Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Speaking Skills: Rehearsal

After you have worked on your mindset and more or less completed your planning, it’s time to rehearse (the third key to better presentations). Rehearsal and practice are critical for being comfortable when giving a presentation of any kind. If you are well versed in your material, you’ll be much more confident and less likely to get flustered. Practice as much as you feel you need to. Here are some tips:

  • Practice your presentation by speaking at full volume (not whispering to yourself or “thinking” through it). I used to rehearse by whispering because I felt foolish talking to an empty room, but I found I was almost afraid to speak up as loudly as was necessary during the actual event!
  • Practice while standing up and moving around, as you would be during the actual presentation.
  • Practice the speech in sections (just the intro, just the conclusion) if you have limited time. Try to get at least two or three run-throughs of the entire thing.
  • Practice with a test audience, if possible. Anyone listening in can tell you if you are speaking too fast or too slowly or if your material is confusing.
  • Practice with visual aids until you can use them easily and appropriately.
  • Watch your pacing and time limits. Use a timer! This is very important--if you find your prepared material is running far too long, you have some cuts to make. On the flip side, if it’s running way too short, you have more work to do.
  • If you have scripted your speech, commit it to memory or reduce reliance on notes. Practice only glancing at your notes from time to time; you don’t want to just read from them when you give your presentation.
  • If at all possible, practice in the actual space you will give the presentation (or at least get a look at it, if it’s not familiar to you). Moving to use all the space available to you is a good way to engage your audience.
  • Practice your body language--you probably need to exaggerate your gestures to get your point across, especially if the audience is large. Many people only make gestures from the elbows down, which makes it look as if your arms are pinned to your side. Use your whole arm!
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, videotape yourself so you can clearly observe your pacing, volume, gestures, enthusiasm, and use of space.

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