It always amazes me how many authors have difficulty reading aloud or speaking in public. But if people are going to buy your book, they'll want to hear you read from it first. Why do you think every Must-See Monday has at least one reading or open mike? If you fear stepping on stage and reading in front of an audience, here are a few tips to help you out. These may seem obvious, and yet, there isn't a reading I go to where I don't see someone who could benefit from this advice:
Practice. You should always read your work aloud for editing purposes, but for a reading, it's important to practice the finished piece a few times and learn your story better. If you're familiar with the words, your piece will sound like storytelling rather than reading.
Gestures and Eye Contact. These will also help you tell your story rather than read it. When the stage lights hit you, it's easy to keep your head down and get sucked into the page. Don't forget to connect with your audience and meet their eye. It's hard to ignore someone who's looking right at you. Gestures help get your story off the page and animate the material. As your character absentmindedly scratches the back of his neck, go ahead and demonstrate.
Slow Down! I'd say 90% of readers go too fast and I guarantee 100% of them think they read at a fine pace. Most of us talk too fast to begin with, but when we're anxious, we only speed up. Always slow yourself down and give every word full value. Often, a slower speed helps build the tension and suspense.
Speak up! Most readings you'll have a mic, but if you don't, make sure you get your voice up so even the folks in the back can hear you.
Mind your body. When you read, you don't want your feet glued to the floor, but you don't want to be running the marathon either. Command your presence on stage by turning to either side every few pages and addressing your full audience. Again, it doesn't hurt to practice this at home.
The best practice is doing this in front of an audience, so attend a few open mikes to get more comfortable. Once you're published, you're going to have to read aloud and speak in front of audiences, and by then, the stakes are a lot higher. As with anything, practice makes perfect, so start attending the smaller readings before you hit the big time.