1. Speak clearly. Make sure your audience can hear what you are saying. All that work and time you put into preparing a piece will fall apart if nobody can decipher your words. Some things that hinder enunciation are talking too fast, mumbling, chewing on gum, etc. If you want to work on speaking clearly, try practicing your piece real slow. REAL SLOW. Like, focus on each word and say it outloud without even thinking about the words that come before or after it. It also helps to practice in front of a friend who is listening for any hiccups or unclear words.
2. Eye contact. Even if you’re reading from a page, make sure to look up at the audience every now and then. Try to avoid the sprinkler effect where your gaze goes back and forth from the right side of the room to the left side of the room. The point of eye contact is to make a physical connection with your audience that goes beyond the words coming out of your mouth. To ground yourself, maybe find two or three people spread out in the crowd to specifically look at. This way, you’re guaranteed a connection with that specific person and you have a few places to focus without haphazardly looking around the room.
4. Structure. Each story has a structure just like each person has a specific body shape. Your job as the writer and performer is to flatter the story’s best assets. If your story has a killer punchline, build up to it, don’t give it away too soon. If your story travels through multiple dates and years, make sure your transitions are clear and seamless. If your story covers a short amount of time, maybe minutes, give her an arc to accentuate the beginning, middle and end. Of course, play around with structure just like you’d play around with different fashion trends. You may surprise yourself with a combination you’ve never thought of.
5. Know your audience. Once you get on stage, your performance no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the audience. They will absorb everything you do and they will interpret it however they like. Remember, people often use their own personal experiences to help digest a story. So know your audience and play to their strengths and weaknesses. If you’re performing for a group of senior citizens, maybe keep your story conservative. If you’re performing for six year-olds, maybe involve audience participation to keep them from getting bored. If you’re performing for me, well -- I love me some salacious storytelling.