My library colleague Amy Brooks, a terrific actor, recently wrote down some advice to a young man (okay, her nephew) about speaking in public. I happened to overhear his grateful phone call to Amy this week, and his presentation was a massive success. I thought I'd share Amy's advice with y'all. Reading isn't the same as acting, but there are a lot of overlaps. Take it away, Amy:
-- Know your material inside-out.
-- Allow yourself the luxury of natural breath. You can not go too slow. Savor your words. Speak them clearly. Your audience will understand and appreciate what you have to say MUCH MORE if you give them the luxury of time to take in your words. No matter how slow you think you are speaking, you can't speak slowly enough. DON'T RUSH. Savor.
-- Be in the moment, and only that moment.
-- Honesty is everything: be yourself. Let your art speak for you, and when you speak, let it be from your heart. You simply can not go wrong if you speak from your heart. Honesty always wins the day. (Honesty meaning, authenticity, I suppose.)
-- Humble yourself to the work. Be a channel of your own work. Be the spokesman for your work, if you will. The work is already strong. You have already "sold" your work. Just give it voice.
-- Before you go the lecturn, be still. Take some quiet moments to just Be. Gather your thoughts, or even better, empty your brain of thoughts. You already know what to say. You've done your homework.
-- Once at the lecturn, greet your audience with your eyes and smile. Take them in. Appreciate them. Even for the 10 seconds it takes to get settled at the lecturn.
-- Remember this: YOUR AUDIENCE IS ROOTING FOR YOU. THEY WANT YOU TO DO WELL. THEY ARE ON YOUR SIDE. Be their new best friend for your 10 minutes.
-- There's no way to fail. It's another moment in your life. You will succeed by sheer virtue of having the courage to get up there and be You.
The only thing I have to add to this is that if you are supposed to read for ten minutes, plan to read for a maximum of eight minutes, and practice in advance so you know how long eight minutes is.