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MOST OF THE TIME your writing will be digested silently, by an internal narrator sitting in the easy chair of your readers brain.

When that reader is you, the soundless inflections and pacing you give the text will match the remembered event you have written about.

But when you open your mouth to read your story out loud your nervous voice can stall and cripple the text into a pile of tangled paragraphs.

I’ve found many advantages to being comfortable reading your writing out loud. It can bring awareness to the tone, pacing and word choice of your story. Pause at commas and paragraphs, intone the dialog and build tension with your delivery; there are many techniques to employ when reading aloud that actually strengthen and give depth to your story.

Also, when reading out loud you are likely to catch dropped words, grammatical errors, and stilted, awkward word choices. You may discover a certain poetry can be finely tuned by reading out loud. Reading, and being read to out loud can imbue the text with the music of the human voice, creating an ancient communion between storyteller and listener.

In many writing groups participants often read their writing aloud. Being comfortable doing this can let you focus on your story and not the terror of public speaking .


Record yourself reading with a mic or web cam then listen/watch yourself. This can be painful. I hate my voice over the phone, and often wonder at the spastic faces I make on camera. But confronting the reality of your voice and appearance are vital to cultivating a good speaking presence.

Listen for ways your reading can strengthened, noting dropped words, mumbling, poor breath support and weak diction.

If you find yourself reading to quickly try reading your story like you are reading to a circle of children, slowly with over dramatic pronunciation and pauses. Practicing this way can help you slow down and speak more clearly.

Understand that your audience wants to hear you read. Don’t apologize, don’t shrink back or rush forward to hasten the end. Instead take control and steer the story with your measured reading like a captain at sea. You have the benefit of knowing how the story resolves itself, use that knowledge to build suspense and punctuate certain moments.

Stand up straight. Plant your feet and take a deep breath.


There is something enthralling about the feeling of being led confidently through a story, of trusting the reader to bring you with them. What did you notice about Sapphire’s delivery that worked or didn’t work for you?



Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more about it than you include in your speech. Use humor, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.

Practice. Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.

Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.

Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.

Relax. Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.

Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.

Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.

Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.

Gain experience. Mainly, your speech should represent you — as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking.

*Get access to paid freelance travel writing opportunities and an active community of travel journalists by enrolling in the MatadorU Travel Writing program.