That first author reading outside of a workshop atmosphere is daunting. According to the Self Help Collective, the fear of public speaking is second only to the fear of flying.
My first such reading was in March 2012 at a New England Sisters in Crime event for the state of Connecticut. I read the first few pages of my work-in-progress, along with about a dozen published and yet-to-be-published authors.
I got by with a little help from my friends, and I don’t mean Mr. Makers Mark or Ms. Xanax. Here are some tips from fellow members of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America. Maybe these tips will help you, too.
1. Select the passage you’ll read. Avoid scenes with dialogue in accents you know you can’t manage. Try to pick something that ends on a hook – a story question or a surprise.
2. From author Steve Liskow: Edit the material to facilitate reading. If you stumble repeatedly over a word or sentence, delete or re-work it.
3. This tip comes from author and public speaking coach Sarah Humphreys: Lie down on your back on the floor to hear what your voice sounds like as it comes up from your diaphragm.
4. When you inhale, try to suck in air all the way down to your stomach. Courtesy every yoga teacher I’ve ever had.
5. Practice while standing. Practice projecting. Yes, practice reading aloud.
6. Rehearse, edit, rehearse. A couple of times a day. Practice works, which is why it’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.
7. Read more slowly than you feel you should. Your nerves will want you to rush.
8. Write cues on your pages. Maybe a “thank you” to the previous speaker or the toss to the next. Or even pauses while reading.
9. Wear clothes that boost your confidence. Lucky jewelry. Lucky socks.
10. Eye contact. For a reading, IMO, the material is more important. You don’t want your eye to skip over words. Yet, you want to make occasional eye contact with someone in the audience and hold it. Your voice will sound stronger. Another tip from Sara Humphreys.
11. If you’re reading from a published book, I suggest you still print out the passage you want to read, if for no other reason than you can control the size of the font/typeface. Still, if you have a book, make sure the audience can see your book cover while you read. You could also have a printout of your book cover on the front of the folder of your pages for the reading.
12. Have fun. We’re entertainers. Or educators. We all know that best of the latter are both. “Fun” is contagious and magnetic.
Have I left out anything? Do you have a favorite tip that you’d like to add? Please feel free to add it to the Comments section below.