The Voice of Siri, Susan Bennett, Tells Us How She Stays Focused on Her Task List as a Performer
Susan Bennett doubts herself like the rest of us. Here’s how she overcomes it to shine when she most needs to.
In our interview series, Flow State, smart people tell us how they can bang things off their task list while achieving their most productive, creative, and focused state of mind. Susan Bennett is most known as the voice of Siri, but she's also a singer and professional speaker.
Being a performer means the flow state, for me, primarily happens when I’m on stage. That’s probably the most obvious thing, but what’s not so obvious is the preparation behind-the-scenes that leads me into that flow state.
When it comes to preparation, I’m a person who has a tendency to really overthink everything. So the flow state truly begins when I can finally take some action.
When my mind drifts to worrying it means my thoughts are not in the moment of where they need to be."
For example, I’m currently in the process of putting together a new Siri presentation. So, if I can tap into the flow state when I close the doors to my office, put the presentation clicker in my hand, and start my presentation, it means I’ve immersed myself deep enough into the practice stage.
Even during practice you have to imagine that you’re on the stage, and if I can do that enough eventually I get to a point where when I do get on stage I sort of go to a different place—a place where I can act without thinking.
But the most difficult part for me is the memorization. It always worries me that I’m going to forget something, and my only way through that worry is practice... rehearsing to the point where my presentation becomes second nature, as an actor would do for a play.
Worrying is a big distraction from the flow state. When my mind drifts to worrying it means my thoughts are not in the moment of where they need to be.
I don’t know why we humans have this state of anxiety—it seems easy for us to doubt ourselves and cause problems for ourselves. I mean… there are enough problems externally without us having to create our own internal problems, but we seem to do it quite well.
This inner struggle means that I’m always trying to out-guess myself, thwart myself when I start leaning into that too critical mode.
But on stage, once I really get going, there aren’t any issues. For me, that's when I'm beyond the point where decisions have to be made. I’m just in-action, and this is my deepest state of flow. The hard part, that anticipatory time, all that time before the performance… that’s where the second-guessing comes in to pull us out of our flow, but we can mitigate that through practice.
It’s important for me to maintain integrity and a sense of honesty in every interaction I have."
In the voice-over industry, technology has changed everything so much. It’s such a saturated industry now, with so many people, and this is in large part because so much of it has gone non-union. Basically anybody with an iPhone and a closet can have a recording studio. And so there’s a ton of competition these days. So much of the structure has gone out of the business.
It all feels like the wild west—this big crapshoot of trying to win auditions that go out to hundreds of people sometimes. I bring this up because with such fierce competition and the importance of distinguishing yourself in some form, it’s increasingly easy to be pulled out of your state of flow, to second-guess and doubt yourself.
Maybe more than ever in this industry, you have to be mentally strong to deal with all of this—either that or just not be an introspective person at all. I’d say most performers I’ve met have insecurities, and they work hard to achieve the focused states of mind necessary to overcome those insecurities.
And this is all to build to that state of flow, so that when the task list and practice is done, and they take the stage, they are in it fully.
Along the way, it’s important to develop some kind of strategies for social media and for determining what to say yes or no to. If I gave full attention to my Twitter, for example, it would be a full-time job and I’d have no energy left for voice-over work. At the same time, it’s important for me to maintain integrity and a sense of honesty in every interaction I have.
In the end, to do well in front of an audience, you have to exude confidence. This means cutting out all the extra stuff along the way that may pull from you being able to build that confidence. The thing is… you have to get to that stage of confidence before you actually take the physical stage. And that demands a ton of work and practice. Some people seem to be inherently confident, but for most of us it’s a bit of a challenge.
Lastly, in any performance industry, you have to make the audience comfortable. They won’t be comfortable if you’re not comfortable, and the only way you can get comfortable is to be confident, achieving the flow state in practice so you can carry your confidence to the stage.
As told to Cameron Conaway exclusively for Flow, a simple project management solution that helps creative teams move faster and ship great work.
Illustration by Jacob Dewey