Auditioning SMARTly

An audition is part of a process – not just of casting a show, but of developing as an actor. Even when the audition is over, the actor needs to be able to latch on to something tangible and assess….

When I was an actor, if I ever got any advice about auditions from my agents, it was invariably “Just do your best, that’s all I ask.”  When I became an agent myself I modified that slightly to “Just do your best, that’s all I ask; don’t try to impress or to get a job, just show what you can do” which is all very loving and nurturing and encouraging – it’s just completely unhelpful.  An audition is part of a process – not just of casting a show, but of developing as an actor. Even when the audition is over, the actor needs to be able to latch on to something tangible and assess. They need something they can measure. Wouldn’t it be useful if someone had created a working, structured means of assessment? Wouldn’t it be helpful if I, as an agent, actually knew a model like this? 

Doh. Of course I do – I spent three years working as a Marketing Manager for a major International drinks company and three years as a secondary school teacher. I know all about this model and you probably do too. It’s called SMART. 

The SMART target model is not only for business people and management training – it’s an incredibly valuable tool that actors can use in auditions too.

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-related. 

Now when I’m sending clients up for audition I ask them to set themselves three, or more, targets for their audition. The targets must be;

Specific. They have to be targets which they can use to demonstrate improvement. To set a specific target we might use my notes on them from our meetings & emails alongside feedback from other auditions (this is why feedback is so important – do have a read of my blog on this subject) and ask them to focus on a specific area.  Maybe “In this audition I’d like you to really focus on making sure your diction is clear in your song”, or “Focus on keeping a pure tone in your upper register” You can get as specific as you like – “execute that tricky time-step perfectly, twice.”

Measurable. “Do your best” isn’t a measurable target. “Make the panel laugh” is.  Targets need to be measurable. When your targets can be measured you can see you are on track. You can literally plot your success in achieving them.

Achievable. The target has to be something they can achieve IN the room and on the day. This may seem obvious but “Show them how high you can belt” might not be an appropriate target for a legit musical like The Sound of Music. If they can’t achieve the target in the room then the target is wrong.

Realistic. There is no point in me asking a client to show off their top B flat if they haven’t got one. It has to be a realistic target – an audition probably isn’t the best time to try something you’ve never tried before. It must be a target you can realistically achieve in the room.

Time-related. You need to be able to check your success in achieving these targets within the time-frame of the audition. Yes, the ‘result’ of the audition might not be known for days, weeks, months – but your target must be achievable within the time-frame set. That might be in the room (in the case of something like “keep your hand movements focussed not flappy” or it might be just after:  “Get through the audition without falling over” (Oh, how I wish I’d set myself that target once or twice!)

The difference in attitude when a client calls me after and can tell me “Well, I nailed all three of my targets,” is incredible compared to the much more woolly “I did my best”.  Giving clients a focus for their auditions makes their preparation more detailed and their focus in the room is invariably much clearer. 

SMART targets aren’t just for auditions though – you can use them in everyday life. “This month I will learn a new piece of rep/monologue/go to two classes” – that’s a SMART target. “This month I’ll work harder at my career” isn’t.

Try it, you might find it transforms the way you audition and the way you prepare