Is Cold Reading the Most Important Voice-Over Skill?

Without a doubt, there’s nothing better for a voice-over career than honing your cold reading skills. Why? Because the mastery of this one skill will allow you to submit auditions more quickly, book more work, and ultimately get paid more money per minute behind the mic. 

According to the mighty Wikipedia, theatrical cold reading is the ability to read a script aloud with little to no rehearsal. This definition

Not exactly what we mean by “cold reading”.

certainly applies to the voice-over skill we’re unpacking today. An excellent cold reader can pick up a script, hit record, and read through fluently with few mistakes. 

Think about how this could change your audition routine. Less prep, fewer mistakes, and less time spent editing means more time to submit more auditions. Since we know that auditioning is essentially a numbers game—the more you submit, the more you work—honing your cold reading isn’t just a cute party trick, it’s a crucial investment in your career.

Here are three simple steps you can start today to bring your cold reading skills up to scratch. 

  1. Rehearse. While you can’t rehearse a script ahead of time—since you wouldn’t be cold reading—you can practice this skill outside of the booth. Look for daily opportunities to read aloud to sharpen this skill, such as reading a bedtime story to your kids or reading the dinner recipe aloud to yourself in the kitchen. 
  2. Relax. Once you’re in the booth, make sure you’re relaxed, breathing, and practicing proper posture. Diaphragmatic breathing and posture are essential to your vocal performance. Plus, your performance flows more easily when the body isn’t stressed or tight. 
  3. Review. Just like athletes on Monday morning, voice-over artists should be regularly reviewing their work and progress. An easy way to do this is to save your raw audio. Of course, you don’t need to save ALL your raw audio, but setting aside an unedited audition from January to listen back to a few months later should give you a good idea of your progress. 

Whether you’ve been reading aloud for decades—I was the kid reading to my family in the car on road trips—or you just realized this skill is one you need to succeed, voice-over artists should jump at any and all opportunities to read aloud. Not only does it naturally build cold reading skills, but it helps grow confidence as well. 

So here’s the challenge: find five ways to read aloud this week that aren’t behind the mic. You may be surprised at how quickly your work improves. 

Caroline Turner Cole is a voice-over artist, writer, yogi, and coach based in Dallas, TX. Connect via Instagram @carolinecolestories




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