How To Be Heard Over Yourself

Or, what exactly is "noise", and what can you do to reduce it.

by Colleen Wainwright | the communicatrix

Maybe you've heard the term already; maybe you're new to the biz and have yet to even experience it. But stick around long enough, and you'll hear some variation of the following:

"That guy we read yesterday? Great look, but too much noise."

Like most insanely brilliant pieces of wisdom, it made some sense the first time I heard it, but I didn't really grok it until years later. What is noise? Well, it takes many shapes, but at its most fundamental, noise is anything that creates a veil between you and your audience.

I've identified five major types of noise; see if you can't see yourself in at least one of them.

1. Noise is need.

You've all been on one of those dates. Mr. or Ms. Good-on-Paper, nice-looking, accomplished, fairly smart, and waaaay too interested in you. Within 5 minutes, they're talking china patterns and baby names; meanwhile, you're dreaming up ways to get even with the mutual “friend” who introduced you.

This is what it's like to be in the room with an actor who has need-noise. You either feel sorry for them, disgusted by them or, if they really have no sense of time and it's been a long day, angry with them. These are not, I repeat, NOT, feelings you want to stir up in a potential employer.

Any kind of emotional need, for love, attention, validation, reassurance, is the kiss of death in an audition. And if you manage to fool them at the audition and book the job, being needy will not win you friends on the set, trust me.

Admittedly, emotional neediness is one of the hardest forms of noise to reduce. A lot of actors are initially drawn to acting because they're needy. If this is you, get yourself into some form of therapy as soon as possible. (And no, acting class is not therapy, or at least, it shouldn't be!)

2. Of any kind.

You're probably sick of hearing it, but for the love of all that's holy, don't go to auditions hungry. Get a job. At the very minimum, get the first two rungs of Maslow's hierarchy taken care of.

Because it is almost impossible to be as relaxed and confident and noise-free as you need be to get the job if there is money worry floating around you. The people who get those gigs are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Incidentally, there are those freaks that remain free from worry in the face of the most staggering evidence that they should worry like hell. But if you're reading this, it's a fairly good bet you're not one of them.

3. Noise is sending mixed messages.

You know how some prints really don't match others? How certain colors look just…horrible together?

That is what it's like when you see a soccer mom walk into a cereal audition tarted up like Paris Hilton. Or, for that matter, Paris Hilton trying to pull off pure. It's a brand disconnect; messy, illogical and wrong, it makes our brains have to work harder. Which we won't do, 99 times out of 100. And even if the odds were 50/50, why wouldn't you spend a little time and effort removing obstacles instead of adding them?

There's another kind of noise in this category that was my personal favorite back in the days of advertising: the too-cool-for-the-room noise. If you're really too cool for the room, stay home. If you're at the audition, respect that you actually took time, just like we did, to haul your sorry ass out of the house to the audition. You don't have to fawn over anyone; you don't have to act like a goody-two-shoes or a corporate tool.

Some of the hippest people I know were great in a room. They were pros, so they acted like pros.

4. Noise is literally (and figuratively) noise.

Getting back to nuts and bolts, at its simplest, noise is literally noise. That it comes from some underpinning sort of noise (emotional mess) matters little. Two rules here:

Use your ears more than you use your mouth.

Do not wear clothes that walk into the room before you do (unless you're choosing them very specifically to do just that).

5. Noise is lack of focus.

Similar to #3, lack of focus happens when you're not clear on why you're doing something, or you're trying to accomplish too many goals at once. Spend some time getting very clear on why you're an actor, do you want fame, or do you want to create? Do you want to be America's Sweetheart or do you want to walk the edge?

Having a lack of focus is like multitasking, great in theory (you can be more things to more people!) but falls apart in the face of reality (quantity usually comes at the expense of quality).

Find your noise weakness and start working right now on eliminating it. That way, whenever you walk into a room, they'll be hearing you loud and clear.

Got a question? Something you want me to write about? Please email me, I'd love to hear from you!

Colleen Wainwright is an L.A.-based writer-performer-etc. who started calling herself "the communicatrix" when she hit three hyphens. In addition to her monthly column for LA Casting, she also shares insights on effecting personal growth via her blog,, and tips for becoming a smarter communicator in her free, monthly newsletter, communicatrix | designs.