McNally Robinson in Saskatoon, SK which I blogged about briefly last Tuesday. The second, pictured here, was in a small local library in Assiniboia, SK. In both cases, it was important to make a connection with the audience, no matter how large or small the size of the crowd. How do you go about doing this?
First of all, I think it is important to make the audience feel at ease. I like to think that I am a down to earth person and it's important that I communicate this to the audience. I like to start with a little humor - perhaps a personal anecdote that fits, as well as a brief introduction to who I am, where I'm from and why I write. This should be short and at the level of the audience. For instance, if you were addressing a University alumni, you might wish to focus more on your formal credentials, while a 'home town' crowd is more interested in personal info.
Introduce the reading you have chosen, setting it up if necessary. Keep the reading itself short. It is better to have them wanting more than wishing you would stop. After that, be prepared for questions. At the first reading I did this summer, the questions just kept coming! There were all kinds of queries from how I got published, how to write a query, to things about the books themselves. During the second reading in Assiniboia, I actually had to do some improvising in order to get the audience to open up. Nobody had any questions, so I simply offered some info that I thought might be interesting, such as what inspired me to write the particular book I read from. After a few minutes people started to open up more and began asking questions. It really depends on the people themselves, so it is important to be prepared for any circumstance.
Basically, a successful reading event calls for some down to earth interaction with those that have honored you by attending. I have heard of reading events where the author tried to put themselves on a pedestal, as if they were 'above' those who had come to listen. Unless you are a New York Times best selling author, I can't see how this could be beneficial. In fact, I don't see it being a good thing even for those elite writers who have made it big. People like honesty. They like to see that they have something in common with you, the writer, and will then want to read what you've written. This is what makes for a successful reading event in my mind - no matter how many copies of your book are sold.