my life.

Six years ago, I was working in a grocery store chain in NC, living with my brother Eric Souer. To make a long story short, this was a store that put profits over people, and although I made okay money, I was never happy there. I’m not their ideal type of worker-physically fast and efficient-so it was not the best situation all around. Our Dad, Bob Souer came to visit, and he said, “Eric and Karen, you’re coming with me to Faffcon.”

I had no idea what this Faffcon thing was. And I remember feeling very uncertain about the whole situation, I was going to a place where I didn’t know anyone, had no idea what was going to happen, and Dad had just said that maybe people would hire me to do the sorts of things that I had always helped him with. (A little writing, a little editing, that kind of thing.)

My biggest memory from that first Faffcon (Faffcon 2 in Atlanta) was the kindness that people showed me. None of them knew who I was. (Some people had met Eric, but I’d never met any of them.) But all greeted me enthusiastically, and were interested in who I was and what I had to say. I remember going home from the event, on fire and excited to see where I could take this brainful of ideas that I had. Fast forward to the present day, and I am a different, much happier person, enjoying a reasonable amount of success.

But over the years, the thing that truly astonished me was the community that developed from the conference. Friendships were created, businesses grew one another, many people lifted one another up through challenges in both work and personal life. There are strong divisive, dividing elements in our society today, and it has been truly astonishing to see the kind of strong, communal vibe that has developed.

In 2012, after Faffcon 5, Lori Taylor created a Facebook group, Faffcon friends. This group has had a strong element in keeping the community together, and bringing folks together to tap group knowledge, share, or to ask questions. It gives people a place to talk to one another between events, and it’s been a pleasure to watch all the positive interaction. Lori eventually turned the administrator role in the group over to me, and it’s been an interesting job, to say the least!

I decided early on to limit the group to people that have already attended a Faffcon. The reason for that is the intensely personal stuff that is often shared in the group-health struggles, life issues, and the like. I wanted anyone in the group to understand the nature of a Faffcon, the lowering of barriers, to keep it unlike other groups, to folks that “get it”.

One of the phrases often used at Faffcon is ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. The community is proof of that, and it has been a valuable experience to get to watch it grow over the last five years, and change with the addition of new members with new ideas. My hope for the future is that it can continue to be a place where the good of the group is a big part of what goes on. Through Amy and Lauren, Connie and Pam and everyone who’s ever attended, we have created something unique, in terms of the community, and that it should be nurtured and taken care of, even 2 years from now when the event is no longer happening. Our industry doesn’t have water coolers or company picnics, so what we have is something to hold on to. May it always endure, and continue to spread and bring in new people.

The Deets on Faff 9

Have you ever wished you could learn things that are directly applicable to your life as a pro-VO? Are you tired of the famous talking heads that although they’re awesome, don’t always have the down and dirty for the daily grind?

You need to go to Faffcon.

What is Faffcon? From the website: “FaffCon: the voiceover unconference, is a participant-driven professional development event for working voiceover industry pros. Its highly-interactive, peer-to-peer learning environment is consistently credited with helping establish VO-industry pros take their careers to the next level. Prospective participants must meet certain criteria and apply to attend. FaffCon sells out very fast, every time. To be sure to get the registration alert, please join our low-volume email list! We’ve committed to producing a total of 10 FaffCon unconferences.”

Personally, I’ve been to every Faffcon since 2, and every experience has been both valuable in a career and a personal sense. I’ve made incredible business connections and amazing friendships over the last 5 years, and I’ve written about it in my blog a lot. I strongly believe it can and will be valuable to any talent that approaches it with an open mind. There is diverse content, ranging from performance based classes, to business classes, and ‘techie’ content as well. Plus, you’re welcome to ask questions, and even lead a session yourself!

The atmosphere is as singular as any event I’ve been to in my lifetime, and one of the best benefits to the conference. People are open, eager to learn, and it’s a cardinal rule to leave egos at the door. You can come and go from sessions as you need to, so that you can maximize your learning time amongst everything there is on offer. Plus there is always time with other VO’s after hours, and plenty of meal and break opportunities to get to know people-and trust me, they are a very welcoming bunch!

