Whether you take advantage of a formal public speaking workshop or not, don’t ever neglect the need for practice. This does not mean simply giving your presentation a cursory once-over. You need plenty of rehearsal time before you are ready for the big show. An earnest practice regimen is the single biggest key to successful presentations.
The more you practice, the more comfortable you become with your subject matter and your delivery style. The more you internalize your material, the less you have to worry about the day of your performance.
In other words, “Internalize to Verbalize.” The more your speech becomes a part of you, the easier time you have conveying your message. Internalize to Verbalize.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
It is essential that you practice your presentation aloud. What looks great on paper may not sound as good to the ear. It is the same difference a writer experiences when he writes a magazine article as compared to copy for broadcast news. One form is targeted toward the eye, the other toward the ear.
Most people who have not studied public speaking in depth have little real idea what to look for without the steady guidance of a communications advisor. Your success depends on gaining counsel from a professional who can properly interpret the research and lead you to a higher communications performance.
What practice format works best? I strongly recommend the video route. You do not necessarily need a professional set up complete with bright lights and wireless microphones, or a broadcast quality product. Placing your phone on a tripod can work just fine. You simply need to be able to see yourself.
If you want to rehearse alone during your first few run-throughs, that’s fine. That can allow you to work on your rate of speech, gestures, and the like. But as you get closer to the day of your presentation, arrange to practice in front of real, live human beings. When the big day arrives, you will be speaking before a crowd of people. So enlist co-workers, friends, or family as your test audience.
Make it a point to ask them for feedback. Tell them you need honesty, not flattery. If an anecdote runs too long, you need to know in order to correct it. If your eye contact is spotty, they will perform a great service by informing you.
As you transition into your final practice sessions, be sure you are working with your final remarks, or at least a final draft. Whether you opt to work from an outline, notes, full text, or slides, rehearse using the finished product so that you know where to insert a pause, when to display your props, and the like.
The Bottom Line for Your Company
I sometimes hear from companies with a group of four or five senior managers who could really use some help with their presentation skills. But the organization doesn’t know how to go about teaching them.
My suggestion? Interactive, experiential training. People learn by doing. Practicing and reviewing your performance on video is the most powerful learning tool I can recommend.
Of course, much depends on the specific situation. Your group may benefit most from:
- One session that includes everyone
- Two separate sessions divided by areas of expertise, seniority, or some other logical grouping
- An executive training for your CEO and separate seminars for your vice presidents, managers, and supervisors
- Breakout groups using multiple consultants
The key is flexibility, honoring each individual’s needs by giving them what they need.