In many ways, the time from the moment you walk into the audition room, through introductions, questions, etc. before you audition can be as critical to you getting the part as your audition itself. Your powers of observation, your ability to read between the lines are critical auditioning skills. They are your links to the hearts and minds, the very souls of those judging your work. Because your ability to understand others, what they want, what they don’t, their motivations, their pain points, builds trust. And trust is fundamental to getting what you want— the part. Additionally, keenly-honed powers of observation are the key to understanding your effect on others— you must constantly assess how other people are responding to you. For some, these skills are easy, almost intuitive. For many though, they are a challenge. Fortunately they are skills that can be learned. Here are some places to start.

Connect with the Scene and Actors

Start by quickly scanning the room to take stock of how many are in the room. More importantly, who’s standing. Who’s sitting. Who’s sitting next to whom. How much space is between people. Who’s smiling, who isn’t. And of course, body language— like posture, crossed arms (signaling defensiveness), tapping or drumming fingers (signaling impatience) and steepling of the fingers (signaling control) Picking up on these virtually invisible clues about how those in the room are feeling before you start your audition can give you a real advantage.

For Actors, Listening is more important than Talking.

You can’t observe if you’re doing all talking. You’ve got to listen, really concentrate on what the other person is saying.. or asking. Much like your performance to follow, work to be present. Be engaged. Make eye contact. React in the moment— this might well be your most important performance— coming across likeable, directable and confident.

Learn to Interpret Your Observations On the Fly

Now that you’re tuned in to the emotions and energy in the room you’ve got to analyze, try and make sense of the little you think you know. While you may not know much about anyone in the room, can still come up with reasonable guesses for what’s motivating them. More importantly, don’t project your feelings onto the group. Though it takes tremendous self-control and skill, you must keep your emotions under control For instance, if the room is pulsing with tension, don’t allow yourself “be sucked into the negative energy flow, don’t let your natural tendency toward being frightened or angry overwhelm you. Because, never forget that the emotional energy you perceive is in all probability not personal. Having nothing to do with you.

To Test Your Observations, Just Ask

As you develop a few ideas about for what’s going on in the room, a few focused questions are the secret to checking your understanding. Again, you’ll have to learn to do this on the fly, in the moment, while continuing to gather further information, staying open to what you’re seeing and sensing so that you don’t fall prey to what’s known as confirmation bias.

Put Your Perceptions into Action

In most cases, it should be easy to determine who in the room with the most hierarchical capital— the director, the agency creative director, the client. Watch positive signals, lie the agency account executive grinning in the corner, and concentrate on them. Even more critical, keep attuned to what isn’t being said, the body language of the room. And apply those perceptions to maximum effect.

Keep Emotions in Check When Receiving Feedback

Of course everything we’ve talked about applies to the audition itself— and this is extremely difficult to do as you are trying to be in the moment acting and reacting to your reading partner, remain vigilant for changes in facial expressions and quick micro-expressions, like the fleeting smile, the raised eyebrow, the tiny frown. These are your real-time clues to how things are going.

Above All, Never Let Them See You Sweat.

It is critical that you project absolute confidence at all times in front of this group that holds your fate in their hands. Your body language is extremely key. People pay attention, at least subliminally, to how you walk and talk during an audition. Displaying confidence at all times is a must. People pick up on whether you really believe in the performance you are giving, and they pick up on how much it seems you’ve prepared.

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Written by Doug Potter