I was pleased with how my reading went last night (a worthy and well-run charity event to benefit world literacy). I think I’ve evolved a good system over the years, which is:

I type everything out—even the introduction, the jokey asides, and the passages from the book I’m reading from. I break most all of it into sentences (no long blocks of paragraphs). I print it out in large (16 pt.), bold type.
I read it out loud several times over, editing out any difficult words that make me stumble, and revising the book passages as well.

When it’s smooth, and clocks under the time allotted, I print it out and put it in a binder. I turn all the corners so that the pages turn easily. (This is important: having to lick a finger to turn a page would not be attractive on stage.) I underline or circle the words that still might catch me, words I’ll need to approach with care.

On the day of the reading, I try to read it through three times (although this isn’t always possible), and at least once in front of a mirror.

At the mike, after all this, I feel prepared. I don’t have to fiddle with reading glasses because the type is large. I don’t have to balance a book and fumble through the pages finding the passages. I don’t have to squint to read my penciled-in edits. The binder falls flat, so it lies nicely on a podium, but I could hold it in my hands if needed.

The only problem is that often the big, black mike is positioned above the page and it’s a little tricky to see the words. Juggling this makes me grateful for the time I spent in preparation.

One problem I foresee in the future is climbing and descending the sometimes rather steep (and often rickety) stairs, which of course never have railings. But that’s long into the future. I will count myself fortunate to still be giving readings by the time that might be a problem.