Faffcon 9 is a great opportunity to jump in and join our Faff-family. There will only be 10 events total, and this event will allow first or second time Faffers to register early. The event has sold out in literal seconds, so this registration has some new rules to make life easier for everyone. You can find all the info, and join the mailing list here on the website.

Thanks For Sharing

thank you noteI want to take a moment and publicly thank all of the many people whose advice and thoughts have contributed to this blog. Many of my thoughts and ideas are personally spun iterations of common topics-we all deal with the same issues, and it does no harm for there to be more helpful literature out there. I hope that my take on things has been useful or educational to my readers-that’s my goal here. I want to continue to do so for years to come. 🙂

If I were to list every single person, this would be an awfully long post! Anyone who doesn’t get a personal mention rates no less thanks from me-these are just a small selection, in no particular order.

Misty Ellis- my best friend, and the subject of the post What Starbucks Taught Me About Customer Service, you always have a good thought or insight on things, and your customer service and dedication to what you do are amazing, as always.

Lauren McCullough & Talmadge Ragan– you guys were two of the folks who encouraged me to start writing this in the first place, thank you!

Bob Souer– Where would this list be without my Dad? He’s often given me ideas, direction, and writing advice. It’d be a different blog without him.

Paul Strikwerda– At Faffcon 3 where I got the inspiration to start this blog, Paul gave me a lot of thoughtful advice on direction, overarching goals, and a lot of his time in order to do so. 🙂 He continues to be one of my favorite content providers, and an interesting and thought provoking writer.

Derek Chappell– I met Derek at Faffcon 2, and we have since shared a lot of social media interaction. He is a great person to follow on social media, as he makes a point to share and retweet helpful content. I often seek him out when looking for good content to share, or for thoughtful inspiration for my own writing.

Amy Snively– Well, as most know, Amy created Faffcon. Without Faffcon, not only would this blog, but my business would not exist. She’s been a wonderful and caring friend since the first time we met, and has offered me tremendous encouragement and help in many areas.

Faffcon 7 Retrospective

faffcon-logo-compact.gifFaffcon 7 was in Tuscon, Arizona from September 18-22nd. Personally, I have been to all but the first event, and I’ve written about the event a dozen times before.

The reason that I keep writing about the event is the same however: People don’t really understand why Faffcon is so important. They don’t understand why it’s valuable for everyone who attends, and since it’s such an organic event, each experience is different and worthwhile.

There are loads of Voiceover events, ranging from the bog standard meetup all the way up to shiny conferences hosted by people one can call ‘famous’, or at least are such in our industry. Most of them are in the ‘conference’ format, where you pay to listen to an expert talk about something that is listed on an agenda beforehand. Faffcon is an unconference, where the agenda and topics are all selected onsite by the attendees. There’s no selling, no product placement, no big names with courses that they want you to buy. It’s information sharing, individual expertise sharing, and it is (according to many testimonials I have both heard and read) career changing. There are three reasons I feel this event is so important.

Why is an unconference so exciting? So different and worthwhile? Because you never know what you will learn or what you will teach. I have seen expert top level pro folks who were startled and surprised by what they learned while at the event. A ‘golden nugget’, an angle of view or perspective, an idea that they would have never considered. I’ve seen the most raw beginner (still a working pro, as that is the conference requirement, but someone who feels as though they are a beginner nonetheless!) have more to teach than they ever thought they would. I’ve seen those first timers and beginners stand up to teach a class and the light in their eyes when they recall how that made them feel afterwards.

The second part of why this event is so important is the above mentioned pro requirement. Many of the other conferences that exist have content that, while worthwhile, may not answer all the questions that someone who’s been in the industry for a while might have. Faffcon is a place to ask and be answered.

And last is the community of friends and family that has developed from these events. Amy and Lauren have created something that is truly unique, truly special, and a wonderful powerful community of voice talent and associated persons. When you’re at Faffcon, you are in a place that’s safe enough to relate your greatest triumphs, and your worst fears. We leave our egos at the door, and in an industry that requires such isolation, we are truly together in a way that we aren’t anywhere else. People have started wonderful friendships at these events. I have seen people cry out their fears and dance to the Cupid Shuffle.

There are only three of these events left! Don’t miss out on the next one. More than career changing learning and teaching, you may miss out on a friendship that could change everything.


