Which is scarier: Standing in front of a crowd and reciting lines on stage, reading from your book to an audience of listeners—or fighting off an angry tiger? Even some of the most experienced actors might choose the temperamental tiger over dealing with stage fright. And since writers tend to be introverts rather than performers, being in front of an audience during a book reading can be truly nerve-racking. Take a deep breath and try to ignore all those people staring at you: Writer’s Relief has tips from experienced actors to help you overcome stage fright when you have a book reading event.
Easy Ways To Overcome Stage Fright During Your Book Reading Event
Prepare ahead of time. It’s always a good idea to practice your presentation before the day of your event. One really good strategy is to rehearse in front of the mirror. This will alert you to any tics or habits you may not realize you have, like repeatedly scratching your nose or twirling your hair. Reading aloud beforehand will also help identify clunky passages in your material that you might want to go over several times until you can say them without stumbling (This is a good technique for improving your writing even if you are not doing a public reading.). Ask a friend to review your performance and give you feedback.
Keep in mind that an important part of preparation is anticipating audience questions and having your rehearsed answers ready. You may have to ad lib a little, but at least you’ll know what you want to say, rather than being caught completely off guard.
Relax, relax, relax. Sure, easy for us to say! But there are a few tried-and-true techniques you can use to help calm your nerves. Some common tips to relax your voice and your body include humming, chewing gum (be sure to get rid of it before you start reading), and stretching. And, of course, breathing! Proper breathing techniques will not only help to calm you, but they’ll also support your voice, making it easier to project and therefore easier for people to hear you. One thing we don’t recommend is consuming a lot of sugar or caffeine. While you may think this will give you more energy, it’s more likely to make you feel even more jittery and nervous when adrenaline is added to the mix.
Shift your focus. When you’re focused too intently on yourself, you can become more self-conscious about the quality of your performance. Instead, choose one specific point in the room (or even one particular audience member) to look at, and redirect your nervous energy. Another effective technique is the “spotlight.” When the bright spotlight is on you, mentally turn the spotlight around toward the audience, putting the attention on them. Since you are the one “illuminating” the audience, we find this metaphor very apt! These techniques will make it easier to focus on the points you want to make so you won’t be distracted by whether your shoelace is untied or if your sweater is buttoned crooked.
Think of the audience as your friends. Believe it or not, the audience is rooting for you to succeed! They don’t want you to fail, and they’re not out to get you. If you think of your audience as friends and fans, it will be easier to connect with them, and you’ll feel less awkward. Don’t be afraid to greet people and/or smile at them—they came to your book event because they want to meet you, and they DO like you. Say something funny: Laughter has a way of putting everyone at ease, which will make your reading go much more smoothly.
Remember: It’s okay to make mistakes. If you do make a mistake—and sooner or later, we all do—simply move on. If the audience clearly notices your error, feel free to make a little joke about it. As we’ve said, a good laugh will endear you to your audience and make you appear more relatable and human. And if a minor faux pas makes your book reading event a bit more memorable, that’s actually not a bad thing.
The first time you have to stand in front of an audience and read your short stories, poetry, or book will probably be daunting, but with these helpful tips, you’ll be able to give your best presentation. And each following reading event will get easier. So if you ever have to choose between a book reading event and wrestling a tiger, be confident in saying: It’s okay, I’ve got this!
Question: What do you do to reduce stage fright?