Dozens of small steps precede an author’s appearance at an outdoor book festival. A lot also happens during the presentation, and there are factors to consider once the applause ends.
Here are some tips gleaned (or reinforced) from a recent outing at one of the best venues around, the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD.
Before the event:
Do some reconnaissance: You’ll feel more comfortable if you visit the venue beforehand and learn, for instance: the seating arrangement, size of the stage, whether you’ll need a mic, and if you have the option to move when speaking. Are you on concrete or grass? What’s the best angle for photos?
Make it easy: Of course you’re going to let everyone know where and when. Go the extra mile and use social media to provide a map and alert folks to potential traffic issues. You want everyone seated before you begin. Consider raffling off a book to help drive attendance.
Conquer stage fright: Relax by making new friends with people as they arrive. As you make light conversation, you’ll stop obsessing about your presentation. This will also add to the number of friendly faces you can find in the audience as you’re speaking.
During the reading:
Be the wizard: Reading is great, but audiences want to know what’s going on behind the curtain. Be open and candid. Reveal a bit of yourself and your writing process without dragging it out too much.
Maintain contact: The danger in reading your wondrous prose aloud is losing eye contact with your audience for too long. Read several words ahead as you get toward the end of paragraphs so you can look up frequently as you speak.
Smile: Another obvious one that is too often overlooked. Smiles beget smiles. The crowd wants to see that you’re passionate, confident and approachable. A smile helps convey your self-assuredness. Actress Diane Lane once said, “I think that anybody who smiles automatically looks better.”
After You’re Done:
Make mom proud: Don’t forget to thank not only those who turned out, but all those festival volunteers as well. Don’t forget the person who introduced you, plus your own team. Writing may be a solitary job, but working a festival requires help. Also make sure to stick around after you’re done presenting and answer questions from those who may be too shy to speak up in a crowd.
Be the booth: Festivalgoers are bombarded with information from the moment they walk through the gate. Create a poster that sums up your book in one or two sentences, plus a small sign with a special festival price. That leaves you free to chat or answer questions. With a smile, of course.
Be a good neighbor: It’s easy to think of those in nearby booths as the competition. Don’t. Be friendly, share best practices, and offer help if you see a need. Being sociable pays dividends, both with your fellow authors and with those who wander up to see what you’re selling.
What else has worked for you at outdoor festivals?
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