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!