Sunday, 18 October 2015

Reading to an Audience - Start with the Basics...

Recently I shared an article from Stylist magazine on my Facebook account, and it had quite a number of views. It was a top ten tips for speaking in public.

It's not surprising that the subject is popular, as writers need to do a lot more promotion now than they needed to ten years ago.

Though some writers may be more confident from past experience, or they have a daytime job that requires them to stand up in front of an audience- whatever their ages may be...

I have to admit that I had a head start, so it wasn't such a shock.

When I was in secondary school x number of years ago, I was part of the drama group, and it was a great way to learn basic skills, breathing correctly, standing up straight and projecting your voice, and taking on the voice of characters- but in my case the biggest problem I had to overcome was talking too fast.

All those are the same skills writers need to learn, or develop. But you don't need to practise in front of an audience, you can do it by yourself at home.

I'm a firm believer in reading my work aloud during the editing phase, as you can hear when text doesn't flow, phrasing is awkward, or you've changed tense/viewpoint, but you need to read slower to pick out the issues, so try recording yourself reading out a passage, then play it back, or ask a trusted friend to listen to you.

Is every word distinct, or are you chopping off the ends of words, and rolling them together? When you're conscious of what you are doing, you can pick it up, slow down and try again until you get the right pace for you.

Practise and eventually it will become automatic.

Breathing: stand up straight and breathe in slowly until your lungs are filled- if you put your hand flat just below your rib cage you can feel the rise as you breathe in. Then let your breath out slowly- you do need to concentrate.

When you have that under control then the next time you breathe out use that to propel your voice- choose a simple short word, 'pop' for example. So often, it seems, we're not aware of how much our voices are capable of until we try- this will.

If you are reading your own work out you can of course add reminders to your manuscript. Apart from printing in a larger font, you can add spaces between paragraphs, insert (PAUSE) at appropriate points, and underline anything you need to put emphasis on. Practise your pace.

Microphones seem scary, but you just need a quick test to find the right distance between you and it using your regular reading voice. If the microphone is not on a stand then get someone to hold it, as juggling a microphone and turning pages it not a good image and will get you flustered- not what you want or need.

Do you see the common word now? Yes, it's practise.

I've been fortunate to have generous writer friends who have shared their advice over the years, and I've put it into practise when I've been on the local BBC radio station (promoting a book I was in with another local writer), as well as other literature events like the Lowdham Fringe.

There's a lot more you can do, wear bright colours so you aren't lost against pale walls or furnishings for example.

 You may be an introvert, but you can pretend you aren't. Master the basics and build upon them...

My first public reading as a writer
in 2012 at the Lowdham Fringe


Patsy said...

I agree - practise really helps with doing a reading. If you know which lines or phrases you might stumble over you can take them slower, or even break them up.

With a talk, I suggest notes, but not writing everything in full, so you speak spontaneously rather than just reading.

Carolb said...

Agree with you on both, Patsy.

I did a mini-workshop last year and used a series of file cards with the main points I needed to cover, so I could talk spontaneously.

Teresa Ashby said...

I admire anyone who can stand up in front of other people and talk - the very thought terrifies me. It's very good advice to practise at home though xx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great post, Carol. I don't mind speaking in public as I've done it few times now - even though I can get nervous beforehand, it's better when I get started! Agree with Patsy about just having notes.

Carolb said...

It is scary the first few times, Teresa, but like many related writing areas, practising until you feel in control helps. :-)x

Carolb said...

Thanks, Rosemary.

Yes, I still get butterflies before, but as you say, once you've started it's better. And yes, notes are the way to go. :-)

Wendy's Writing said...

Such good advice, Carol. I have to do a speech soon and will try and remember some of this advice. Luckily I've been a teacher so I am going to imagine it is a class full of children rather than adults!

Carolb said...

Good luck with the speech, Wendy. I think teachers have an advantage with things like this, so I'm sure you'll be fine. :-)