Last week, at a local writers’ coffeehouse sponsored by the Philadelphia Liars Club, the topic of pitches came up. Meaning the kind of pitch you do sometimes in an elevator (giving the pitch its name), sometimes in a conference room, and never in a bathroom. The “I’ve finished a novel/autobiography/teleporter,” pitch. The “you’ll remember me, because,” pitch.
Keith Strunk, an actor, author, and Liar (the club linked above, not the activity), in particular said a number of good things about practice. About knowing well what you’re going to say before you need to say it. About speaking with confidence, and being yourself.
Two great tips:
- Practice saying your own name, aloud. A lot. That way, when you introduce yourself, you don’t mumble it. Don’t rush it.
- Practice describing your novel/autobiography/teleporter – NOT so that you can corner someone and bludgeon them with the description, but so that, if it comes up in conversation, you can answer the question, “So what are you working on?” as if you know what you’re working on. This is important.
- Speak slowly and clearly. Read from a printed manuscript – mark emphasis points, if you work that way.
- Do your best not to hide behind the furniture. Stand before the mast table, podium, etc.
- Don’t run long. Practice beforehand, with a clock. No one has ever been criticized in the history of ever for ending on time, or even a bit early.
- Remember to breathe.
- (updated, from Scott Kennedy’s comment below) Make eye contact. Draw horizontal lines toward the margin of your manuscript. this will remind you to look up, and help you find where you left off.
- (ibid) Use your friends. Practice in front of them. If you can, test the reading space early by having a friend sit at the back so they can let you know if you’re being loud/articulate enough. If that room fills up with bodies, you’ll need to be a little louder again, as they absorb sound.
Super-easy, right? At some point in the near future* some of you might have the opportunity to see if I can practice what I preach. (Stay tuned…)