The great paradox about public speaking is that it takes extensive preparation to sound spontaneous. The best speakers know the more familiar they are with their material, the more naturally they deliver the speech. So—practice, practice, practice!
Rehearsing your presentation until it is almost memorized is not a bad idea. Why? Because it is at that point that you can actually start to play with your delivery. When you know the material inside and out, you have the freedom to experiment with your rate of speech, pauses, dynamic builds, vocal variety, gestures and movement. Too many people move from writing their presentations on the computer to reading it aloud a few times to standing before an audience. There are a number of intermediate steps that should be included in your preparation. They can insure a smooth, nerve-free and successful outcome.
Read your speech several times silently to yourself. You can do this while seated, reading it off the computer screen or your notes. You still have the opportunity at this step (and the next) to make changes in your script. Is the grammar correct? Does it flow from one idea to another? Have you included transition sentences between major points?
Read the speech several times aloud. You are still practicing alone at this point. Shut the door and let yourself hear the presentation. Does it sound exciting/motivating/stirring? Do you include vocal variety? Are you speaking too fast or too slow?
Record it onto an audiocassette and listen to the playback as often as possible. Are any of your words garbled? Do you hear any “ums” or “uhs”? Listening to it in the car can be a great use of your travel time. You will become more familiar with the speech and may be able to memorize it just from listening to it.
Now get on your feet and practice it, alone, in front of a mirror. Watch yourself speak and take note of your gestures, eye contact and facial expressions.
Videotape yourself giving the speech. The camera is an invaluable rehearsal tool and will help you make rapid progress. The camera catches everything, good and bad, and you’ll be able to see every little facial expression, gesture and nervous habit. Record yourself again after making adjustments and see how you’ve improved. When you can look and sound good on camera, you’re ready for an audience.
Gather together family, friends or coworkers, present your speech and ask for their honest appraisal of your content, organization and delivery. Incorporate any equipment you plan to use—overheads, Powerpoint, flip chart, etc. You need to practice with it, otherwise you’re only rehearsing part of your presentation.
A tip: If you fumble too many times or lose your train of thought, you jumped into this step too quickly. Go back a few steps and rehearse some more alone.
Continue rehearsing the speech aloud as much as possible—in the car, in the shower, etc. This will keep it fresh in your mind and you’ll continue to find new and interesting ways to say it.
Visualization can be a great tool for speakers. Close your eyes a few times, picture yourself being introduced, walking to the lectern, speaking confidently and the audience applauding. Psychologists tell us that the brain records these pictures as actual events and will increase the likelihood of presenting a successful speech.
Every presentation you give deserves adequate rehearsal time. Why not be the best you can be? Give yourself the opportunity to follow each of the eight steps noted above and you’ll deliver confident, stress-free presentations.
© 2017 Jill Bremer • All Rights Reserved