Public readings can be nerve-wracking for new authors. Not only are you exposing your words to the world, but you’re also inviting comments, criticism, and opinions from your peers.
However, not all public readings are created equal. Some may be volunteer gigs, such as open mics, while others may be requested situations, like author signings and event panels.
Whatever the situation, you want to give the best performance of your life! So, here are Five ways to give a public reading that will leave your audience wanting more.
Practice Reading Aloud
It may sound like a no-brainer, but practice really does make perfect. Figure out which piece you’re going to read, then read it to your friends, family, pets, neighbors, houseplants, and anyone else who’ll listen! The more you practice, the more confident you’ll be.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mess Up
Eventually, you will stumble over words and misread sentences, and that’s ok! Take a moment to collection yourself, then keep reading. Laugh it off if you need to, or apologize briefly to the audience, but keep moving forward.
No one expects you to be perfect 100% of the time, so try not to expect yourself to be perfect, either.
Choose Your Piece Carefully
Try to pick a piece of your work that’s funny, intense, or emotional. You also don’t want boring details or flowery language- the audience needs to enjoy the work, not wish you’d get off the stage.
For example, if you have to pick a section of The Lord of the Rings to read aloud, you might go for one of the action scenes- like Tom Bombadil rescuing the hobbits- instead of one of the worldbuilding scenes.
If you’re reading your own work, which is usually the case, pick something you’re excited to share. Your excitement will bleed over into the audience and keep them engaged with the reading- and that, hopefully, will earn you some fans!
Time Your Readings
Most readings will have a time limit, and it’s up to you to make sure you meet that limit. By timing your practice reads, you can make sure the piece is within the time limits (ideally a little shorter than time allowed) and that you can read it comfortably without the timer cutting you off.
If it’s too short, add a paragraph or two. If it’s too long, see if you can cut anything that doesn’t add value to the scene. Play around with it until you have the timing down pat. Trust me- your MCs will thank you!
Skip The Introduction
No, not Your introduction. People need to know who you are. What I’m saying is skip the introduction to the piece.
Introductions often lessen the impact of the piece you’re reading, and you need as much impact as you can get. So, instead of a long winded, “This is a section from chapter five of my vampire romance where the girl finds out the boy is leaving her for his ex, so she vows revenge…”
Instead, make your introduction simple and let the scene speak for itself.
“This is chapter four, paragraph seven of Book. Enjoy.”
No muss, no fuss, and the audience gets to ride along and experience the world as you wrote it, which is how it’s supposed to be!
Bonus Tip: Own The Room
When you arrive, take a moment to set up. Get your water ready, prepare your material, and take a moment to smile at the audience. Breathe. Then, begin.
If someone arrives during your reading, acknowledge them with a nod and keep reading. It’s your time, not theirs.
If someone leaves, don’t mentally follow them from the room. Stay with your audience, your people, and don’t worry about the one person who may not enjoy your writing. Others do, so focus on them.
When you’ve finished your piece, pause and let the final words disappear before thanking them. If you rush to thank the audience, you take away the power of your last sentence and break the spell too quickly. Pause for a sip of water and let the audience chew on your words. Breathe. Then, give thanks.
I’m sure there are more, but these tips are a great starting point in your public reading journey. And, with some practice, you’ll be able to take any public reading opportunity and turn it into a powerful, memoriable experience that both you (and your audience) can enjoy.
All you need to do is practice!