When you have to give an important presentation, do you take the trouble to rehearse it? If you don’t, in this note we are going to tell you why you should do it and how to practice.
For many years in my graphic design business the greatest return came from preparing slides for business presentations. Many of my clients were not good speakers and really suffered just thinking about facing the public that, in most of these cases, consisted of members of the same company and therefore of colleagues, subordinates and bosses.
Still, they ordered the job at the last minute as if that “kick forward” was going to postpone the dreaded moment. And the need to rehearse the presentation was actually reduced to memorizing the content, but very rarely did that person take the trouble to rehearse it in depth.
And as we talk about the business world, Carmine Gallo comments in an article published in Harvard Business Review that Steve Jobs was recognized as an extraordinary speaker . So much so that Bill Gates once referred to him as a “wizard” who “bewitched” his audience. Jobs is one of the few CEOs whose conferences have a dedicated page on Wikipedia ; their presentations alone could cause Apple’s stock to rise.
But if you look closely, his magic was that what seemed spontaneous was actually the fruit of numerous trials.
The best speakers make presentations look easy precisely because they put so much effort into perfecting their speech. More preparation means less panic and more confidence.
And if you think that rehearsing too much will make you sound inauthentic or spontaneous, remember that great speakers as well as actors and actresses rehearse many times even the smallest details, not just the speech itself, the jokes, the gestures, the movements, the costumes, the rhythm, the tone of voice, etc, I think you already have a good idea.
The best speakers make presentations look easy because they put a lot of effort into perfecting their speech.CLICK TO TWEET
To finish convincing you, I tell you that a play requires up to 6 weeks of rehearsals, about 5 days a week, 8 hours a day; and in general once on stage they seem convincing to you, right?
Don’t you have that calm to face an audience? Think of it this way: Firefighters, astronauts, airline pilots, etc., are NOT born with the ability to remain calm during a crisis. They train to face high pressure situations under conditions similar to those they will face on the field.
In the same way, repetitive exposure to public speaking reduces the anxiety that often precedes a big event. Get this in your head: Far from making you look like a robot, rehearsing frees you to enjoy the moment and convey your message with passion and energy.
Table of Contents [ Hide ]
- 1What You Should Try
- 25 Keys to rehearse your presentation
- 1Commit to improving 10 times more than the others
- 2Start with the same force you finish with
- 3Practice under mild stress
- 4Record yourself rehearsing
- 5Ask for feedback
What You Should Try
- Obviously the contentof your speech
- Should the tone of itbe serene, enthusiastic, passionate, authoritative, etc.? You decide according to the circumstances.
- The rhythm of the speech, the pauses between slides if any or between important points of the speech. As in music, silences are important.
- The time used, especially if the event has a very strict schedule. There is nothing worse than telling you that you have 3 minutes left and you still haven’t even reached the half.
- Your voice: volume, rhythm, cadence, pitch, etc. Remember that you have to warm up your voice like singers do before going on stage.
- Always looking at the audience, you have to maintain eye contact with them.
- Your improvisations: anecdotes, jokes (be careful what someone may consider offensive), your interaction with them, etc.
- Your body language : Pay attention to your gestures and movements of your hands
- Your location and movementon the stage or stage
- The use of equipment:notes, laser pointer, projector remote control, presentation software, presentation backup.
For everything to go smoothly if the presentation is made in another place than usual, you have to know in advance what equipment they have. Hasn’t it ever happened to you to go to a conference where the speaker can’t make the laptop or projector work? Or that they don’t have the software installed to run the presentation? And those who start looking for the presentation on their hard disk or pen drive at the moment (and cannot find it …)? Horrible … And those who have to give a demo or class and say “let’s see what I can show you today” …?
5 Keys to rehearse your presentation
The five guidelines below will help you get the most out of your practice. Let’s get started.
Commit to improving 10 times more than the others
The “10x gospel” is a business philosophy that stems from Larry Page, the co-founder of Google. When most leaders are happy with a 10% improvement, Page expects his team to create products 10 times better than the competition. Anything else, Page says, means the product or company would look like everyone else.
The same strategy applies to public speaking. If you want to give a fascinating presentation, one that really stands out, be prepared to rehearse a lot more than you have in the past, and 10 times harder than your peers.
There is no magic number on how much you should practice , some people have a natural predisposition to public speaking and others don’t, but let me tell you this, practice until it comes out natural, practice well in advance (weeks if possible), practice in voice high, practice moving as if you were on stage, rehearse with the equipment you are going to use.
It starts with the same force that you end with
At this point, you may start to fear sounding too rehearsed. This is where communication becomes more art than science. Your goal is to feel safe without memorizing each line, thus leaving some room for spontaneity.
The idea is to find the rhythm and keep the audience’s attention .
Remember that the two most important parts of a presentation are the beginning and the end. The introduction sets the stage for the rest of the presentation and gives your audience a reason to pay attention. The ending determines which parts of your idea people will walk away with and how they will feel about the overall presentation.
A TED talk is one of the few cases where it makes sense to memorize each and every word, because there is a strict 18 minute limit. For a general business meeting, set the first two minutes and last two minutes of your presentation, as well as the first and last lines of each slide you share.
Practice under mild stress
Susan Cain, the author of Quiet, is an introvert who struggled her entire life with the fear of public speaking . Accepting an invitation to TED Talk was far out of her comfort zone. Before her talk, a professor friend gathered about 30 of her students and alumni to watch her practice. Rehearsing in “real world” conditions gave her the opportunity to expose herself to what she feared and face it in manageable doses.
Cain’s talk on the power of introverts has been viewed more than 24 million times since then, and today she enjoys a career as a public speaker.
Researchers agree that the best way to present is to practice under stress.
Remember, going over a presentation in your mind is not the same as doing it in front of a crowd . The more you practice, the less chance you will break under pressure.
At first, your body can react: The heart rate tends to increase and the palms of the hands can sweat, some people stutter or cannot control the tone of voice. But as you get used to being in front of an audience, even if it is made up of just a few people, your body will stop showing symptoms of fight or flight (we are mammals after all). You will soon think that your speech is an opportunity and not a threat.
Record yourself rehearsing
There is no more valuable feedback than seeing you and hearing you give a presentation . The areas that need improvement are obvious.
By watching your presentation, you will instantly discover distracting habits such as moving uncontrollably, avoiding eye contact or hair flipping, stuttering, etc. Identify areas where you seem unsure or where words fail you. Those are the sections you’ll want to rehearse out loud or on the way home.
Photo by Miss Zhang on Unsplash
The most valuable practice tool you have is in your pocket: It’s your smartphone. Place the phone on a tripod or lean it against a book, check that you are well focused or at least that you are in the frame, check the audio and press record, start giving your talk and then play it back.
Then analyze it, correct the problems, polish the presentation and repeat again.
Ask for feedback
Before giving his first TED Talk, writer and podcaster Tim Ferriss (author of the famous “The 4-Hour Workweek”) practiced his presentation to a small group of strangers at a friend’s house to put himself under pressure. But what he did when he finished was even more critical. He asked the audience for their input and incorporated their suggestions into his next essay.
This feedback is so important because it allows you to find out without risk what you need to improve, while allowing you to gradually rehearse the fact of standing in front of an audience and captivating them with your presentation.
An effective presentation can also be your competitive weapon. A great presentation can do many things: launch careers, inspire employees, attract customers and investors and partners.
Take your schedule and set aside a few hours to practice before your next critical presentation. You will get more benefits than you can imagine.
And you, do you rehearse your presentations? Do you have a routine? Share your experiences with us below and give it to share on your social networks .