3-2-1: Your countdown may be killing you!

March 5, 2019 11:00

By Joanne Stevens, RTDNA Contributor

I’ve dug out from the snow! It’s great to be back from my winter hiatus.
Whether constructive feedback has come from management, an agent, or from Aunt Nina, it's always daunting to be told that your voice is distracting enough to be considered a potential roadblock in your career.
Don’t worry! Most liabilities are fixable, unless you’re unwittingly locked into a common mistake that’s reinforcing your vocal weaknesses every time you execute a script.
Here’s the problem:
This is a scenario I experience often as a coach. We’re sitting next to each other. You've already sent me work samples and I’ve done my prior analysis. “Ok!” I say. “Let's start with this first short paragraph- and just do it as if you're at work.” More often than not what I hear next is: "3-2-1 For the Jones family a trip to the supermarket....."
I interject: “What's the purpose of your countdown?”
Common replies: “I don't know, I just do it” or “Everyone does it” or “I was told to do it.”
The funny, or not so funny, thing here is that you are likely reinforcing the distracting foibles and habits that you need to change! Whether your voice issues are pitch, resonance or faulty interpretation, to name a few, I often hear these same issues in your countdown.
Think of it this way: Each time you use your countdown, your brain is thinking “Oh, I get it – we’re at work! You’re reminding me of how you want me to speak,” and those unconscious bad habits kick in.
Now pause for a second to think about many times a week you use your countdowns when you record your tracks and execute standups. I’d guess it’s at least a score or more. You are unwittingly spinning your wheels in your drive toward improvement.
Here’s a quiz for you: What do these phrases have in common?
  1. That come with no middle seats at all
  2. Dog dog sugar
  3. Yaah yaah…. Dangerous!
  4. Five four four  
Answer: Each of these are alternative countdowns used by my clients. They represent phrases, words or handpicked numbers that sailed out, either intentionally or spontaneously,  with breathtaking perfection as we worked together, practicing scripts or standups. 
Let’s look at them:  
Number 1 is a phrase from a client’s script. She rocked it! We listened to it again, played its beautiful execution a few times, repeated it. She told her brain “Hear this? This is the voice I want you to give me at work.”
Number 2: These were two words that sounded great as we practiced: ‘dog’ because it allowed a relaxed open throat and ‘sugar’ because that word was at the end of a sentence and it flowed and ‘landed’ beautifully. We made up that countdown: dog dog sugar.
Number 3: This one reflects a few words extrapolated from a light, sidebar chat during practice. My client was relaxed, mirthful- and pow! Out came a great, strong, beautiful voice.
Number 4: This one is for those of you who prefer using numbers because you just prefer using numbers! I think it has to do with not sounding silly to others. So we picked the numbers that represented good practice for an open throat, a reminder to project and a reminder not to let the last word of a sentence die or crackle.
Now it’s your turn.
Maybe you have a tendency to speak too high... too flat... too 'tight'... too ‘nasal.’ Or maybe you’ve been emphasizing single words at the expense of a complete thought. Maybe you impose unnecessary pauses. Or maybe you're indiscriminately inflecting words and phrases because you're hyper focused on assuring that your package comes across as a story.
Here’s what to do: Listen to your tracking and listen to your standups. Be on the search for a sentence, words, or a phrase that have you thinking “yes, that really sounded good.” And yes, you can select a set of numbers whose production reflects hidden reminders for you. This will become your personal countdown. It represents the voice or interpretation you are striving for.

Rather than blowing through a “traditional” countdown that reinforces your engrained bad habits, you will now be providing your brain with a positive example each time you use it.
Good luck! And please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.