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  • Writer's pictureMatt Cundill

The Return of V.O. North

Updated: May 31, 2023

We last spoke to Dervla Trainor back in 2019. She and Tanya Buchanan had just completed their second V.O. North conference, and it was getting to that point where the event was creating FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) for people in the Voice over community. Sadly, the pandemic caused a disruption to that momentum with 2020 being cancelled, and 2021 shifted online. However, the event is back and better than ever September 16-18 at the Pantages Hotel in Toronto.

In this episode, Dervla speaks to us about the genesis of the event, how she has steered her way through the voiceover business during the pandemic, and what we can expect in Toronto at Canada's premiere Voiceover event. We also briefly discussed some of the newer problems in the business with the emergence of Artificial intelligence, pricing and keeping control on where your voice goes. There are also the most useful of session involving marketing, search engine optimization and CRM's. The conference is open to beginners and experts alike. While not advertised as such, there is a lot of mentoring that takes places at V.O. North.


We also talked about Bev Standing's unique story which was recently featured on the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz



Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:00:01

The Sound Off podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill.... starts now.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:10

It was back in late 2019 when we had Dervla Trainor on this show to talk about V.O. North, the premier Voiceover conference in Canada. Along with Tanya Buchanan, who owns TADA Voiceworks, a voiceover agency in Toronto, they've spearheaded a conference to create a Voiceover community for Canadians and beyond. Then the pandemic hit in 2020 got shelves. They did an online version in 2021, and this year it's back September 16 to 18. The in person event resumes at the Pentagon Hotel in Toronto. If you are starting out in Voiceover, this is for you. There are lots of people I met in 2018 and 2019 who are just starting out in Voiceover and they've now turned it into a successful business and career for themselves. And if you're already in Voiceover and looking to up your game, this is also for you. It's a tremendous networking event. In the meantime, Dervla Trainer joins me from Toronto to talk about all things Voiceover.

Dervla (Guest) 00:01:09

This week, we are returning to the scene of the crime. So back it was, November of 2019, I had the chance to attend Vo North, and we brought Durville Trainer onto the podcast and we talked about Vo North FOMO, and that was sort of like the fear of missing out on what was going to be just a fantastic weekend.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:30

Via north is back again. And so I thought it would be a great time to bring her back and talk again with Serverless Trainer. Hi.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:01:36

Hi. Thanks for you.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:38

It's good to see you again.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:01:40

Yeah, you too. It's been a while.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:42

Well, I mean, November 2019, we had you on the podcast and we had just come off the second successful Vo North event, and I think you and Teddy Buchanan, we're really on to something. And then all of a sudden we're not far off from Covet. And so this is kind of a roundabout way to sort of say, what have you been doing throughout Kova to really sort of steer Veo North through the pandemic?

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:02:07

So we were fully planning to go ahead with 2020 north, and we had the venue picked out, we have the contract signed, everything. We had started advertising it and then coveted. So we made the decision to go to do that year online. And we rebranded as Violence Interactive because it was online and we still use the venue for our tech team, so everyone was socially distanced. So we had three large rooms where everyone was spread out, but we had a team still of about twelve people just helping behind the scenes we did online and it was great. We really wanted to keep it again as interactive as possible because we understood that online is just not the same as in person. So we kept a zoom room open the entire conference weekend, and we called it the Lounge. So you can just pop on anytime and see who else is there and just have a chit chat with someone. We had exhibitors we could pop on and talk to them too. We kept all of the sessions meeting style, and we really encourage people in advance. Like we let them know you're going to be on camera and ask questions, get involved. And then right after the programming ended on Saturday, then we had a Zoom Trivia night where people again interactive. And then we had what do we call it? It was kind of speed networking. So we throw randomized people into rooms of four or five people for a certain like a few minutes. So they chitchat and then they pop out and then they get thrown into a room with other people. So enough people that the conversation kept going. It wasn't too small, but I had one woman, she said I don't know if she'll want me to say her name, but she said at the start of the weekend, on Saturday morning, I told my husband I'm just going to pop on for a minute, for like an hour or so. And she said, Sunday afternoon came and we're at the closing ceremony. She's like, my husband's complaining because I didn't leave the computer the whole time because there was just so much going on. So it's good. But at the core of the owner, why it started to begin with was yes, like for people to learn and be able to grow their voice over business, but to bring the community together. So in 2021, we decided just to take a break. And now we're back this year with in person only going back to our roots.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:25

