Authors–have you ever read in public? Most authors cherish the opportunity to read from his/her works in public. You get to connect with your readers or potential readers. Questions from the audience are usually challenging. You experience the adulation of your fans. You have the opportunity to develop your stage presence and poise. It’s a forum for moving beyond the anxiety you may have. It’s a friendly way to market your upcoming book. All positive, right? Yes. But . . .
We’ve all witnessed authors who accomplished exactly the reverse of their intended goals. Mostly self-inflicted. And here’s how they did it.
They read beyond the prescribed time limit (3, 5 or however many minutes) and the audience began to squirm. The succeeding readers on the roster became annoyed. Practice ahead, time your reading, stop when you’re time runs out.
They read in a monotone (e.g. monotonous) voice. No expression, no inflection, no energy, no excitement. Borring! Tape yourself. Listen to how you sound! Revise! And while you’re at it, take a breath. Don’t rush.
They never once looked up at the audience to connect. Or, they kept looking at the same person each time. Practice your material. Memorize some of it. Look up and make eye contact. Relate to the folks out there. It’s what they want.
They came dressed as a fashion statement, bright colors, loud jingly jewelry. This is a distraction. People come to hear you read, not to see if you’ve captured the latest fashion–unless perhaps you’re reading from a fashion book. Even then . . .
Or, their hair kept getting tangled in their glasses, eyes, mouth, causing continual flinging back or even spitting out. This often happens if you’re reading outside in a breeze. Tie your hair back or put on a hat!
They couldn’t turn the pages without faltering or making that irritating page-turning, scraping sound. To avoid this, you can put post-its or paper clips as tabs on the pages you’ll be reading or turn down the corners.
They couldn’t read the small print in their own book. This causes you to squint or take your reading glasses on and off. Type what you’ll be reading in a large font so you won’t need glasses. You can easily turn the single typed pages.
They stumbled over words or lost their place. Yikes. Practice! Know your material. You want to be smooth and expressive.
They selected an uninteresting piece. You may love it because it’s so personally meaningful, but your audience may not relate or care one fig. We don’t care how much you admired your Uncle Bob. Show us in what way he was such a crazy, colorful unlovable character.
They couldn’t compete with the sounds of a nearby puppet show, band, or garbage truck. Speak louder. Turn up the volume. Move into the audience. Carry on. The audience will try harder to hear you. Don’t complain. You’re not the only person in the world to whom this has happened!