Saturday, February 2, 2013

Presenting Your Work in Public

Please forgive my long silences at times. And don't be surprised if my styles lapses into a bewildered Welsh accent. You see, I'm preparing myself for a gig, a presentation at a large festival scheduled for March 3, 2013 in Los Angeles that celebrates all things Welsh and Welsh-American. I'll be reading from my novels involving Welsh immigrants in 1880s Arizona, mind you now, so I'm working on getting the accent inflection as close to natural as possible.

Giving a presentation can be overwhelming--but it doesn't have to be. Practice reading aloud ad allowing yourself to become involved in the scene emotionally. You'll find that you become more physically demonstrative as you let the words tumble forth, first with hand gestures and facial expressions, then quite naturally, your entire body will become involved. A step here, a bend there, perhaps even moving across the stage you've set. Don't be afraid to jump in with both feet: the more you get into the story, the more your audience will as well. 

Fear of speaking in public is one of the most common and debilitating phobias humans can have. For writers, it can be downright crippling. We spend our time in our own worlds, talking to people in our imagination. Real people scare the bejeezus out of us. There are advantages to reading from your work: the words are already there and you have a book between you and any flying tomatoes. Practice your bob and dodge reflexes! 

No, seriously, don't be afraid to do public readings. Choose short scenes, not whole chapters, and always leave them hanging, begging for more. If you have a good amount of time, select one humorous part and one cliffhanger--and always end at that cliff's edge. Let the audience know where you will be after your presentation to answer questions and sign their purchases. Be mindful of the time if you are but one of many scheduled for the day. You don't want to be remembered as the one that droned on and on, do you then? 

Practice, practice, practice. Read to the cat, the dog, or the plants, but also try to get someone who is able to communicate honest feedback to you about how you sound. Is your voice soft? You'll need amplification then. Don't forget to read the way you wrote--modulate your voice up and down: excited or scared, angry or amused. Imagine you're an actor in the movie version, but you're reading all the parts. 

Engage your audience. Look up from the page every know and then and make eye contact with a random face. Try looking up at the end of every two paragraphs or so. At the very least, try to glance up once on each page. Hold the book so everyone can see the cover the entire time you're reading. They need to know what to look for when they decide to buy a copy. 

Be mindful of who is in your audience. Not a good idea to read a seduction or erotic scene if children are present, is it then? And good heavens, don't be reading cuss words to the grannies. Change them in your copy with pencil if you must. Better yet, think carefully on which selections to read. Evening events at bookstores are more likely to handle more adult fare than daytime festivals. Generally it's good to stick to a PG or G rating on selections with your R rated stuff marked as a possibility if you see the group might handle it.

Above all, have fun with the experience! Ham up a funny scene if you feel comfortable doing so, but the main thing to remember is that you are sharing your story with potential readers. Make it a memorable time for everyone, including yourself. 

Pob lwc--good luck--and if you're in LA on March 3rd, come by the Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood. I'd be chuffed to see you--but leave your tomatoes home, mind. 


Jude Johnson is the Author of
Dragon & Hawk, Out of Forgotten Ashes, Dragon's Legacy (fiction)
Cactus Cymry; (nonfiction) Open Books Press


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Good luck with that, Jude. The acting and speaking advice is exactly right. After "getting to know you," the audience should love a signed copy.

Jude Johnson said...

Thanks - diolch--Julie!

Big Mike said...

Nice post JJ. BTW, given my last name would it surprise ya to know my GGF was pure Welsh. Also got some Irish, Cherokee, and Catowba. Yeah, just a mutt.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

linda_rettstatt said...

Very timely post as I have two events coming up. One is with a Friends of the Library group at a local library. They want to speak for about 20 minutes, then answer questions and sell books. I'm good with book selling part :)

Ute Carbone said...

Good luck with the presentation, Jude. You're advice is spot on.

Veronica Helen Hart said...

Excellent advice. And if I may add, should anyone be unable to overcome their terror of speaking in public, then check out Toastmasters International, where speaking and leadership skills are painlessly taught and easily learned in a friendly environment.