I, for one like that. And by the way, a nice shout out to your people, your tech people, because I was doing, I think, a number of sessions with you guys and they said your lighting is terrible. And by terrible meant it only lit up half my face. So this sort of forced me to move the ring light to the center now. And so I've been doing much better.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:04:44

Great. You've got a fully lit face.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:47

I know. And by the way, this is the first time I've done a session with glasses because I can no longer see anything anymore. So some people are wondering, who's this guy? And I just got these glasses on now.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:04:55

Well, the ring light placement, I mean, that's key. And most people that have glasses, they get the reflection. But yours is up. It must be up just high enough. You got it down. I'm impressed, Matt.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:05

Well, I've had two and a half years to get this right, and now I think we've got it right. And congratulations, by the way, for coming back and sticking with the community and making it a full in person session. It's going to be taking place September 16 through the 18th. And off the top of your mind, what are you looking forward to the Most at your own event?

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:05:27

Well, I mean, seeing everyone is going to be great. I love the opening ceremonies. We try to make it fun and it really kind of sets the tone for the rest of the weekend. And it's everyone in the one room. And then we've got a Saturday night industry mixer with a special cocktail. It's sponsored by Badalgo. So Badalgo is creating its own cocktail. And we'll have appetizers and such, but that should be fun too. It's offsite. We've never done that before. And then just the panels, the breakouts, the one on one. Something I'm really proud of is the fact that we have one on one. So you can schedule a time to sit with a casting director or an agent, like uninterrupted. So I feel like people are always really happy after they've done those. I just love when people end the weekend. They're like, oh my God, I can't believe how much value I got out of that. Because that's really why we do it.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:20

How's your voiceover business been going for the last couple of years? Through the pandemic? Because I know for a lot of people, it changed. There's people who got into it. There's also some people who had to change. I remember March 2020, there was a lot of people who had never had a home studio. Now, I know you have a home studio and I have one, but have you seen any sort of discernible changes in the last couple of years?

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:06:41

There were a couple things that so I think at the beginning, a lot of voice talent who have been doing this for a while might have been a bit nervous because a lot of actors who were now out of work because there isn't much on camera anymore, they jumped into voiceover. But I think what happened really was the voice actors who have been recording from home all along, we had those editing skills, we had the proper setup, so it affected business a little bit, but not too much. The style of voiceover at the very beginning, it was, we're in this together and very emotive and more nurturing voice. And I can sound a little young, but I found that the style of voice, I wasn't booking as much, but that's turned around now, so not too much. No. I think overall, the voiceover industry is shifting. I initially got all most of my success from online casting sites. I did quite well. But I think there has been an oversaturation of that market in the past few years. So there's a lot more competition. So, yeah, it's shifting, but just where the work comes from has changed.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:47

So if you're listening to this right now, one of the things that Vo North, I think, really offers us an opportunity to put a face to the people. Because so often people are working online, they're working at home. And you've mentioned a couple of things so you mentioned casting, for instance. And so I think back to someone I think is also going to be attending is Liz Atherton, who's going to be yeah. And so you'll never get a better opportunity to meet Liz. You mentioned Bodalgo, which is a company that is based in Europe, but in the past I've had a chance to meet Armin and Armin and I have sat down and he's very open and we talk and he even showed a little podcaster trick. And I will put this into the show notes and that's Bodalgo call. You can actually record a podcast between two people and it's free now. I don't know if he still offers it. I believe he does, yeah. So this is, I think, one of the real benefits. Unless I could break out and we can go over every single session. That's ridiculous. You can just go on to the website and see that. But you do have an editing session by the way. I see expedite the editing. So the tips and facts are going to be saving you time.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:08:55

Well, I mean, we try to basically cover every single aspect of a voice actors career, right? From editing, to finding your own clients, to technique, to marketing yourself, all that stuff, to finding an agent, to self direction. Yeah, the editing, I've learned little tips and tricks here and there that have just you learn at once and it just completely changes how your efficiency rate. So it's not the most glamorous talk editing, but it can definitely be useful.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:33

Everything adds up. You've even got one here for voice health. So I'll ask you here, what do you do for voice health?