Faffcon Retrospective

faffcon-logo-compact.gifReaders of my blog know that I’ve often written about Faffcon and the numerous joys and benefits it has brought to me and many other people’s lives, on both the personal and professional levels. After Faffcon 6, I was immediately deluged with an avalanche of work so I haven’t had time until now to mentally review everything.

I’d never been to Texas, so I was excited from the point I was heading to the airport to catch my 7:30am flight. One thing I knew would be different right from the start was the absence of most of my family. The previous 4 Faffcon events have had at least my brother Eric and my father with me, and often also my mom and brothers. This would be a father daughter Faffcon and I knew that that in and of itself would feel different. Dad and I met up at the airport, and we headed to the hotel and the Amy and Lauren goodness. After enthusiastic greetings, Dad and I went out to lunch with CC Heim and Fran McClellan where I had my first encounter with what it meant to be in ‘meat land’. (I’m a vegetarian.) The meals all included a pound of meat with a side of more meat! After margaritas containing a Texas sized portion of tequila, we headed back to the hotel.

After that we met up with some other Faffers, and went off to some staff work! I stuffed tote bags, CC made her cheerful signs, and in all the myriad ways, we got organized like we always do. I always catch myself thinking how this event becomes smoother and more system like every time we do it, fascinating considering that it didn’t begin all that long ago. In the evening, we have our Staff Dinner where Amy and Lauren discuss plans for the weekend, and then we meet up with the crowd of Faffers who come the night before and fill up some local watering hole. It feels like family. It feels familiar, no matter what city we’re in.

The rest of the weekend was full of many new faces, a fantastic night of karaoke, lots of sessions, giving out my hastily ordered but very popular notebooks, a great trip down the river, and some fantastic food. Faffcon is an event that is always changing and yet in some ways always the same. The welcoming people, the environment of creativity, interesting and challenging sessions, and the large portion of Faffing about. If you haven’t gone, it’s always worth it, and I’d recommend it to any working pro.


It probably won’t surprise anyone that I feel the need to write about Faffcamp. I’m going to Faffcamptake a break from my interview series this week, and tell you about this awesome event. So, Faffcon got bigger than anyone expected. Therefore, to keep up with the need and desire for more Faffing, Amy came up with Faffcamp. There’s been some great buzz about it already (EWABS and Courvo, plus awesome Aussie explainer video) but I particularly wanted to highlight the post of the always great, never late Peter O’Connell. He discusses the event itself and the sponsors that are the lifeblood of all things Faff.

The talents and mind of our Faff-mama-creator-amazing-director, Amy Snively, and the Faff-get-everything-organized-and-done-er, Lauren McCullough have a great event in store for everyone who has been looking for some Faff and hasn’t been able to get some. I’ve written about Faffcon a lot (One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, times plus my Faffcon Session.) in the past, and I won’t be able to attend Faffcamp, but I know all of you people will have a fantastic time and learn lots! My Dad and Sign Master Eric will be there to make sure that this Faff has some Souer too. So, read, register, and Faff on folks!

If you’re wondering about the interview series I mentioned above, you can catch up here:

And next week I’ll be continuing with Louanne Frederickson, editor and fellow Faffer!


2012 NYC Mixer Highlights

Since so many people enjoyed my Faffcon 5 Diary, I decided to write a post of my favorite highlights of the 2012 NY Mixer, so here you are!

-Starting my day while the moon was still up
-My epic taxi and two bus trip to the airport-I got to see a really great sunrise!
-Randomly being gate neighbors with Diane Merritt, despite flying at different times to different airports and via different airlines.
-My enthusiastic welcome and lovely NJ tour from Liz de Nesnera
-Hanging out with Liz and Melissa at her house
-Dinner at Hurleys Irish Pub with a whole bunch of people, several of whom I had not seen in some time, like Kelley Buttrick and Linda Ristig, and meeting a couple new friends.
-Attending Lauren McCullough‘s Birthday Party and getting glitterpated from the box that she gave me a Voxy Lady ornament in.


