Make Room, Leave Space, Give Time

A favourite exercise that I love to share with my students is “The Cold Read Exercise”. Cold reading means reading aloud a text that you’ve never seen before. Or, in an audition situation, you may have been given five minutes to look through it, after which you are required to perform it as best you can, with the script in your hand to refer to.

Chatting about the Cold Read Exercise

At first, I taught this exercise to actors, so that they could be more confident in a cold read audition. Then I taught it to the volunteer narrators who recorded audio books for a library for visually impaired people. More recently, I’ve been learning just how useful it is for anyone — actors, public speakers, teachers —anyone who uses their speaking voice to share ideas, stories, information.

It’s an exercise that allows you to experience how your voice sounds, how it feels, in the moment of speaking. You begin to understand the difference between ‘reading voice’, ‘doing-acting voice’, ‘quoting remembered text voice’ and ‘meaning what you are saying voice’. These different types of delivery don’t just feel and sound different to you. They sound different to your listeners, your audience. The actual vocal quality is subtly, but extremely profoundly different. They are all appropriate ways of speaking, depending on the context. Sometimes you want your audience to know that you are reading something aloud. Sometimes you need them to know that you are quoting somebody else. You never want to be doing ‘doing-acting voice’, unless you are having fun with it, because it is also the voice of so-called ‘over-acting’, or ‘over the top acting’, which is also known as poor, or bad acting. In other words, we are hearing something that sounds like acting, instead of hearing you, or hearing the character you are portraying.

Most, if not all of the time, we want to be heard. We want our listeners to engage with our ideas, to be entertained by our stories, to be informed by whatever we want to share with them.

If you’d like to know more about the Cold Read Exercise, you can book in for a private session, or invite some friends or colleagues to join you for a group session. Contact me here.

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