Let’s face it, there are thousands upon thousands of outstanding pieces of literature out there. Many of them present images and sentiments we would love to express in language that is often beyond our literary gift to produce ourselves. So why not use them?
There are at least two ways we can present such material. We can incorporate them into our own addresses, or we can present them as standalone features. Either way, there are some simple rules and techniques we should follow and/or employ.
Select a passage that is meaningful to you. Random selections don’t always “speak to you,” so they are harder for you to “speak to others.” Once you have found your piece, read it through a few times. Are there any aspects of it that “drag” such as lengthy descriptions? If so edit these. Abridgment and minor paraphrase is okay in order to make the passage “your own.” Be careful with dialogue as well. “He said,” “she said,” can become monotonous, so limit these by using vocal modulation to suggest character change.
It is okay to mark your manuscript as well with tags and notes to yourself. This after all is a reading not necessarily a recital, and as such no one will challenge your use of notes.
The exception to this last point is your introduction. A well prepared and memorised introduction gives the audience a sense of your preparation and helps build trust in them, and confidence in you. In your introduction, give a general overview of the source, and of the particular passage you are presenting. Context helps prepare and engage your audience. Be sure to make the proper attributions to the author as well. Even if abridged or paraphrased in part, it remains their work.
Have fun with it, practice it, and try variations of it. When it sounds right to you, stick with that version.