Performance and Presentation Training: From Page to Stage

Performance Presentation
Category: Writing
Tagged: writing

As someone who has a book due to be published next year, I want to make the most of any readings and events I have to promote my writing, so that I can engage better with my audience. There’s no hiding place these days, as festivals and literary events are now an important part of promoting your work. They're also a great way of connecting with your audience, so it’s crucial to get yourself and your writing out there.

There’s lots of advice online about reading your work in public but nothing beats face-to-face training. That’s why I was really chuffed when I was lucky enough to gain a place on the Performance and Presentation training course, which helps writers perform better, overcome nerves and bring their work to life.

So on a dreich December day I set off for the quirky course venue of the Scottish Storytelling Centre  on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile to join six other writers, all feeling a bit nervous of what lay ahead. We were right to be wary; the course was very intensive with each of us delivering a sample of work before receiving detailed feedback.

Although my day job involves public speaking, I still felt that I had a lot to learn - and I was right. The course was excellent and I now have a LOT to work on to improve my performance.

Alex Gillon is an experienced voice coach who has worked extensively in theatre, television and film and she shared the benefit of her expertise with us by critiquing our performance. The feedback was brutally honest and not for anyone lacking a thick skin. But Alex’s ‘tough love’ style was highly effective as all of us made noticeable progress and eventually earned a hard-won "better" from Alex.

My main weakness was adding false beats in the text and pausing where there was no full stop or comma. Breathing properly from the abdomen to fuel the voice was a key point for all of us and Alex also emphasised the importance of appropriate body language. One issue I also addressed with Alex is my apprehension to read out the swear words and non-PC terms in my writing for fear of offending the audience. Alex’s advice was to commit to the words from my novel and give them the power they deserve as if there’s no heart in my delivery, there’s no truth. Thanks to Alex I can now say the ‘F’ word with far more impact, a skill I didn’t expect to achieve!

The key message I took from the course was something that Alex repeatedly said: "They’re your words, use them!" I’m sure when my book launch finally arrives, I’ll be able to hear Alex’s words of encouragement and feel more confident in lifting the text from page to stage.

The Performance and Presentation course will run again later in 2015. To find out more about our opportunities, visit the training and awards section of the website. 

Helen MacKinven

Helen MacKinven is a book lover and writer of Scottish contemporary fiction. In 2012, Helen completed an MLitt Creative Writing course at Stirling University. Her debut novel is due to be published by ThunderPoint in late 2015.