Do you read aloud? You should. Read to your children. Read to your spouse. Read to your friends. Take a book from the page into real life. It’ll bring out aspects of the story you might not have noticed reading quietly.

In my job as a speechwriter, I write so that other people, my clients, can read aloud to an audience. That audience might be big or small, at a wedding or at a business meeting. Whatever is the context, they are reading stories aloud.

I don’t teach them to just read. I teach them to perform. It’s easier than you might expect. It isn’t about having funny voices. Instead, it is about emotions.

Emotions as You Read Aloud?

Some stories have lots of characters, but all have at least one. All stories, as it happens, also have at least two emotions. If there was only one, there would be no contrast. It would be flat and colorless. The hero would never change. Your audience needs to know those emotions.

When you read aloud, you need to reflect these emotions. Don’t overdo those emotions. Instead, undulate shades of each emotion. Be happy, but why is the character happy? Happy because he saved the world? Happy because he found a nickel? Happy because he didn’t get in trouble?

If you go to the extreme of each emotion, it won’t feel realistic unless the situation itself is extreme. Is he afraid because he just fell out of an airplane without a parachute?

You can express those emotions subtly by speeding up, slowing down, lowering your voice, and so on.

Express those emotions whether you read with voices or not and your audience will more engaged.

But Wait, There’s More

This quick tip will help you read aloud, but it is hardly a primer on storytelling. Whether the storyteller is reading from a written piece or performing a piece he or she knows well, there is a range of skills being employed. Watch how the great ones do it.

For the Record

For the record, I do the voices. No one will accuse me of being an actor, but they will see (and hear) me having fun. That joy is infectious.


Happy Birthday to writer Steve Moffat (November 18). He has written some of the best Doctor Who episodes, including Blink.  A true storyteller. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Steven Moffat