Get Out & Read What You Write!

Get Out & Read What You Write!

Tips for Reading at an Open Mic Event

The Physical Environment

The Podium – A podium is a prop. Use it if you feel comfortable doing so. If not, stand in front of the podium or to the side.

The Microphone – Learn how to use it. When it’s your turn, don’t hesitate to adjust it, unless there is a professional sound technician present. If there is a sound technician present DO NOT TOUCH THE MICROPHONE. He or she is there to monitor and adjust the sound. Let them do their job.

Background Noise – If there is intrusive background noise from fans, air conditioners, adjacent rooms, or the street you will need to speak more loudly (even with a microphone).

Show Your Face!

• Don’t lean on the podium or table.

• Don’t cover your face with your manuscript or book.

• Scan the audience up and down, back and forth.

• Make eye contact.

• Talk to the people listening, not to the page.

• Scan the page, then look up and recite what you read.

• “Talk” to the audience, don’t just read at them.

• Employ facial expressions. Use your face as a prop.

When to Slow Down, When to Speed Up

• Jittery nerves make you speed up.

• Read slightly slower than normal speech.

• Listeners need more time to absorb reading than conversational speech.

• Speed up for drama or emphasis.

• If your audience is laughing, WAIT a beat or two to before resuming your reading.

Pause for Punctuation

• Periods, commas, colons, and semi-colons all mean something!

• Use punctuation to pause or take a breath.

• Question marks and exclamation points — make your voice question and exclaim!

• Pauses create dramatic effect and allow the audience to process your words.

Diction and Enunciation

• Speak clearly and enunciate.

• Be careful not to trip over words.

• Aim for clear and conversational presentation.

• Don’t “peter out” at the end of your reading. Don’t drop your last words.

Volume – Pump it Up!

• Volume is a powerful tool for capturing your audience’s attention

• Develop a range of volumes to suit what you’re reading.

Mark Up Your Manuscript

• Underline words that need emphasis.

• Mark pauses.

• Mark where you will take a breath.

• Note where you want to increase volume.

• Emphasize your last words.


• What, if anything, do you need to omit from your manuscript for your reading (listening to a story is different than reading it.)

• Time yourself. (Open Mics have a time limit per person. Make sure you don’t exceed it.)

• Practice looking at the audience.

• Note any mistakes you make for correction next time.

• Experiment with emphasis, speed, volume. Make yourself interesting to listen to!

Tips for Stage Fright

• Give up trying to be perfect.

• Prepare in advance: practice reading your piece aloud in front of a mirror.

• Get to the venue early to scope out the environment.

• Choose where you sit strategically.

• Meet the audience.

• When it’s your turn, sit or stand assuredly, even if you’re faking it.

Remember: The audience there to hear you. They are interested in what you have to say and they want you to do well.

Extracted from the Get Out & Read What You Write presentation given by WR Guild member, Maria Masington on November 12, 2016 at Hockessin Library.

© 2016 Maria Masington

Maria Masington is a poet, essayist, and short story writer from Wilmington, Delaware. Her poetry has been published in The News Journal, The Red River Review, Damozel Literary Journal, The Survivor’s Review, Wanderings, Currents, The Fox Chase Review, Van Gogh’s Ear, and by the University of Colorado. Her short story “Impresario” appeared in the anthology Someone Wicked and her short story “The Triple Mary” appears in the anthology Beach Nights. She co-edits The Cicadas’s Cry, a haiku publication.

Maria is a member of the Written Remains Writers Guild and she is active in the Delaware and Philadelphia art scene. She has been a guest on WVUD ArtSounds, and invited as featured reader at the Fox Chase Review Reading series in Philadelphia and 2nd Saturday Poets in Wilmington. Maria also freelances as an emcee at various artist venues, including the Newark Arts Alliance’s monthly Open Mic. In 2011 and 2013, she was selected by the Delaware Division of the Arts as a Fellow for the Cape Henlopen Poets & Prose Writers Retreat.

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