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The T.A.S.K. framework for teaching and testing performers describes a Core Competency as an Intention (objective) elaborated by its TASK Components, which are (1) Target Intention;  (2) Aware, Adapt, Adjust;  (3) Skill System;  (4) Knowledge and Framework. (Some label “Adjust” as “Troubleshoot” and put it with part #1)

Performance competency is measured mainly by whether a target’s Intention is achieved, not it’s specific ASK components—most performers can do some things well without being conscious of what it is they are doing that is working.

This parallels the famous “Four Stages of Competence“:

  1. Unconscious incompetence (Ignorance)
  2. Conscious incompetence (Knowledge)
  3. Conscious competence (Skill)
  4. Unconscious competence (Awareness)

The Competence Assessment Hierarchy is: Category > Abilities > Competency T.A.S.K. components. Here is a practical example of hierarchy from the American Academy of Voiceover:

  1. Acting is an Ability of Performance (Category), which also includes Speech and Session abilities.
  2. Business (e.g. Marketing ability) and Production (e.g. Audio Editing Workflow) are also career categories.
  3. Acting Ability‘s main Core Competency is “Sound Real” (a Target intention).

The problem is that many people gather knowledge about skills, believing that “skill” is the goal, and so after some training they assume they open their mouth and gold falls out—that simply taking training built unconscious competence into them. To create a performance, you need awareness -based competence, such that you become able to do and notice things without consciously thinking about them. Your knowledge has turned into right-brain Awareness—your radar is “on”. Then you can set a target intention (e.g. “authoritative”) and notice how and whether it is being achieved without conscious, left-brain thought (or as is more common, overthinking).

Below is a sample from the Academy’s TASK Whitepaper:

Concepts for Voice Acting Performers


Telling a beginner to “Relax!” has the opposite effect. Beginners can’t do most of what they are told at first.

Give beginners experience with performance awareness rather than loading them down with concepts. Acting is and should be a natural experience. Help beginners feel the role of awareness in performance by giving them performance experiences they can try to repeat in practice later.

Help them understand through experience, not by overloading them with information. Avoid “beginner tips” that have to be thrown out later. Teach practical simplifications that reveal the deeper fundamentals though experience.

The natural experience of acting is ruined by having too many things to think about. Do point out moments that reveal awarenesses, skills, techniques and troubleshooting opportunities. Work in industry standards, history, and recent developments during performance coaching, rather than giving too much informational study material at first. Make detailed information available only as supplemental material at first.

A beginning performer is in a fragile state. Build them up through positive experiences and help them manage their tendency to overthink. Give tips helpful to what they are experiencing that lead to greater understanding. Avoid information overload by giving a simplified overview with a carefully structured sequence of information.

Aware, Adapt, Adjust

Awareness means sensing what is happening without needing to stop and think or remind yourself of what to do and what to notice.

Beginning students will know, notice and be able to adjust fewer things than Intermediate students.

Advanced students perform in flow state, aware of target intentions without stopping for conscious thought or reminders, noticing issues, and adapting and adjusting (reflowing) their performance back on target in the moment.

Often awareness-building is required, not skill-building. New performers are frequently surprised and delighted by how much they can achieve simply by drilling and training in proper performance awareness targets.

For example, most talent with a strong accent can lessen their accent simply by remembering and intending to. When they want to perform with a lessened accent, they simply need to maintain intention and awareness. So in most cases building accent awareness comes before and is more valuable thatn building more skill in accent re-articulation.

Skill System

So building awareness before and later in combination with skill often produces the best results. A skill can’t be applied if the performer is unware it is needed. Also, a skill is rarely used in isolation. It is part of a system.

Some skill is in fact the ability to do one thing while not doing another, such as being asked to perform with “more relaxed feeling but talk faster” or to provide “more intensity but with less energy”.

Like developing muscle, some skills are best developed by specific exercises practiced while NOT performing—practice systems. For example, many new talent cannot linger on a word or phrase naturally simply by intending to. They instead punch or energize the phrase without changing speed. It is as if the brain interprets “linger here” more as “do something here”, generating tension and volume.

Many new performers cannot get beyond the contradiction of to sound happy, feel happy AND forget about sounding happy. They think “do this technique and concentrate on this feeling in order to sound happy”, unconsciously making “sound happy” their objective and always sounding fake instead.

So the highest objective of an experienced performer is often NOT the outcome of the performance. It is putting attention on doing the things that generate the desired performance. (While positive thinking is a plus, thinking “all my bills are paid” works best with also doing work to generate income.)

Target Intention and Technique

The ability to alter a performance in response to knowledge, awareness or directions is crucial. We sometimes call this ability in actors “reflowing” a performance; you are given an objective—a target—to achieve, and you have to figure out how to achieve it. One of the first steps is intending and feeling what that target is. New actors often fail to understand intention; for example, instead of intending to BEHAVE real, they will intend to SOUND real—and sound fake because they are using vocal tension techniques to alter their voice.

Certain techniques can help performers become aware, deliver a skill, troubleshoot or reflow their performance (in some cases skill in a particular technique may constitute the skill itself). Other performers with natural ability may not be aware of or need to learn any particular technique to demonstrate a performance, voice or session ability.

Lightbulb icon courtesy of CheChe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons