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Feeling Isolated In Home Studio? 
Start A Local Mastermind Group
Note: The author is a panelist at the VOICE 2010 (June 2-5 in LA) session on Voice Actors & The Internet, where he will share experiences and advice for maxing the power of the Internet. For a $100 discount on conference tuition, click here and enter the Registration Code: VOXTRA (all caps).
By Doug Turkel
Voice Actor
As I write this, a soft breeze is rustling the palm fronds, and a small pod of dolphins repeatedly breaks the surface of Blackwater Sound with their dorsal fins.
The solitude of this beautiful spot on the bay side of Key Largo has become a favorite weekend escape for my family and me.
At the end of a week filled with the realities of daily life ­– bills, taxes, car repairs, chaperoning the kid’s field trip and trouble-shooting the hum in my left studio monitor – sitting on this dock, watching the day go by and reeling in the occasional mangrove snapper is just what I need to prepare for the week ahead.
Solitude can be good. Solitude can be great. But when it comes to a business that involves as much networking as voice-overs, solitude can be very isolating.
For years, one of my favorite parts of working in this industry was the time spent at recording studios, while not in the booth: the schmoozing, the chatting, the plain old hanging out with people who do what we do day in and day out. (The free bagels were a nice perk, too.)
Back then, recording studios had waiting rooms, where the 5 to10 talent who were auditioning for any one gig would share war stories, water cooler chat, and recent successes, both personal and professional.
Little did we know how blessed we were to be auditioning against so few talent. But that’s a story for an entirely different article.
The camaraderie and support were fun and beneficial, and many of the friendships forged are still in place.
Another great advantage of going to recording studios was the time spent talking to studio owners, engineers, advertising agency personnel and clients, which often led to new leads and opportunities.
But these days, with more and more of our work being done from home/remote studios, the opportunities to rub elbows with fellow voice-over talent are hard to come by.
One easy way around this problem is to create those opportunities. For a group of us here in South Florida, the answer was a Mastermind Group.
A Mastermind Group is generally defined as a small group of like-minded people who meet regularly to support each other's growth. A group's members may have similar or very different goals.
The common thread is that each member accepts responsibility for supporting, advising, and challenging other members in pursuit of their goals.
My brother had formed one for his industry (advertising) years ago, and I'd heard enough about the benefits of his group to know that it could work for us, too.
But first, a little research.
In the early 1900s, Napolean Hill introduced the Mastermind Group concept, describing it as "The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony."
For me, while the idea of a "coordinated effort" is obviously important to the success of a Mastermind Group, the key lies in the "spirit of harmony."
Keep that in mind as you consider who to invite to join your group.
Starting with a strong foundation, and filling the group with supportive, generous members will go a long way toward ensuring your success.
Google "Start a Mastermind Group," and you'll get more than 636,000 results, many with conflicting recommendations.
I can't help you deal with that kind of information overload, except to tell you what's worked for us: When selecting potential members, make sure that they:
  • Are committed - to the meetings, to the process and to growing their business
  • Are good communicators who understand two-way sharing - the best members will ask for help and offer help
  • Are innovators who are willing to explore new ways of doing business
  • Are not competitive by nature, but are team players
  • Have similar experience levels - otherwise, more experienced members get little benefit and may quit out of frustration
  • Have a high level of integrity; trust and authenticity are vital to your group's success
  • Have a good sense of humor (more important than you think it is)
How many members will your group have?
Four to eight seems to be the most common size. With too many members, meetings take too long. And with too few members, the resources just aren't there.
When, where, and how often will meetings be held? How long will your group work together?
You might agree to monthly meetings for the next 6-12 months, and then reevaluate.
It's a good idea to set some ground rules at the very beginning. For example:
  • Personal criticisms are not allowed.
  • Everyone must be willing to provide positive support, encouragement, accountability, and non-judgmental commitment to each member's success
  • Mutual respect is essential
  • All meetings are confidential, and anything said during a meeting will not leave the group.
  • Be an active listener
  • Always be open for feedback and support, and be accountable to the group’s purpose and ground rules
  • Share, suggest and encourage, but do not criticize
The meeting's agenda belongs to the group, and it's important that everyone participate. Here's a sample agenda.
Members Share.
Each member is given, say 10 minutes to share. For example, you can:
  • Share a recent success, or breakthrough, and/or report on your progress since the last meeting
  • Share an opportunity or problem you have experienced
  • Ask for support
  • Share issues/problems you are currently grappling with, and ask the group to suggest strategies and resources that might help overcome these obstacles
  • Bring a resource to each meeting to share with the others. It can be an article, a tape, a book, a contact, a link, a tip, or any useful information. If possible, bring enough copies to share with everyone
  • State a goal you will have accomplished by the next meeting.
  • Tell members what your next milestone is, so that they can nag you to finish your task (again, more important than you might think)
Tonight's Topic. Possibilities include:
  • Problem solving
  • Generate marketing ideas/plans
  • Explore ideas for generating new business
  • Define our individual brands
  • Demo / web site critiques
  • Demo / web site development
  • Sharing technical / studio knowledge
  • Taxes / Insurance / Business Resources
Decide on the next meeting's topic, date, time and place

Think of your group as an intensive networking and feedback machine.
Your voice-over peers will help you brainstorm new possibilities and then hold you accountable, so you stay focused and on track.
You'll create a new community of supportive colleagues who will work together to move the group, and its members, to new heights.
Considering the economy and the nature of our business, I think it is really important for voice-over folks to get together and help each other. I’ve had to deal with many voice actors who feel threatened or too insecure to help others, since they feel it will hinder their own career.
But I'm convinced that it does exactly the opposite.
I have found that it has done nothing but open more doors. And if nothing else, meetings like this will give each of us the ability to open more doors for ourselves, since that really what it's all about.
Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ~ Kenyan Proverb
Doug Turkel has more than 20 years of experience as a professional voice talent. Branding himself as the “UNnouncer” – as opposed to the brash “Monster Truck” guy – he has “quietly” become the voice behind more than 10,000 spots and several TV networks. His strong roster of clients includes MasterCard, NBC/Telemundo, McDonald’s, The Travel Channel and The Discovery Channel. He is currently the promo voice of the Home Shopping Network. Working from a home studio, he notes that “voice talent who learn to use the tools that the Internet offers can find work anywhere and everywhere."


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Comments (3)
Tara LaDore
8/4/2010 at 3:25 PM
Great article, Doug! I'd like to work on getting a Connecticut group together with John. Appreciate the framework and agenda ideas also.

Best regards, Tara
Diane Maggipinto
4/20/2010 at 1:01 PM
Excellent information nicely laid out, Doug! This is a great framework for beginning the process of getting a group together, something I and some of my Salt Lake City-based colleagues want to do. Thanks!
Peter K. O'Connell
4/17/2010 at 7:02 PM

I have had the great fortune to actually attend one of Doug's Mastermind Group meetings when I was on a trip to Miami.

In an effort to save space. I'll let you read about how much I enjoyed it here:

Suffice to say it was a terrific experience, and people who have the opportunity and even a minor network should cast that net and get one started.

This can be a really great opportunity.

Best always,
- Peter
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