Boss Mindset: Performance Anxiety

Jitters. Nerves. Anxiety. Voiceovers. It may seem like these things don’t go together but even the Bosses have found that they sure do. Today’s episode addresses performance anxiety, what causes it and how to best handle it. We’ve ALL been there. And any voice actor who tells you otherwise is full of BS. If you’ve never recorded outside your home studio…this is a must listen episode!


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Anne received an email from a listener who found himself in full panic-mode at an offsite studio.

  2. He’s not alone.  All voiceover actors have experienced nervousness at a studio other than their own.

  3. It can be very stressful when we can see a room full of people talk about our performance but we can’t hear what they are saying.

  4. Many voiceover talent have stage fright. We don’t like having an audience.

  5. There’s nothing worse than feeling like we’ve blown an opportunity or a job because of a bodily reaction we can’t control.

  6. If you’ve never worked in a studio other than your own – you need to book time at a studio – even if you have no real reason to.

  7. Plus this gives you a change to network and marketing your skills to the studio itself.

  8. Always ask for the ‘talent rate’ to avoid over-paying or paying full price for the studio time.

  9. Cool, calm and collected is essential to a voiceover session.

  10. Breathing exercises and mindful breathing can desensitize you to a stressful situation.

  11. A session engineer can be very intimidating, especially if they treat you like ‘the talent’.

  12. The gaps and silence between takes in a session can create stress.  We don’t always know what is happening or being said.  It’s hard not to come to negative conclusions.

  13. Even the difference between being placed at a sit-down vs standing mic can create stress.

  14. Creating uncomfortable ‘mock’ sessions can make you better prepared for what you may encounter in other studios.

  15. Verbalize the need for breaks or that you need a moment prior to a session start.

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

Check out Web MD’s advice on reducing performance anxiety
Train your brain to remain calm with the Haven App!
Recorded on ipDTL


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Anne: Hey everyone, welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host Anne Ganguzza, along with my VO BOSS coffee-drinking bestie-bostie, Gabby Nistico. [laughs] Hey Gabby.

Gabby: My blood type is coffee. Yes. Hi.

Anne: It’s all about the coffee, isn’t it? Wow. Speaking of, I need more coffee. [laughs]

Gabby: I know you do because you’re in the packing and moving and doing.

Anne: Yes, all that good stuff. So we have a very interesting listener topic today, Gabby. I got an email from a student of mine, Rick, who wanted us to talk a little bit about performance anxiety. He had an experience where he went to an in-person workshop hosted by a local agent, and in the beginning of the workshop, there was introductions, and he was like the only one there that had some previous VO experience, so you know, that was making him feel good. But then all of a sudden when he got to the reading part, he got really anxious. And I’ll quote him as saying “my heart started beating crazy. I felt dizzy and was shaking, but mostly I was like, what the hell is happening to me? They asked me to go first because I had the most experience. I took deep breaths, but I couldn’t shake the shakes. I couldn’t get past the text all the way,” because he ran out of breath. He got so nervous that he just kept running out of air before he was finished, and at the end of it, he said “I felt like an idiot. Then I realized that I hadn’t been in a professional studio in more than seven years.” He’s done all of his recording at home, workshops and X-sessions where he’s, you know, right in front of other people but from home. So there’s nothing different about being in his home environment, but when he got out in front of his agent at a studio with other people – so I think it’s something very well worth talking about because I’ve had that happen to myself as well in a studio a couple years ago. And sometimes even now it’ll happen to me if I’m not mentally prepared.

Gabby: I feel for him, and I totally understand how this can blindside people. There’s a studio here in Charlotte that I lovingly call the fishbowl, because once you’re in it, you are, you’re on display. You’re a fish in a bowl, and everybody is on the other side of the glass just staring at you. And I always hate that because I feel like I’m a circus monkey, like “dance, monkey, dance.” They’re waiting for you to do something magnificent. [laughs]

Anne: And a lot of times you see their mouths moving but you don’t hear what they’re saying.

Gabby: No. I get that. For me it was always a little bit different because I had a radio and broadcast background so I was used to being live and being on air and having people around, but I can totally see how this could be major anxiety for someone who’s never done it before.

Anne: A long time ago when I used to host the VO Peeps live streaming events, and it was a live interview, I very well remember [laughs] getting nervous, and it does affect your performance, absolutely.

Gabby: Oh yeah. Oh no doubt. That’s how I was in the early days of my coaching. Like it’s so funny because so many of the voice actors that we work with and that coach and do different events, they will, when I say I have stage fright, they look at me like I’m nuts. I’m like, “no, no, no, there’s a good reason why I’m a voice actress.” I don’t like stage performances. I don’t like people. In the early days of conferences like VOICE and some of the early VO Atlantas, I would, like, before going on, I would be in the bathroom like probably throwing up because I was so, so just anxious and intimidated by the whole thing.

Anne: Well you know, another one of Rick’s concerns that he notes in his email, he says “if I were to get cast in a commercial from my local agent, most likely they would book me into a studio to record. If I had gone into the studio for the first time after being so comfortable from home, would I have had the same experience that I just experienced in my workout class? Would I have blown it on a job I was getting paid for, and what would that do to my reputation in this market?” He’s got a lot of valid concerns and valid questions. So what can we do, Gabby, to help us handle the situation? 

