So you’re going to have a reading! Congratulations! Readings can be very fun and are an excellent opportunity for you to share your work with the world. But for many the idea of standing in front of a crowd and speaking is a daunting task. If you are one of those people, have no fear! Here are some tips for the nervous writer.

Let’s start at the very beginning, as I’ve been informed that it is a very good place to start. Introductions! While in most cases there will be a host or moderator to introduce you before you get up on stage to do your reading, it is always a good idea to take a moment and connect with the audience before diving in to your work.

Before discussing how you will introduce yourself, I feel a few things must be addressed before we talk about speaking. Before the reading starts take care to have your papers prepared in the order you want them in. This will cut down on any awkward, silent moments in front of the audience. Another tip is to make sure you are standing still and centered at the podium (or stage, or whatever it is you are speaking on). This may seem like a trivial rule but it is very important to center yourself and find a bit of stillness for several reasons. The first being that if you walk on stage talking people are less likely to hear you and it makes you seemed rushed. By claiming attention at center stage first, taking a breath, and then starting your introduction, you are far more likely to have people’s full attention. It is also important to claim the stage as yours before you start speaking. I don’t mean this in a territorial sort of way, but rather a sense in which to give you confidence. Remember, the audience is there for your reading. You have the power and control. Claiming the stage gives you that extra boost of confidence.

Now on to the actual speaking! There are many different ways to introduce yourself. Some people prefer to keep introductions as brief as possible. A quick, “Hello, my name is ____ and I will be reading a passage from my story/poem, ____” is always an easy way to get the ball rolling. However, if you are nervous this might not be the best approach for you. I find that a bit of smiling, talking a bit about the piece, the context of the passage, and/or a few jokes really helps me settle into a reading. A little bit of conversation with the audience gets them engaged and relaxed. It will do the same for you as well. Once you have given them the necessary information on you and your work, you have set the platform for the actual reading itself. If you’re still nervous by the end of your introduction, that’s okay! Just remember to breathe and smile.

-Sarah Stansbury