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How to Host and Read at a Poetry Reading

Last evening, I was the featured poet at a Open Mic and new Poetry program at my local Arts Council. I’ve read poems in public before usually at publication launches or announcements so I would read one or two and then be done. I’ve given talks before on various subjects, have taught poetry, etc. I had never done an official reading where I was the featured poet and also the co-host.

When I was given the opportunity for the reading, I contacted my poet contacts for advice and then I went searching online for suggestions and guidance. To my surprise, I found very little information online for hosting and giving a reading or even participating in one.

Now that I’ve completed the reading, I thought I’d write my own article to help out fellow poets considering doing the same thing. Please note my poetry reading and hosting was a great success — we had twice as many people turn out as we thought to the point where it was standing room only. I sold several of my books and I also created an interest in local poetry with some of the people in attendance. It was absolutely an incredible experience. Here’s what I learned:

MARKETING/PR:

1) Create fliers for your event and get them put up around town,

2) Email an invitation to all your contacts and friends,

3) Text your contacts and friends about your event,

4) Post on social media (create an Event on Facebook, share a photo taken at the venue pre-reading), etc.,

5) Contact your local newspapers to post event news and/or do an interview with you about the event,

6) Call those who you won’t reach using the above methods.

7) Share your event info and/or flier with organizations you belong to — for instance I volunteer with a local humane society and they forwarded my email invitation to everyone on their email contact list.

AT THE EVENT:

1) Purchase light snacks such as cheese, crackers, chips, pretzels, cookies, bottled water, soft drinks, juice to serve at the event,

2) Get a nice bouquet of flowers for your snack table — they aren’t expensive and will dress up your table great,

3) Have ample books to sell at your event,

4) Have petty cash for change in case people pay you in cash and/or get a credit card reader for your smart phone,

5) Have permanent markers and pens to sign books,

6) Have pens, rubber bands, for notating books sales, making notes, etc.,

7) Make up business cards for you as a Poet and also bookmarks. I put a Poet business card of mine and bookmarks advertising my website, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc in every chair and had several out on the sales table.

8) Have a bottle of water so you can drink from it if you need to while you are reading.

READING

1) Create a notebook, folder on your smart phone, an organized book or ebook of the poems you will read and any notes you need for what you will talk about in-between the poems,

2) Rehearse, practice! And practice some more. Practice in the mirror. Practice in front of family. Practice by reading through your material. Practice by reading out loud,

3) Be sure to Thank everyone who helped you organize and create the reading. Be sure to Thank everyone for attending as well,

4) Decide what you will write as an inscription in the books people will ask you to sign,

5) Have someone ready to video your reading and/or to take pictures for you.

AFTER THE EVENT

1) Again be sure to THANK everyone,

2) Post event pictures on social media,

3) Make a folder or google doc to keep all your info in so you have it in one place and readily accessible for the next time your read!

It takes a lot of preparation to pull off a successful event. Just break it down in parts and tackle each task one at a time. A little planning will help you to end up with a wonderful well-attended reading!

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