Presentation From A Book: How To Do Dramatic Readings

by drjim on October 27, 2008

Speakers Can Use Dramatic Reading To Make Their Presentations Memorable

Speakers Can Use Dramatic Reading To Make Their Presentations Memorable

In the bag of skills that a public speaker needs to have, there is one that is not used very often: dramatic readings. Now just because we don’t use it very often, does not mean that we shouldn’t be using it more. Remember that anything that we can do to make our presentations stand out from everything else that our audience gets assaulted with each and every day will help to make it more memorable (in a good way) and improves the chances of our message “sticking” with our audience. The big questions are when should I use a dramatic reading as a part of my presentation and just how do I go about doing it?

The first question is actually the easiest to answer. A dramatic reading from a book is a great way to do two things: add color to  a presentation and add credibility to WHAT you are talking about. Published authors often have taken a great deal of time to get their words just right. Opening a book during your presentation and reading their words to your audience allows you to capture the time and effort that they put into creating their ideas and enrich your speech by doing so. Additionally, in order to motivate your audience to make a change or to take some action (the purpose of any presentation), you need to convince them that you know what you are talking about. By reading a passage from a published book perhaps written by a well known figure in the field that you are talking about, you can reinforce your words by having them appear to support your position.

Now the big question is how best to do a dramatic reading. The problem here is that most of us have very little experience with either listening to or actually doing dramatic readings from a book. That’s why we can turn to Mark McLaughlin who is an author of horror books. Mark is often called on to give speeches that contain, what else?, dramatic readings. He probably does this much more than the rest of us ever will; however, this also means that he can teach us a lot about how to do them correctly.

Here are Mark’s top 10 tips for how we can all do dramatic readings as a part of our presentations correctly:

  1. Don’t Read From The Book: Books are great for sitting by a fire and reading. They are quite poor to read from during a presentation: their print is too small, it can be hard to find your place, and turning the page is awkward at best. Instead, copy the pages and blow them up.
  2. Use Voices: Something that you may not realize is that we all make different characters sound different in our head when we read a book. When you are reading from a book, you need to use a different voice for each character so that your audience doesn’t get confused about who is talking or thinking.
  3. Prepare Using A Rainbow: Mark up what you are going to be reading using many different colored highlighters. This way you will automatically remember to switch voices when you are reading.
  4. Characters Are More Than Just Voices: Different characters can have different mannerisms and these can be useful when you are reading their lines. Smokers should have a raspy voice, nervous characters should speak quickly, etc.
  5. Try Out Different Voices: You won’t get it right the first time so be sure to experiment with different voices in order to find the one that will capture the character the best for your audience.
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice: This is always a good idea and it’s even more critical when doing a dramatic reading. McLaughlin recommends that you practice at least a dozen times and even more if you feel that you need it.
  7. The Power Of A Friendship: Nothing beats live feedback. Try your presentation out on friends and see what kind of feedback they give you. This can be worth its weight in gold.
  8. Look At Your Audience While Reading To Them: You can’t do this all the time of course; however, eye contact is always a good idea.
  9. Have A Panic Button Ready: Look, anyone can lose their place while doing a reading – it happens to all of us. If this happens to you, have a question about the reading ready to ask an audience member. Use the time that they are speaking to find your spot again, mark it with a finger, thank the audience member for their answer and then continue on.
  10. Enjoy Yourself!: Dramatic readings are done all to rarely in presentations today. The fact that you have been willing to step up, practice, and then deliver a dramatic reading shows that you are better than the average speaker. When your audience sees that you are enjoying yourself, then they will get into it also and your presentation will be your best ever!

Have you ever been to a presentation where the speaker used a dramatic reading? How did it turn out – was it well done or half-baked? Have you ever had a chance to use a dramatic reading as a part of one of your speeches? Did you practice enough? How did it turn out for you? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. K October 27, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Great post!

And yes, I have used dramatic reading. Only I usually try to do it from memory, so it isn’t exactly reading anymore! I love the way it punctuates a point, or helps deliver it.

But I’m of the mindset that one must do what I see the speaker in your graphic doing with at least some caution. At a book reading, it is expected. In a speech, it’s a great effect. But in a training program, it can have an opposite effect. Because when you do this, you run the risk of accessing, by way of your holding a book and reading it out loud to a passive audience, the inner child of audience members who have a stake in thinking of themselves as empowered grownups.

best wishes,
Rick

Reply

Roshini Rajkumar July 9, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Great tips! As a keynote speaker and commercial voice actor, I always recommend quotes and interactive devices to my clients for their presentation moments.
The dramatic reading is a nice way to combine a lot of skills and goals in one powerful hit. If you have the gift of a “personality” or “humor”…your dramatic reading can be a nice challenge for yourself and a way to present your material in a truly memorable fashion.

Thanks,
Roshini

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson July 9, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Roshini: … and it’s that “memorable” thing that always seems to be so very hard for most of us to do!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: