For a lot of writers, the idea of public speaking is terrifying. They are a lot more comfortable with being behind the scenes, writing and editing. But there are many advantages to reading your own work out loud to receptive strangers. You get to engage with an audience, your work is heard, and you might sell copies of your book.
But public readings have their own set of required skills. Here are my top six tips on how to conduct a successful public reading.
Speak clearly and loudly: This is really the only important piece of advice: Be heard! If you whisper, or speak so low that no one can hear, or garble your words so that they are incomprehensible, your reading will disappoint your audience. So speak up clearly into the microphone.
Use pace: Try to read slower than your normal speaking pace. Your audience is trying to follow all you say, and your material is unknown to them. Pace yourself so that your listeners have a chance to follow your words. But if there is an especially exciting section within your story, feel free to quicken your pace to reflect that feeling of excitement.
Use your voice: Dramatize your reading to make it more memorable. If you have dialogue in your piece, read those in the voices of the characters. If one of your characters has a foreign accent, use that accent. This is theater! Don’t be too shy to act the part.
Make eye contact: Look up from your reading once in a while to engage with your audience. Make eye contact with a couple of folks. Perhaps ask a friend or two to attend with you, so that you can look at them frequently while you read.
Practice: Practice your reading a few times at home, both before friends and family and in front of the mirror. Ask your friends to watch your body language and remember to smile after you have finished your reading.
But most importantly of all, remember to have fun! It’s your writing, your words, there’s no way you can get this wrong!
5 replies on “On Writing Well: 6 Tips on a Successful Public Reading.”
This is great advice and really works well. Recently I went to an elementary school to read a children’s story I had written. This was a preview to see how the story would be received. I employed some of these very techniques and the audience loved the story. We all must be ready and professional so when our big break arrives, we can step forward into success. Thanks so much, Brenda.
Good advice and well-presented. As someone who gives frequent presentation at a variety of educational conferences, I would add two important suggestions that will assist your readers in implementing your suggestions.
One, prepare a version of what you plan to read in a much larger font so that it is easy to read and you are less likely to lose your place while reading (I also underline key words every so often to help me stay on track).
Two, you should hold your reading material up in front of you…do not lay it down flat, even on a lectern. If you do lay it down, your head will be bent forward and it will be very hard to make eye contact. Use a stiff folder or card-stock and rest your pages against and hold them at almost a 90 degree angle. That way both the pages and the audience are in your line of sight and it is much easier to briefly make eye contact and then continue reading without losing your place. Try it, it really works.
This is great advice, Phdast! And Brenda – Heartily agree!
When I enrolled in a public speaking course my language instructor constantly recommended these points, but in my experience practice is the most important point to become a good speaker.
Your blog posts are starting to freak me out. It’s like you can read my thoughts or are following me around with cameras and using my stumbling blocks as topics for blog posts.
I recently was asked to do an interview and was scared stiff of doing it. I was so scurred that I ended up doing a written interview vs a video interview. I would definitely like to get over this one. :S If I had the confidence to speak, that would be awesome.