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:09:41

I've always had a lot of problems with voice. Actually my voice, I was just telling someone today I have a very delicate voice. So I own a steamer and I think if you're even like in radio as well, I mean, if you're using your voice, I think it's like a little Vic steamer and I'll steam. Just try to stay hydrated. That really helps. Late night partying does not usually help. Even I noticed that if I have some wine the night before, there's something in wine where it can congest you a little bit. So if you are having a drink or two, there's just a lot just depending on how much sleep I got the night before, there's a lot of things that affect vocal health. So I'm actually looking forward to sitting in on that session to help so I can learn what are the best ways to maintain so that I sound the same. Because I sound very different in the morning, afternoon and evening, but sometimes day to day I sound different too. And it's been a bit of a struggle but like a learning curve throughout my career to try and figure out what is it that keeps me in that voice range and what affects it.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:43

So there's another podcast that's come out. Episode 20000 Hz bev standing. It has made an appearance on the podcast and this is sort of two fold here that I'm going to mention here when it comes to bev because you have a session at this, which I think is very important and it's going to be very popular and I see that you've allotted over an hour to it. And that's AI pricing and protecting your voice in the Wild West. Westworld of Voiceover.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:11:05

I love creating the names. Do you know Westworld?

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:09


Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:11:10

It's quite a popular TV show. So I said The Wild Wild West World of Vo because it's got a cowboy themed element sort of thing. Anyway, AI is a hot topic right now and not a lot of people know much about it. So it was a bit of a challenge finding speakers for that because we wanted people who do know who are tapped into that and because it is such a Wild Wild West right now, there aren't a lot of experts, but we did find them and I'm also looking forward to that panel just to learn where the direction it's going in.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:51

I would have no idea. In fact, sometimes I'll get an AI job. I won't even take it or acknowledge it because I'm afraid of where it will go. First of all, it's hard to price. And then the second thing is how do I know this isn't going to wind up somewhere that I'm not going.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:12:05

To be able to hear the voice of TikTok? They just ripped her voice off.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:09

Yeah, that's now a podcast episode from 20,000 show Notes are in. The Show Notes. I'll connect you to that if you want to listen. It's a 20 minutes listen and it's not only an interesting listen, it is a very important lesson for people in voiceover and how your voice is used. Tell me about getting together with Contagious Hotel.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:12:41

It's great. So the last venue we were in was lovely and it had a ton of personality, but we wanted somewhere that still has that boutique vibe but is much more suited to holding a conference. So we're taking up the entire third floor, which is the conference floor. The bedrooms are beautiful. They're nice, big, spacious, bright, newly renovated. And Christina, our contact there, has been lovely to work with. We wanted it downtown because the people are coming in from out of town. A lot of these conferences, you fly in from the airport, you go to a hotel right by the airport. So you've come all this way to a different city that you've never been to and you're not even seeing the city. Whereas we're right by Young Dundas Square, which is the equivalent of Times Square and there's lots happening and that's why we're having the industry mixer off site as well in Kensington Market, which is pretty legendary in itself because we want to bring those people outside of the conference and get to experience Toronto. So we thought it was a very fitting location.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:38

So you have some of the standard panels that I think we've seen every year, but things do evolve. So I'm thinking about CRMs and I'm thinking about SEO. And I'm thinking about websites. So some of these things do come up every year. But tell me a little bit about some of the you have these intensives and I'm going to guess that the intensives are all sold out anyway, but just make me excited anyways.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:13:58

Yeah, well, we have some spots left. Three are sold out. One of them only has one spot left and then there's two that we still have availability. So intensive are three hour sessions and they're twelve people per class because we want to keep it intimate, very hands on. It's you with the person leading the intensive and eleven other colleagues. And in past years we've run it in line with the conference, but this year we've actually dedicated a whole separate day to the intensive so that people it is a bit of an extra ticket price, but it's because that's all going to the speaker. We're flying these people in specifically for the intensive, so that's why it's an additional cost and we're doing it the day before so that you don't have to miss any of the regular conference programming. We've got everything from Vo 101, which is I think going to be so invaluable if there's people coming to the conference who are just new to voiceover. This is intended to give you just a full wrap your head around the foundations of voiceover, so that when you come into the weekend, you're going to get even more value from the weekend because all these terms, all these little things that you might not have known before, you're already going to know them. So when someone tells you about something, you already understand what they're talking about so you can get more value out of it. We have Narrating Audiobooks, we have this self direction intensive, but that's sold out. They're great. It's a little bit of an add on price, but I just think they're so invaluable to your overall conference experience and they just bring the whole thing to the next level.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:38