-Having an outfit sharing moment and morning Yerba Mate with Melissa
-Liz and Melissa calling me serene-like Dad
-Melissa hearing a radio traffic report wrong (I have been told to add ‘as usual’ here.) and calling the reporter and telling him this.
-Having lunch at Mustang Harry’s with many friends and meeting some more new people, and our Heroic Waitress.
-Leather coat feminist soliloquy man (this sounds cryptic, but completely describes him!)
-Changing at Bish‘s airBnB apartment and seeing the interesting old building and the history therein.
-Arriving at the mixer and seeing everyone all dressed up.
-The enjoyment of the ‘voiceover christmas party’ where everyone is so happy to get out and see each other and meet new friends. (And yet more folks I’ve not seen in long while–like Paul Strikwerda.)
-The afterparty at the Green Square Tavern
-Walking to the after after party wine bar Tom Dheere found with Trish Basanyi and Jordan Reynolds.
-Falling asleep leaning on the bar while everyone was wine tasting.
-Having an interesting business and Faffcon discussion with Liz, Melissa and Bish at 2:30am in his airBnB apartment.
-Walking through New York City at 3am. (Because I can say I have done this now!)

It is such an honor to be a part of the Voxy Ladies, and I really enjoyed attending the mixer as part of the group. (They even let me in the photos even though I’m not technically voxy!) Last week I posted about the countdown to the 12 days to VOXmas that we were doing, but now the 12 days are actually here, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you where to go to learn all about it here. The prizes for the raffle are amazing and so generous on the part of the sponsors, and for such a great cause! For everyone who attended, thanks for making the last one of the best!

Since next week the deadlines are stacked pretty high for me, I’m going to skip two weeks to my next post, the Avalanche Killer.

Faffcon Diary: Part 5

I have been jokingly referred to as ‘the Herald of Faffcon‘. (I don’t know why that could be.) But, to continue the tradition, for this past Faffcon, I decided to do something a little different for my blog. Since this one was very close to home for me, I ended up having a 5 day long event of helping, and the event itself. So, I decided to keep a journal of sorts of my impressions for each day that I was there. Sort of a ‘behind the scenes’ peek into things, and a different perspective on events. Today is my last entry in this series, Sunday, October 14th.

Faffcon Day 5 Impressions:
This day started a little slower. Most people stayed out fairly late drinking, and everyone is getting tired. The weekend is always very intense emotionally, mentally, and physically for everyone, and by Sunday even the most hardy partier is dragging a bit. You also feel sort of mentally overloaded, trying to keep up with the vast torrent of new and useful information that has been presented. As is traditional, we announced the next conference at lunch, which will be in San Antonio Texas, in October 2013. The universal comment from folks was that they did not want to wait a year for the next conference. This conference sold out in 7 hours, which is a new record for us, it will be interesting to see how quickly the next one gets snapped up. My Dad gave a variation of his avalanche talk, which is always worth hearing. (It’s also amusing to me that ‘avalanche’ has become part of the Faffcon vocabulary.) It seems strange that Faffcon is almost over. It seems like I just got to the hotel to be greeted by Lauren and put to work stuffing tote bags. I attended a couple more sessions today, but also spent a lot of time at my info table relaxing. Closing circle is always very emotional, Amy had me make a note that we needed to have some Kleenex for next year. Voiceover can be very isolating, and the internet has done a great job of bringing people together, but there’s nothing like spending time with your peers in such a positive and creative environment. People thanked each other, many with tears and all with lots of hugs. Lauren McCullough got her second standing ovation. (Well deserved!) We also presented over $3000 to a local charity, which is another Faffcon tradition to do something positive in every city we visit. This particular charity was the TEACCH Autism program, one that is particularly close to my family’s heart since my younger brother Brian has a mild form of Autism. He made a short speech thanking everyone for their donations. It’s always so humbling and inspiring to see the generosity of the voiceover community in action. After everyone dispersed, I stuck around to work on clean up. As fun as it is to go out with everyone, I like to stay busy, and there was quite a bit that needed doing. Later on when we were done, I was heading out, but was unable to make it to the bar since my Dad needed to take the rental car back. I headed home, a little sad but with a brain-full of ideas and inspiration just like always. Here’s looking forward to San Antonio!

Faffcon Diary: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

And next week I will be posting the first part of my Faffcon Session talk on Online Presence.

