Your audience wants to be entertained. They are hungry for stories. Don’t read something that only works “on the page.” We can’t see the page. Don’t explain to us the experimental convention you’ve come up with to represent the sound of birds alphabetically. We want to listen. Tell us a story. Don’t bring props and multiple handouts and then lose them and spend the first five minutes on stage trying to figure out if you left them at the bar. Be organized. Don’t tell anecdotes that are longer than the piece you’re about to read. Don’t read a work-in-progress unless you’re sure it’s very, very good. You don’t need to say, “This is a work in progress,” as if that’s your Get out of Jail Free card, and we’ll all forgive you if it isn’t very good. Read your best work. Pretend you’re on the radio, and all we have is your voice. Don’t get up onstage and send a text message before you read. I am serious. Don’t read from your iPhone unless you have just come from a fire in which your reading material was burned.
Leigh Stein explains how to read in public.