Looking for all Articles by Lynsey May?

Five tips for reading your writing aloud

Scared of reading your writing aloud? Try these top tips for acing your performance.

Audience: Writers

Last updated: 21 May 2021

If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you’re also going to have to be a reader-aloud at some point. Whether it’s at a spoken word night, an award ceremony or a book launch, there are loads of times you may be called upon to share your words with an audience, so we’ve got a few top tips for making the best of the experience.

Choose your piece wisely

You may not always have the chance to choose your extract, but if you do, take some time to select something that shows you and your writing off to your best advantage. Ideally, you want an extract or story with some sort of narrative arc that doesn’t have a huge cast of characters. Poems with a strong emotional theme – from humour to tragedy – work well for engaging listeners. Pay attention to what you’re good at: if you’re a whizz at impersonation, pick pieces with regional accents; if tapping into your emotions is easy for you, a lyrical piece might work well.

Give yourself something to hold on to

Trembling hands are a common side effect of nerves and the easiest way to draw attention to them is to print your reading out on a thin sheet of A4 paper and watch it flutter. Reading from an already published book can solve this problem but for those who’d like a larger font or who’re reading new work, print it out and stick in in a binder, on a folder or even onto a piece of cardboard to conceal shakes.

Remember you’re there to be heard

You may be feeling shy or naturally softly spoken, but if you’re there to perform your own work, people want to hear what you have to say. Sometimes you’ll have a microphone to help you – but not always! Practice projecting and ‘expanding’ your voice to fill any space. Instead of pushing your throat, breathe deeply and imagine the words coming from up from your solar plexus. You should feel them resonating in your chest. If they aren't, try speaking in the lowest, most ogre-like voice you can imagine. Now you should get an idea of what you're aiming for.

Plant your feet firmly

A jiggly knee or a soft shoe shuffle is a dead giveaway that you’re not completely comfortable on stage. While that’s certainly not the end of the world, such obvious signs of nervousness can sometimes be a bit distracting for the listener. Help keep those jitters under control by placing your feet directly beneath your hips – and keeping them there. (Yoga lovers, think Mountain Pose!)

Practise in the bath/on the sofa/to your loved ones

The more often you read a piece of writing aloud, the more likely you are to be able to engage a sort of muscle memory. Your body will start to anticipate the next word or line without you even seeming to think about it – which is ideal for battling mind-blanks and stage fright. Practise as often as you can in as many situations as you can. Swap your shower sing-song for a bath-read-through (bathroom acoustics rule), try to compete with the TV (no audience can beat EastEnders for grumbling) and read to your loved ones (strangers will be a breeze after that!)