One of the few aspects of speaking I find difficult to get motivated for is rehearsing an upcoming talk. And then ‘hearsing it some more, followed by some more re-hearsing. Let’s face it, it can get very boring talking to ourselves over and over. But if we want to master our performance, minimize our nervous energy and improve our presentation skills, then rehearsing is a critical to our success as presenters.
Here are 9 tips for rehearsing presentations effectively:
1. Find Unique Chunks of Time to Rehearse. The shower is a great time to practice a five minute segment of a program (and according to my wife, preferable to me singing in the shower). Driving is another ideal time to run through a program. When I’m traveling, I use the one hour drive to the airport to run through my talk one more time.
2. Start Rehearsing at Different Points. If you always start at the beginning you may find your focus waning near the end of an hour run through. Often we end up polishing the first half of our talks a lot shinier than the tail end. So start rehearsing half or three quarters of your way through a talk to focus on the later sections with fresh energy.
3. Set Aside a Block of Time. When doing a complete run-through, turn off the phone and the computer. Don’t let anything distract you until you’ve completed at least one through.
4. Practice in Bite-Sized Chunks. Break your presentation into small discreet units and spend dedicated time just focusing on short segments. I find it easier to get motivated, it takes less time, and by putting a magnifying glass on a small section you can dedicate more creativity and energy on the fine details. Use these opportunities to pull a section apart, turn it upside down and to ask yourself specific questions. Is there a better word to use here? Is this the ideal quote to illustrate this point? How’s my body language during this story? Is there a prop that would help illustrate this example?
5. Practice in Front of Your Family. Keep in mind your family is a biased audience and it can feel very awkward speaking in front of a staged audience, but this is an easy way to force yourself to go through the talk. And use your family and friends to practice your stories – but don’t tell them you’re rehearsing, just use opportunities to go over stories and gauge reactions.
6. Do a Speed Rehearsal. I do these all the time, in the back of a taxi or waiting for another plane to board. I do a fast run through of the structure or outline of a presentation from start to end – taking no more than five minutes to mentally “download” a one hour keynote.
7. Watch Videos/Listen Tapes. Pretend you are a hockey color commentator and with a remote control in one hand and pen and paper in the other, pour over recordings of your talk like a coach dissecting the games. This is often the only way to catch some of those nervous body tics or overly wordy portions in dire need of editing.
8. Rehearse On Site. Although it’s sometimes difficult to do this, if you arrive the night before you may be able to arrange a time to get onto the platform and do a run through. The next best thing is to see the venue beforehand so you can visualize the audience and setting when you rehearse.
9. Try a Silent Run Through. In theater improv, there is a game wherein participants must redo a previously presented scene silently, as a way to focus on their body language and facial expressions. Another silly improv exercise involves doing a hyper-fast run through, which is a fun way to help commit a new program structure to memory.
Copyright Michael Kerr, 2011.
Michael Kerr is an award-winning Hall of Fame international speaker, trainer and author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work” and “Inspiring Workplaces.” You can reach Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org . For more humor at work articles, DVDs and other humor at work resources, surf on over to www.mikekerr.com . Michael helps workplaces reduce stress, boost morale, spark creativity and increase productivity by putting humor to work and by building great workplace cultures.
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