You can’t tell yourself how NOT to do something.

Yet, before you even open your mouth to utter the first syllable from your script, before you even set foot in the booth—there’s already an internal monologue going on inside your head. I can hear it all the way over here like a small child incessantly banging on a tin pot. “How am I going to say it? How am I going to say it?” is the likely self-sabotaging, mental mantra. That noise impacts every move you make.

So, whether you like it or not, even though that remarkable mind of yours keeps chatting away throughout your performance, its imperative you direct your attention to achieve the most productive results. This requires practice, which isn’t immediately intuitive. Because even though we can’t read your mind, whatever you’re thinking—whatever you’re telling yourself during the take, will directly impact your performance.

For instance, you can’t tell yourself how NOT to do something.

It’s fruitless. Try it some time. Tell yourself, “Whatever you do, DON’T think of a banana!”

What happened?

You thought of a banana, didn’t you? Exactly.

My point is your brain doesn’t register “don’t” when you’re directing yourself. Instead it receives, “Think of a banana.” Or whatever you were telling yourself NOT to do or think. This train of thought ultimately focuses on what you DON’T in the performance equation, which, unfortunately, is the result of how your performance will subsequently play out. I call this “banana directing”.

It happens a lot with clients when they offer direction during a session. “That whole thing was good, just don’t do what you did at the end. And… rolling!”


Just as in life, wherever you direct your attention will impact your performance. Provided you’re manned with a handful of extraordinary self-direction techniques and you make a habit of them, you’ll learn to trust your creative impulses and develop the agility necessary to take calculated risks with every take. Therefore, this could very well be the most avoidable self-sabotage there is. Yet every skill level of talent has fallen prey to it. This speaks to the core of your job as a professional talent and ultimately what makes you valuable.

Voiceover, like all acting is a ‘time-art’. By that I mean you’re expected to continually create with each and every take, rather than craft a single, solitary (repetitive) delivery or performance within a designated timeframe.

‘Matching’ a read is one thing, but offering usable, effective options with each take is quite literally what you were hired to do as a professional talent in ALL recorded media (such as film and television), not just voiceover.

You’re capable of an unlimited number of remarkable reads. We just need a few options, and to accommodate changes the client may request, rather than sounding like a broken record from one take to the next. No one needs 10-30 takes of the exact same thing over and over again with little or no change from one take to the next. That’s not very creative, and of no use to anyone.

I understand it may seem as if I’m suggesting you offer dramatic departures with each and every take. I promise you I’m not. But by allowing yourself to play the moment and offer some variance in your expression from one take to the next, within the context of the piece, you’ll likely discover you’re capable of a limitless number of remarkable, appropriate, realistic reads.

Maintaining your creative muscle by applying game-changing techniques, enhances your ability to fully commit to any direction you may be given—even if you disagree with the direction offered. This is required of you regardless of the genre of voice acting you may be voicing. It’s literally the difference between a stealth professional voice actor, and a novice.

You might be surprised how many talent bemoan the fact they aren’t getting much direction. Yet the very same people typically reject any direction once offered, very often without realizing it, because they aren’t accustom to receiving direction, modifications or corrections in the first place.

Considering the ONLY time you’ll likely receive direction today is during a recording session from the producer or client who hired you, its very likely you may find you’re completely out of practice in skillfully applying the modification requested of you as a workable performance option. Like all skills, training is a matter of conditioning. We are what we repeatedly do, as the saying goes.

So, if your performance has largely gone unchecked, you’re likely to perform out of sheer muscle memory and completely repel (or scarcely apply) the direction you’re given. The problem is this is the least creative approach you can possibly take to your career, which may be the reason you’re not booking as often as you should be.

Unfortunately, far too many talent rationalize they have followed the direction offered, but usually just barely. Additionally, talent erroneously assume those directing them know precisely what they want and can articulate exactly how they expect you to say each and every phrase. These assumptions force unseasoned clients to micro-manage your performance, which is never an effective approach for the production at hand, let alone for your professional reputation.

Self-direction is necessary from the very start of your performance, however it is not immediately intuitive. It’s nothing new, although this concept may be new to you. No one can do a thing with you as a talent until you first do something dynamic, interesting and creative within the context of the script offered.

If you’re drawing a blank, rest assured—you’re not alone. That recording booth can become something of a sensory deprivation tank if you’re not careful. This is again, in part, why we train. Expecting a potential client to supply you with an imagination, rather than the other way around, won’t make you a reliable, valuable voiceover. The burden falls to you to offer an engaged imagination and your unique point-of-view (POV)—not the other way around.

Challenging your comfort zone on a daily basis is how you learn to trust your impulses and continue to develop your skills. It requires telling yourself what you want included in your performance, instead of the other way around. Again, this is where training comes in.

Developing the necessary conditioning to be prepared and valuable at a moments notice is why we train. This will be your homework as a professional talent for the duration of your career.

Your confidence and ultimate success depend on how well you hone your self-directing skills that build and maintain your greatest assets and abilities—instead of leaving your voiceover career completely to chance and coasting on autopilot.

No one can direct you if you can’t first direct yourself, and that begins with imagining what you want your performance to include.

Schedule some coaching for your self right now at 877.886.3366.

Copyright © 2021 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.

Sign up to our email list and receive our 1/2 Hour Vocal Warm Up for FREE!
Receive our exclusive 1/2 hour long Vocal Warm-Up recording as our gift for signing up to our email list! The easiest way to keep up with the VO Industry!
We respect your privacy.