5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Cold Reading Skills

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

January 10, 2018

Get the audition jitters every time you’re asked to do a cold reading of the script? Don’t worry! Cold reading isn’t scary, and it can be a fun adventure if you learn how to make it work for you. Check out these five simple tips for improving your cold reading skills in the audition room.

Read out loud often.

The more practice you have reading out loud, the better you’ll be at articulating and projecting during an actual cold read at an audition. You should always do diction and vocal exercises before any audition, but reading out loud from a page is a little different. When your brain becomes so focused on reading what’s on the page, it may cause you to forget your most basic acting training — vocal quality! Practicing read out loud will train your brain to multitask.

Ask yourself these basic questions:

Who is your character? The character you are reading for has a life, a certain way of looking at things, and relationships to other characters in the scene. Figure out basic things you can discern about your character based on the information you’re presented with.

What just happened in the scene? Infer what has just happened before the scene has started. What emotional state is your character in right now? What were they trying to achieve before the current scene started?

What do they want in the scene you are reading? Every scene has a conflict, whether it’s obvious or subtextual. Find out what your character wants or needs in the scene you’re holding in your hand. Play that objective.

Stay in character.

You may stumble over a line or mispronounce a word. It’s okay. Stay in character and continue with the scene. Instead of focusing on your mistake, focus on how your character reacts to what other characters are saying and doing.

4. Use the 80/20 rule of thumb.

This means that 80% of your attention should be on the person reading opposite you and 20% should be on the page you’re reading from. This shows the director that you’re focus is on reacting in the moment, not reading the lines off the page. Learn to quickly find your place so that you can be present while prepared to read the next line.

5. Memorize your first and last lines.

This helps you make a lasting impression in the audition room. Being able to deliver the first line memorized establishes your connection to the script and to the scene. Being able to deliver the last line without looking at the page shows that you’re connected to the person reading opposite you, which is essential in every scene. You’ll show directors that you can connect under pressure.

Note: It’s always okay to ask if you can have a moment to look over the script to familiarize yourself with the action.

Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.

Ashleigh Gardner received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College and her Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Masters Degree in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright, an actor, and PerformerStuff.com’s Editor.