Everyone does them. Writers do them. Painters do them. Potters do them. Musicians do them. Thespians do them. Scientists tend to do them too. Odds are if you’re involved in the arts and/or do something that you feel others should be aware of, then you’re probably going to present in some way at some point.
This will most likely come delayed, I expect, as I am currently preparing for at least one reading this month, May 9th to be exact. If not, then, please, disregard.
You would think years of plays, more than a handful of public speaking events, as well as several readings under my belt that I’d have no problem getting up in front of peers, friends, family, and complete strangers not in those categories. You might think it would be easy to read lines from a piece of paper that I’ve prepared in advance, and probably worked on for weeks, if not months. You’d be wrong. But it’s ok. To not be good at public speaking events that is. Less so about being wrong. Really, you don’t have to get used to it. It helps if you do, but it’s not mandatory. Granted with my anxiety disorder and my introverted tendencies, you might also think I would never give a reading. Nope. Despite all of that, I love them.
A few things I do to prepare:
- Pick what I’ll be reading. This includes subject matter and length.
- Practice the pieces. This will not only help determine time but when and where to breathe.
- Decide order. It’s important, for me anyway, to have a flow from one piece to the next. If the tone of the pieces increases or one of them has a great ending, then that’s usually how I’ll go.
- Practice reading them some more until you accidentally learn them or come close. This is never on purpose, but it actually helps with eye contact, which is very important. The trick, for me, is to pick a person to look up at while you’re reading and then focus just slightly above their heads.
- Take a break before practicing some more. Don’t over think the pieces. Don’t freak out beforehand.
I like podiums. Some people say, “Um,” or “Uh,” while they read. Other people talk too fast. Some people have difficulty controlling the volume of their voice. Me? My knees shake. Like a lot. It looks bad, which is why I like standing behind something that doesn’t reveal my knees. That sounds weird, because it is, but it’s also the reason I enjoy a good podium. That also sounded strange. You’ll find out your issues when they arise. That’s normal to feel nervous and have these, um, ticks, if you will.
You’ll find a lot of idiosyncrasies showing up because of the pressure. For instance, I found that I do voices when I read dialogue. Makes sense. I write nonfiction. My characters are real. They don’t speak the same, hence voices. Never did them on purpose, but now I try my best with them. This is not something you have to do though. And people in other mediums might never have anything this odd come out of their works, which is fine too.
Keep in mind, it is a performance. That said, you’ll allowed to interpret that however you see fit. All I can really say about this is that, at the very end, I hope you have fun with it. It can be stressful, and the reasons for doing it can very, but it’s important to find joy in what you’re doing. This is no exception.