In 2001 I moved to North Carolina to take a job as a morning show producer for a local radio station. Part of my job was to do 'live' announcements from various locations (for example, car dealers, malls, etc). These 'live' breaks were always pre-recorded- and for the first year, I would write out my entire script and read enthusiastically for 60 seconds or so.
However, one awful day I was at a remote (and getting paid to be there) and was delayed from writing out my little script. As I was trying to gather my thoughts to jot something down, a call came. It was the on-air guy telling me there had been a mix- up and I needed to go 'for real' live in 10 seconds. "NO!" I screamed, but he was gone...and I heard the commercial currently airing come to an end as my time began. I sputtered and stammered...holding my mic as I flailed around in circles trying to remember where I was, why I was there, and what I was supposed to say. Yup, it was a disaster...and one of my more embarrassing moments on-air.
So, what did I do wrong? I was relying so heavily on the written word that I hadn't taken the time to absorb my surroundings. If I had been less concerned about having a script, and more concerned with knowing my purpose, I would have been able to work my way through the break. Instead of being in panic mode, I would have been just fine.
After that day I always made sure to answer the important questions (who, what, when, why, where) prior to worrying about copy points and scripts.
Now, as a full-time voice actor, I often think back to that day. Especially when a challenging script lands in my lap with no obvious plot or direction. I like to take the time to answer those important questions and center myself. Once I know the writer's intention, it becomes easier to 'perform' the script instead of just 'reading' it. Who am I, where am I, what is my intention, etc.
Knowing where you are headed as you navigate through the words will raise your confidence, which also leads to a better performance. I am also never afraid to ask the client or producer if there is something I am unsure about. It's our job, as actors, to bring the words to life and make them believable. Knowing your path will allow you to follow your instincts.