Gabby: First off I think there’s definitely something that needs to be said for if you’re pretty still new, or if you’ve just had like a massive hiatus from voiceover, and you have not been in a studio in a really long time that’s different from your own, you need to book some dang studio time, like even if it’s for nothing. Even if you have no legitimate reason to book it, book it anyway. If you take one of your own jobs and choose to record it in that environment, it’ll obviously make you a lot more comfortable and a lot more prepared in the event that you need to be booked at another studio.

Anne: Yes, and of course you want to also make sure that, it would be nice if you can get an engineer to work with you because that’s gonna simulate the experience.

Gabby: It’s mandatory. Like you have to re-create the whole environment and all of what that means to be in session.

Anne: Exactly. This doesn’t just happen to Rick, guys. This happens to even some of my students who fly to California to come record their demo, and it’s the first time that they’ve ever been in a studio. And I always have to be very prepared [laughs] to go in there and calm people down, because whether it’s a good excited or bad excited, it will change performance.

Gabby: Excited is just bad. Like I hate to say it, excited is really, really bad because either way, you’re high-strung in that moment, and then you’re just – 

Anne: You can’t breathe, you can’t think. 

Gabby: – not in control of all your faculties, yeah. It’s no bueno. We joke about it here in my office a lot. I go, it’s the [beep] it factor. You’re at your best when you’re able to just go [beep] it and just be completely cool, completely mellow about the whole thing and really in a sense not care. Then brilliance comes out of you. That’s hard to achieve though.

Anne: You may not be able to say that if you happen to be in a studio in front of the client.

Gabby: Well, no, I’m not suggesting that… That’s not what I’m saying, but in your own mind, I think that that’s an important note, but certainly if you’re somewhere you’re unfamiliar with, and you’re not comfortable, that’s a problem.

Anne: Breathing is important. That’s something that I always try to teach my students. Even sometimes if I’m stressed out from the day, if I come into my own studio if I’m high strung and stressed out, I do breathing exercises in the booth that really help, and they always, always start with breathing in for three seconds through my nose, not through my mouth, and then exhaling, you know, for the double extended time to exhale, and that seems to really calm me down. I do that more than once. So I’ll do that in a studio as well. Gosh, the last time I was in a studio, there were like eight people on the other side of the glass. There’s always that “stand by,” and then there’ll be like five minutes where you won’t hear a thing. And so you’ve got a lot of time to think, and sometimes that’s a dangerous thing. I guess – yeah. My advice is to always just really try to be in the copy, so much so that it distracts you from everything else.

Gabby: But I do think we should talk about what you just said, because that to me is the thing that I think is the most shocking for people who’ve never been in a directed session before.

Anne: [laughs] Yeah.

Gabby: In our mind we have this beautiful vision of, right, we’re gonna this delightful conversation with the client and their representatives and everybody’s gonna be really friendly, and we’re gonna go back and forth, and then they’re gonna ask us what we think, and there’s gonna be sort of pleasantries.

Anne: Yes. Doesn’t work that way usually.

Gabby: No. There are many, many times where we show up to do this job that we’re so trained for and ready for that, and that we’ve put all of this time and effort and money and investment into only to be treated like “the talent.”

Anne: The talent, yes.

Gabby: We’re not a real person. They don’t care how we feel. They don’t care what our thoughts are. They don’t want pleasantries. Everything is very almost command based, and so what can be intimidating I think for people is the engineer, because the engineer, who’s the person typically controlling the session or ultimately – 

Anne: The talkback button.

Gabby: Yeah, they’re responsible for the flow of the session.

Anne: Yes, absolutely.

Gabby: Guys, engineers are, they’re odd duckies. Ok? They mean well…

Anne: Sometimes they’re not people, people people. Like people – wait, that didn’t make sense. They’re not – 

Gabby: They’re not. I know exactly what you meant. They’re not people people. They’re, they live in a little dark room with lights and buttons all day, and they never see people, and they don’t talk to people. So engineers tend to be very curt and very direct, and it’s intimidating.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: I mean like, even just the fact that they go “rolling, take one.” 

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: You’re like, “oh, that’s me, ok, I’m on,” and then you perform a take, and then you know, there’s, there’s this silence or there’s a little bit of back and forth, and then somebody barks a new direction at you and then it’s “ok, rolling, take two.” So there’s that, and then you’re right, and I think the one that becomes the single most nerve-wracking part of the whole deal is when they go, “stand by.” 

Anne: Absolutely, and then it’s dead silence.

Gabby: Oh but it’s not dead silence. Here’s the deal, you have headphones on, and this is what you hear. [breathing]

Anne: Your own breathing.

Gabby: You can hear your own heart beat. [laughs]

Anne: Yep. Absolutely.

Gabby: Yeah. It’s fun, it’s fun. People talk about like sensory deprivation, like it’s a great thing. Sensory deprivation makes me incredibly anxious. [laguhs] I went and did one of those one time, you know, the sensory deprivation tanks, you can like – it’s like saltwater, and you go and float and yeah.

Anne: Yes.

Gabby: I… had a full-blown panic attack –

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: – in the first five minutes in this tank because you’re – 

Anne: In the tank.