So I'm seeing a lot of the companies and your sponsors come to this, are a number of people that I've worked with in the past. And it kind of gets me a little bit excited when I see companies like Isotope and I finally learned how to use their RX products to take all the clicks out of my mouth and to take the noise out of the room and to do all sorts of extra things. Thinking about ear blowing audio productions. Say hi to Eric. Eric part of the bill is Mafia and he makes incredible demos. For instance, I know Uncle Roy is there. Uncle Roy. Just seeing Uncle Roy.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:16:11

He's our tech director.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:16:13

Yeah, exactly. So if you work in voiceover, there's just so many people here that are coming together for this.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:16:21

Oh, I was going to say, yeah, we have 55 speakers and we're flying people in from literally all over the world for this. Tanya mostly curates the speakers and because she's an agent, she has access to all these people that typical voice actors wouldn't. We don't populate our panels with people who are trying to sell their goods. We specifically cherry pick people who might not normally come to conferences because they don't have anything to gain from it, but because they know Tanya, she's like, come on, you are so great at this. And a lot of the times they're like, okay, yes. Because they just want to get back to the community.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:16:55

Yeah. I think it's really important to point out that I think I've never been pitched. I think that was the thing that surprised me the first time I went and the second time and when we did the online thing together is there's no pitching. There's nothing really to pitch anyway because it's really a community and trying to I think working together has really been sort of the mantra of the business.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:17:14

Yeah. Just we want people who are the top of their game in whatever field they're speaking on and that they're genuinely there to give back, not to sell a service. But on the other hand, our sponsors who do have services that target voice actors, we're also very particular in who we partner up with. So we actually stand behind each and every one of them and we think that what they do, sell product or service is great. We wouldn't be anywhere without the sponsors. Thank you.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:45

I do notice that you have a session involving actor. And listen, we see this all the time online. Should I join ACTRA or SAG or anything like that? So you're also going to be answering questions about how to maybe maneuver your way towards the union and maybe taking a little bit of an exit in your career or taking a different pathway.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:18:05

And whether that's right for you, depending on what type of voiceover you want to do. The union does or does not make sense. If you want to do animation, absolutely. The union, I would say personally, just my opinion would be the way to go. But if you want to do commercial explainer videos, elearning, all that stuff, there's so much nonunion work out there, especially in elearning in the explainer videos. I would almost argue that there's more nonunion work. So again, just my opinion, not fact, but this is what I believe at least. But that's what that panels there to address. Right? What do you get from joining the union? Why is it a good idea or why is it maybe not right for you?

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:49

We got deep into the weeds in this conversation. We both do voiceover. But if you're thinking about doing this as a career or just you started it, you bought a microphone, you want to level up or maybe you haven't even started it at all. I think it's important to point out that violence is a great place to start, just to come and see everybody and ask questions, because everybody there is very giving of their time and their knowledge and sharing, and not just the people are going to be on stage, but just other voice talent in the room.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:19:16

Absolutely. The reason why I started it obviously bring the community together in a format where they can learn, but because I've gotten so much from voice conferences. And it doesn't matter what level you're at, because where you're at, you'll just absorb what information brings you to the next step, what information that you understand, right? So if you're very experienced, you'll understand more nuances in the conversation. If you're newer, you're still going to get a ton of value. You're going to learn what to do next. I think conferences, you just get so much, even if it just gives you a motivational boost and you book one more job that you wouldn't have booked otherwise, that pays it off right? There the price of the ticket. So that's how I look at it, too. I mean, I always learn so much, but if at the very least it just motivates you to do three more auditions or something and you book one and there you go, at least you broke even and you met a bunch of really great people because the voiceover industry is super friendly. Everyone's helpful.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:14

Dervla, thanks so much for taking time out of this holiday weekend to talk about this. I'm going to assume, by the way, that I'm just to say, go to and everything that you need to know is there, and off you go. And you can register and come see.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:20:28

You in less than two weeks. Looking forward to it. It's good. I'm very excited for this year. It's our last year for other reasons, but yeah. So I guess it's kind of now or never. It's the only one in Canada. No, sorry, it's the biggest one in Canada.

Matt Cundill (Host) 00:20:45

Congratulations to you and Tanya for doing it. And Vo North is going to be taking place September 16 through the 18th and it's going to be awesome.

Dervla Trainor (Guest) 00:20:53

Thanks for having me on.

Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:20:54

The Sound Off podcast. Written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social Media by Courtney Krebsbach Another great creation from the sound of the media company. There's always more @


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