Ten Tips for a Successful Public Reading

Whether you are reading poetry at an open mic or reading the first few pages of your new book at a signing, it is very important to have good presentation skills. Below are the top ten tips all authors should master:

1. Eye contact.

You are not expected to memorize your work, but it’s very important to look up from time to time during your reading. Find someone in each section of the audience, smile and then look back at your book or paper. Each time you look up, find someone in another section.

2. Volume.

Imagine going to an event and not being able to understand the speaker because they were too quiet or wanting to put your fingers in your ears because they were too loud. Make sure there will be a microphone for you to use. Practice at home so your voice will carry in the event there is no microphone or if it is broken.

3. Speed.

It’s important to regulate the speed of your reading so you are not talking too quickly or too slowly. Practice until you have can maintain a steady rate of talking.

4. Tone.

It is important to make sure you do not have a dull, monotone pitch to your voice as you read. Make it lively and use intonations as applicable based on the tone of your book or poems. If what you are reading is cheerful, sad or angry that should be reflected in the tone of your voice.

5. Body Langauge.

Try and stay in one position, not rocking back and forth or swaying from side to side. The audience should be listening to you, not watching to see if you’re going to fall over.

6. Water.

Make sure there is a table or podium near you so you can keep a bottle of water on it. Take a sip when you feel yourself starting to get a little dry. Some Chapstick or lip balm is also recommended to prevent dry chapped lips.

7. Introduction

Before you start each poem give a brief statement about what inspired it. If you are reading from yoru novel, a few sentences about what inspired you to write the book will suffice. You may also talk about any published books and other writing activities you are involved in.

8. Invite friends and acquaintances!

Nothing makes a reading easier than a few familiar faces in the crowd! Have them sit near the back, so you can use them as “eye contacts” during your reading.

9. Practice, practice, practice! Whether it’s in front of your mirror, friends, famly or your neighborhood writers group, practice reading your work aloud. In fact, I strongly recommend taking yourself with a video recorder. When you play it back, you can see whether you need to work on volume, speed, tone, body language, eye contact, etc.

10. Relax! These people are here because they are interested in your work. Pick the best poems or your favorite part of the book to read, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment. Whatever doesn’t go quite right, evaluate it and make sure to do better next time!