Keep in mind that they’re not there to judge you. They want you to do well. Most of all, they want to enjoy themselves. Imagine that you do make mistakes. What they want is to not feel bad for you when you do—so the more upset you get when you make a mistake, the worse it it. If you can just shrug it off and keep going, without making too much of a fuss about it, the more relaxed your audience will be and the more accepting of yourself you will be during the performance.
I know it’s not the same reading to an audience as it is say, dancing Swan Lake or playing Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto, but remember, Olympian skaters fall, concert pianists screw up all the time. The important thing is not to fall apart, just keep going and 90 percent of the people won’t even notice if you skipped a couple of bars or tripped a little. So go into it with a good sense of humor. There will be a mistake or two, and if you can just ride it out without flipping out, that’s showmanship.
The more relaxed you can be, the happier your audience will be. Patti Smith screwed up the Dylan song at the NOBEL PRIZES. She just started over and everybody loved her for it.
I was given some great advice when I started doing readings of my work. I was set to go on a big tour and a friend wanted to make a special necklace for me. I said, “Make one so they’ll love me.” and she said, “No, but I’ll make one where you’ll love them.” That was an incredible insight—that if you claim the space, if you’re inviting them into your world, if you don’t think of them as the adversary, but as guests—as friends—who it’s up to you to make comfortable and welcome, the whole vibe shifts. I never have stage fright any more. I concentrate on being welcoming and loving.