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An Editor’s Guide to Open Mic Nights

Hey everyone!

One of the most beneficial and potentially terrifying things for those who craft the written word is the Open Mic Night. The night where you stand up, stop editing, and read your work. Out loud. Now, some people have a natural gift for the whole affair, me not being one of them. But I can promise you that events like Open Mic Nights will help you. It is the perfect platform to gauge an audience’s reaction to your work. Is that clever pun you are so proud of as powerful as you think it is? Does that image you spent so long crafting have impact? It’s time to find out. Open Mic Nights can also do wonders for your confidence as a writer. When it comes to communicating your work, it might take some practice to get it right, and there is always room for improvement. Through personal experience and some article browsing, I have compiled a list of tips to keep in mind for your Open Mic debut, or your 50th time at the podium.

  1. Gauge your space: Open Mics can be held pretty much anywhere. If you are at a restaurant or bar, it is a good idea to get a sense of where you will be and where the audience will be. Be prepared to have people talking while it is your turn on stage. If you are at a dedicated Open Mic in a performance space, be aware that you will be filling the room with your spoken word/poetry/song. The audience is there for the readings so don’t balk at the attention.
  2. Come prepared: Either have your poem/song/spoken word printed out or very well memorized. I would recommend practicing in case the nerves put you on autopilot. Practice reading a poem like you would practice performing a song. If you plan on reading from a phone or tablet, know your zoom/scroll functions so you don’t accidently lose your place while you are reading.
  3.  Speak into the Mic: Don’t be timid about moving the mic and podium around if you need to. Glance down at what you are reading from, rather than staring at it, so you can look up at the audience and speak into the microphone. If you are at a small Open Mic in a dedicated venue, there may not be a microphone, or you may just choose not to use it. In that case, project and speak to the back wall.
  4. The introductions: There may or may not be a host present to MC the event. If there is one, acknowledge them when they introduce you. Then briefly introduce yourself, elaborate on what you are performing if necessary, then get down to it. If there is no host, take a few moments to introduce yourself and introduce what you are performing. Take a few sentences to describe and give context to your poem. And always read the title.
  5. Revel in your reading: When you get up to speak, try to not plow through your poem/spoken word/song. I know that with nerves and an audience, it is easy to focus on getting it over with and rediscovering the safety of your seat. But this is your work. Read it like you want it to be heard, with tension-laden pauses and emphasis. Practice helps!
  6. Be confident in the space you are in: And luckily, this is something you can fake. Do your best to be confident standing in that small space behind the mic. Smile, let your feet stand naturally, and your elbows fall to your sides. Breathe. And if that doesn’t work, just pretend you are confident. About halfway through your performance you will believe it.

Good luck and have a good Open Mic Night!

Ari~

You can utilize this tips by coming to Outrageous Fortune’s Open Mic Night today, 12/5, at 8 pm in the Nuthouse, Mary Baldwin College.