Yesterday I went all the way to South Kensington to the Society of Authors office to hear a talk about how to give a reading, and learnt a lot. Here is what I learnt (from my notes):
If you are a member of the Society of Authors, read the check list for events at the back of the survey before you have an event.
Preparation: When you are giving a reading, always make sure it's agreed the length of time to read. If you feel that it's too long for you, then you can suggest that some of the time, the end, can be made up of questions. It is important that the length of your talk is decided and stick to it.
Access to the venue - Find out what time you can get there. Here I put my hand up and said that I usually do a trial run to a place I've not been to before to find out where it is and how long it takes to get there. When you get there, sort out the mic, a lectern if using one. When you give your talk/reading don''t have your back to a window as it puts you in the shade, and don't have your back to a mirror as the audience can start doing funny things behind your back if they get bored. If you are writing on a flipchart, write, stop then talk.
How to choose what to read:- It depends on the event, and what the organiser asks for. You can have a theme to your talk, or a route map of what you're going to read. Eg my book is about healthy eating, so I will target children and any healthy living programmes going. It is best to choose several extracts to read rather than a whole chapter as it will be more interesting. So read an extract chat about what inspired you to write it, read another extract etc... To make it easier for you, cut and paste your extracts from your ms into the talk document. And practice. Practice gives you confidence, makes you see the difficulty of any words and brings it to life.
Voice production - Be heard. Do relaxation and breathing exercises. We did there and had a giggle. And it gets rid of any tension in the body and releases energy. Be understood and project your voice clearly and have variety in your voice. If you have two characters speaking then give them different voices. Centre yourself when talking, and standing is better than sitting, as you can project your voice better. Be clear and give each word its weight and gives variety into your voice. Here is the 4 Ps Pitch, Pace (which words you want to stress), Pause (before and after words/sentences can emphasise it) and Power.
In the afternoon we all did a reading and most of us were nervous about it and it showed in our voices and stance. Then the speaker helped us make it better by telling and showing us how to improve our speech. Of course, I sped up my reading and knew it so in future I have to slow down.
Questions - if someone asks questions always repeat it. If no questions then say that 'a question I'm normally asked is...' Don't get caught with one person, if you do then try eye contact with another person in the audience, esp if they have their hand up, and you can get out that way. If you are caught in a conversation say that you can continue it after the talk. If you don't know what to say you can say interesting question, what does everyone else think?
To get expression in your voice, read nonsense poems by Loius Caroll.
All in all I had a good time. I gave out a few of my cards inc to the speaker and might be seeing another attendee later this month at the SCBWI social. I thought it was very useful esp as I plan to do lots of talks about my interests to other people in the near future.