Just how do people read long projects with so few flubs? How can they say the words and have it all make sooo much sense when they are cold reading? Are they just more talented? Are you either born with it or you’re not?
They have an ability to process copy visually as if it was their own ideas and relate it verbally as though they were giving a talk that they had memorized. It can be very inspiring to hear some one read like this and a little maddening as well.
The good news is it’s a skill you can learn, too. Of course some people have a more natural gift for cold reading, but as you learn and practice these techniques you will become much better at it.
Often actors will say to me that they read really well, they just need time to go over the script. Well that works if you HAVE time to go over the script and if it’s not a really long project like an audio book or other long narrative. On a large project you never really remember what's coming up even if you’ve read it 20 times.
And… If you don’t have time, which happens often, you need to be able to cold read. Let's review the basic cold reading technique and build on that.
Let's say you have a 50 page project to read for a voiceover project. And there hasn’t been much time to study it. You read the entire first sentence before you start the read. Then you start speaking. On the end of the first sentence, as you take a catch breath, you dart your eyes to the right as you start inhaling to scan what you are about to say so you have the next idea in your head, not just the next word.
You then keep your eyes 2 or three words ahead of where you are speaking. You never want to being saying the word with your mouth that you’re reading with your eyes. That always turns out poorly because you won’t know what the idea is.
On the end of every sentence there is a half second catch breath and you repeat the process of darting your eyes to the right to read ahead while you’re inhaling.
After every third or fourth sentence there is naturally a one to two second break because that is how everyone groups their ideas. You use that break to read way ahead.
All right, that’s the review of the basic technique. Now let's mix it up.
You are going to get a piece of copy and print it out in 14 point copy. And you're going to put one sentence each line. You then cover the first sentence with paper and reveal it just for a second and cover the sentence back up. Now try and say the whole sentence without looking. This will help you store ideas in your head a sentence at a time. It will train you to read a sentence as an idea instead of reading individual words. Do this through the entire page.
Practice this several times with the same page. Yes, you will start to remember what the content is, and that is exactly what helps build up your short term memory. But the other thing that happens is it teaches you to recognize a whole sentence as an idea instead of the usual reaction of reading individual words and then assembling the idea as you say the words.
This technique of scanning a sentence and forming the idea will lead to great cold reading skills.
Now start at the top of the same page and don’t cover any of the sentences. Glance at the sentence and start talking... then keep your eyes two to three words ahead of the words you are saying. These are your training wheels to build up your ability to read ahead.
Now combine this technique with taking deeper catch breaths so you have more time to scan ahead. It is very easy to edit out dead space and it takes far less time than editing out flubs. When you practice, take a few seconds to scan a section before reading through a paragraph in this fashion. You can do amazing reads if you will practice this really slowly like you would a golf swing and take the time to make this your natural response.
As you get better at managing sections of copy, you will find that you can shorten the length of your catch breaths and still get the idea of each sentence into your head.
Remember when you are speaking your own ideas, this works very naturally. Huge blocks of ideas and information are organized and delivered without difficulty.
The training of your eyes is very important for you to be able to scan sentences and indeed paragraphs and start recognizing the ideas in groups so that you start speaking the text of the project as if they were your own thoughts. This is the gateway and the technique that will enable you to start reading copy as if you were speaking your own ideas.
The implications of this advanced cold reading technique go far beyond being able to read with fewer flubs... it has a profound effect on ones ability to personalize reads… to sound authentic and believable at an entirely new level. The sense of spontaneity will be much improved and people will comment on how natural and believable the read sounds.
It is important to emphasize that everyone has different learning styles and preferences about how they acquire new skills. These techniques I’m illustrating are really just a point of departure. You should always experiment with different versions that you invent that adapt these techniques to your own style of learning.
This is an indispensable part of learning. No technique in and of itself works perfectly with every individual. Once you have practiced these techniques, start playing with the order and methods and try and find ways to personalize how these techniques work for you.
For example, have you ever gone to a golf lesson and played worse???? Well, I have, until I remembered to not try and perform a bunch of rules... but to let the instruction come with me without forcing it. We have to absorb new techniques, not be imprisoned by them. When ever we get too clinical about developing new techniques we run the risk of loosing the freedom required to benefit from improved technique.
So, after you’ve practiced these techniques, then try them with almost reckless abandon… many times this helps a person manage a task with the intuitive, subconscious part of the brain which is always free and courageous and more efficient than the self conscious part of our minds that is often tentative because it is afraid of doing things wrong.
And finally don’t worry if you feel like you’ve never been able to read very well. These things are just learned skills. Some people develop these skills in school at a young age… and some, of course, learn later in life.
The important thing is to just practice these techniques until it all becomes natural to you. This very important skill requires sustained effort to make it a natural skill and you’ll find that it is well worth the time it takes to develop it.