Public readings can be terrifying if you've a phobia about public speaking, which luckily I don't. But doing a reading is easier than, say, teaching, where I have to field questions and read the class's mood in case they can smell fear and come out for blood. My attention is about 80% on the words on the page and 20% on the audience. (Well, maybe 19% on the audience; let's leave the other 1% for how concerned I am about what I'm doing with my hands, whether my voice just broke, the feeling of my heart jackhammering in my chest, and the tiny tickle I start to feel in the back of my throat. Where is a glass of water?)
Doing a reading of erotica, though? It can be a bit odd. You're saying things aloud, to strangers, that perhaps you've never said aloud to anyone, outside or inside your bedroom. You're saying those words that used to get your mouth washed out with soap. But this time, people applaud. You're creating vivid, electrically charged images in the audience's mind with your story, and you're not quite sure what's going to happen, er, after.
Just the thought of reading smut aloud can stop a writer cold, as if she were being asked to do these things in public.
But reading erotica aloud is much like reading any fiction aloud. The most important thing to remember: Like any other fiction, you are not your story. Just as you are not a psychopathic serial killer, lost alien, kidnapped medieval queen, or wizard bent on revenge, you are not the characters in your story kissing, licking, stroking, fucking. That's not to say that you should completely shut yourself off when reading your smut aloud. It's like a dance between you, the page, and the audience. And it is a rush.
Good tips for reading aloud:
1. Practice. You need to know where you're most likely to mangle things. Practising aloud (which feels dorky but is really necessary) is the only preventative measure.
2. Read up. That is, don't hold the book or paper horizontally and bend your head down to the page. Hold the page up a bit and read out to the audience. It helps your voice carry, and people want to see your face when you read, not the top of your scalp.
3. Look at the audience. If you look up at the audience--and even make eye contact--at the end of every paragraph or so, you will connect with them. It's a shared experience. Also, looking up from the page helps with pacing.
4. Breathe. Really, this is important.
5. Slow down. Nerves will set your hands and voice shaking. Slowing down a bit helps calm your nerves and will help you center yourself. You want to be able to remember the reading. It should be as much fun for you as it is for the audience.