Monday 18 February 2019

Stand up, speak up, sit down

I went to a Corby Collective Poets session recently, where poet Spike gave us some pointers on how to move from reading aloud to performing. Here are the notes I took.
  • Props: use them if you feel comfortable, but don't let them become a distraction for either you or the audience. Ask yourself if you are hiding behind your props; can the audience see your eyes?
  • A hand-held mic is better than a fixed one, because you have more freedom; hold it close to your chin to avoid popping your Ps. 
  • An obvious point, but tailor your material to your audience; be prepared to adjust your programme if you think you're losing them.
  • Don't be afraid to mix things up a bit - a fast-paced piece followed by something a bit more thoughtful, sad followed by happy, and so on.
  • Link your pieces with a bit of explanation, as though you were in conversation with your audience.
  • Ignore people who aren't listening and perform for those who are.
  • It's OK to read rather than work from memory; even if you think you can learn the whole thing, having the script on a stand nearby can be a comfort, just in case you need it.
  • If you do read, use the layout to help your performance - for instance, use bold or colour to highlight words you want to emphasise or leave bigger gaps between some words to remind yourself to breathe or pause for effect.
  • Read more slowly than you think you need to.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Do you have any tips to share?


  1. These are nice tips. I can only think of one more: have a friend check your posture when you rehearse.

    Now I want to go see a poetry presentation!

    1. Good one, Priscilla; and seek out a poetry evening somewhere!

  2. My tip would be to make as much eye contact with the audience as possible, so if reading make sure you look up from the script regularly.

    1. Good point, Sally. I was at a talk at our art gallery yesterday evening and noticed how the speaker scanned the whole room and made eye contact with each of us in turn, without ever seeming over-familiar.