Chances are you've walked by your local coffee shop or neighborhood bar and seen a crowd of people listening to a poet reading his or her work. Usually free or requiring a small cover charge, open mic (short for "microphone") readings are for anyone who wants to read their poetry in a public venue. Sometimes open mic nights have a featured reader or writing workshop, but generally there is a sign-up sheet for anyone interested. Each poet is called to step up to the microphone and read a poem or two.
Participating in an open mic reading can be a lot of fun. Some people attend just to listen, others to try out a new poem for an audience, and still others stop by to see if any crazy hijinks will ensue during the reading. It's a great way to meet other writers in your area and find out about your local writing community. Check your local newspaper or library, ask at your local coffee house, or find a writers' group in your area for information. You can also look for events on the Academy's National Events Calendar and National Poetry Map. Even if you drop in just to listen, open mic nights are a great way to celebrate poetry all year long.
Here are some general public speaking tips to get you started: