True or False? When asked to do a reading, your prose is more important
than your voice, body language, and eye contact.
If you said true, pay closer attention to the crowd. Audiences – even hardcore fans – are making judgments before you’ve read the first line.
Did you walk with confidence to the podium? Fumble with your pages? Make a big thing of adjusting the mike? Did you smile, thank the host, and welcome the crowd with a quick story? Or did you forego reading foreplay and dive right in?
Such items may seem obvious, but the obvious often hides out in plain sight. Some tips gleaned from a reading I did at a recent book fair in Maryland:
– Practice the pages: You wrote the words, and may even have read them aloud before. Doesn’t matter; rehearse at least three times.
– If you feel nervous, go early and turn strangers into acquaintances and fans into friends. Focusing on something besides your performance will reduce anxiety.
– If you’ve practiced, the words will feel familiar, which will allow you to look up more often. People prefer your eyes up instead of always down on your pages.
– When you look up, spread it around – left, right and center. Be sure to look for the friends you made earlier. They’ll nod or smile, giving you steam to finish strong.
– Read a little the way you would read to a child: very expressive, with pauses, exaggerated changes in tone and tenor, and different pacing. Do not try to do unfamiliar accents unless you’ve perfected them at home.
– Last, leave a little time for Q & A. And if you’re reading at a book fair, don’t forget to invite everyone to drop by your booth to chat a little more.
Have some more tips? Please share!
P.S. Check out Pinterest board with pix from Kensington Day of the Book Festival.
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