Faffcon Diary: Part 4

I have been jokingly referred to as ‘the Herald of Faffcon‘. (I don’t know why that could be.) But, to continue the tradition, for this past Faffcon, I decided to do something a little different for my blog. Since this one was very close to home for me, I ended up having a 5 day long event of helping, and the event itself. So, I decided to keep a journal of sorts of my impressions for each day that I was there. Sort of a ‘behind the scenes’ peek into things, and a different perspective on events. Now we get down to the ‘meat’ of the event, Saturday October 13th.

Faffcon Day 4 Impressions:
Today we get down to the meat of the conference-the sessions. Lauren McCullough puts it well saying that, the conversation is the content of Faffcon. Sessions aren’t just one person presenting, they are generally group discussions where everyone shares thoughts, ideas, and questions. The funny part is we could easily have Faffcon for a week, there is so much information and sharing going on. (I don’t think our businesses or livers would take that well though.) I love how much is always going on and how many things there are to learn. Even though I don’t do voiceover, I always learn new things about my client base, which can only help me do my job better. I ran my session, and although I had kind of a slow start, I felt like I had a good conversation even when it was only a few people. When I had about 20 minutes left, quite a few people joined me, and the conversation got a good bit more lively. (My talk will be another post for anyone who missed my session, or wants to read a written version of what I talked about.) One of the best things about sessions happened in mine-the question of putting up your phone number came up, and I answered with some information that I knew, and then another person brought up an alternate idea that I didn’t even know existed. The various perspectives offered by Faffers is an amazing wellspring of information. I was truly honored when Amy joined my session for about 30 seconds. This is a tremendous mark of distinction, as I think that’s the longest I have ever seen her join one! (She actually got to lead a session on Sunday, something totally new for her!) The remainder of the day was filled with much more learning and laughter. We also gave out prizes, including four free hours of my time. There were also the traditional group photographs, in which we all always get much closer to one another. (It’s hard to fit over 100 people in a photo!) A while later, I went to visit the live recording of the Voice Over Cafe, and to my surprise found myself called up for an interview! Despite being caught a little flat footed, I think I managed to acquit myself fairly well. Later that night, I found myself oddly getting interested in a Yankees game. I don’t normally follow sports, but it was interesting to see how dramatic the whole okay we’re losing, oh no wait someone hit a home run and we have a chance, okay no wait we’re losing again saga went.

Faffcon Diary: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Faffcon Diary: Part 1

I have been jokingly referred to as ‘the Herald of Faffcon‘. (I don’t know why that could be.) But, to continue the tradition, for this Faffcon, I decided to do something a little different for my blog. Since this one was very close to home for me, I ended up having a 5 day long event of helping, and the event itself. So, I decided to keep a journal of sorts of my impressions for each day that I was there. Sort of a ‘behind the scenes’ peek into things, and a different perspective on events. I’m going to begin today with my impressions from my first day, Wednesday, October 10th.

Faffcon Day 1 Impressions:
I took a bus into the city, and couldn’t wait to arrive. All morning I was pacing around my house waiting to go downtown and get started. I love the reception I get, how happy Amy and Lauren are to see me. It’s great to get down to business right away, and to know that I’m helping to make the machinery of Faffcon work. I’ve always liked being ‘behind the scenes’, and this is such a positive way to do so. It’s interesting to see how things start out very calm and quiet, and then as people begin to trickle in, things start to shift into a higher gear. It shows the thing that makes Faffcon so unique is the people- the people give it energy and life, and create an atmosphere of creativity and real power. And of course none of this could happen without Amy Snively and Lauren McCullough. I have a theatre background, and to me things naturally fit into that lens–I think of Amy as the Director, and Lauren as the Stage Manager–but the truth is that the two ladies manage to function as an amazing synergistic whole. They are the fundamental vehicle by which Faffcon happens, and it is an honor and a privilege to assist both of them. I remember noticing that things were going very smoothly. We have always gotten everything done that needed to be done at Faffcon, but there was an ease and a relaxation to the preparations even at that early date that was quite clear. It was great to see my family when they arrived later that night, and I was tired but pleased with how much had gotten done. It was a little sad to leave, even though I would be back the following morning, since it was kind of a break in my Faffcon experience. I went to bed that night excited for the next day, and looking forward to jumping into work the next day.

Faffcon Diary: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5


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