By Jayne Barnard
We’ve all seen them, and many of us have been them: authors standing up front with their nose in the book, mumbling, inaudible beyond the second row. The audience isn’t fidgeting because they don’t like the writing; often it’s the delivery that’s killing you. Yet you can land the basics of good delivery in a few minutes of practice a day. You’ll give better readings and enjoy them more (or dread them less).
The key is to relax the muscles. The mind follows the body’s relaxation. When your mind and body are relaxed, your vocal muscles are relaxed. Your voice’s richness of inflection and range of emotion are set free.
Here’s how you get there: first, relax your neck & shoulders. This is not a fitness test: don’t strain or force beyond your comfort level.
Neck scoops – turn head to one side; tilt nose toward shoulder and slowly trace a semi-circle down across your chest and up the other side. Rest on a three count and go back. Repeat 3x each way. Don’t force your neck further than is comfortable.
Shoulder rolls – slow forward 3x, then slow backward 3x. Change it up by rotating them opposite to each other.
Torso twists – forearms up front and holding each other, turn side to side slowly from the hips, no forcing or straining to go further than is comfortable. Twice each way is fine.
Do any other stretching that seems good to you.
Next, relax the tiny muscles of the face.
On all of these, breathe in through the nose for a count of 3, and out for a count of 5. Do each twice.
Run the tongue-twister of your choice three times. Exaggerate every syllable.
Now: Rehearse your reading out loud. Words your mind can say perfectly your mouth may not be familiar with; practice those. Let the emotion and drama resonate through your warmed-up, flexible voice. Mark places to breathe if you tend to forget.
At the event:
Just before you go up to read, scoop your neck once or twice, roll your shoulders. Waggle your jaw as if there’s a big wad of chewing gum in there. Then get to your position, make eye contact with one person, and remember to breathe.