Writers are often reclusive individuals who would do almost anything if it meant they didn't have to stand up in front of a crowd of people to read their book aloud. With the growing popularity of podcasts, radio plays, audio books, and social media videos, it has become very important for writers to be able to pitch their book - verbally.
Readings are a delicate art, and even if you don't suffer from stage fright, a poor reading can turn away a potential audience. Using the tips below, you can learn 6 basic tricks to improve your public reading.
- Project: Most beginners make the common mistake of speaking too quietly. Even if you have a microphone, push the words out of your body with conviction. You will be unable to use the skills below, such as inflection and performance, if you are not speaking loudly and clearly. It is often a good idea to open with an introduction and ensure that you can be clearly heard before reading.
- Slow Down: Another beginner's mistake is speaking as quickly as you might read the words in silence. When reading aloud, be sure to slow yourself down. Your audience cannot see the printed words, so give them a little more time to absorb the sound of your voice, and the content as well. Your time limit (usually 5 minutes) should be for the length of time it takes you to read the segment at a measured pace.
- Perform: You should select an exciting segment from your book. Choose a scene with action, or a thought provoking concept, or a funny conversation. Ideally, your scene will come from the beginning of the book so that a preceding explanation is not needed and major plot points aren't spoiled. Poignant emotional moments generally won't have any impact on an audience that is unfamiliar with the characters. Your selection should spark interest in your book, so try to end on a cliffhanger.
- Inflect: When reading, make sure to let your speed and volume rise and fall (within reason) to punctuate the content. You want to ensure that you reflect the nature of the scene, evoking the emotions, action, or tension in the scene. Listen to radio plays, commencement speeches, or TED talks to see how good speakers change up cadence and tempo to keep the audience connected. If you are too monotonous, the listener will tune out.
- Make Eye Contact: This one can be tricky for beginners. Ideally, you want to look up now and then from your pages and make eye contact with your listeners. A brief glance at individuals throughout the gathering (or the camera, if you're recording) will help connect you and your audience. If you find it hard to resume your place, choose natural breaks in the text, like paragraphs, dialogue or dramatic moments. You can even hold your place with your thumb to help you resume.
- Practise: Make sure to read your segment over before you begin reading it aloud. This refreshes the segment in your mind so that your brain can anticipate what comes next. Do so will lessen the number of times you will stumble over your words or use the wrong inflection. Also, it will improve the skills listed above, making your presentation grow stronger with each reading.
Written by Astra Crompton
Edited by Brian Cliffen
Image c/o Shutterstock