I’ve written about the importance of putting down your editing pen and taking up the job of public speaking practice. (In this photo, the Bushwackers Drum and Bugle Corps are practicing in Weehawken, NJ.)
If you don’t practice, you don’t get good. So you’re willing, right?
But how do you do it?
How Do You Do Public Speaking Practice?
The Rule of 3 tells us to look for no more than three answers, illustrations, or examples to any question; but in this case, I’ve got four things on my public speaking practice list:
- Practice your key message. This is the central idea that your audience will remember. Practice it backwards, forwards, upside down, and in your sleep. If you don’t truly know the main point of your presentation, how will your audience be certain they know it?
- Practice transitions. How will you carry one point into the next? And if you’re using PowerPoint, how will you transition one slide into the next? Flat transitions (“Here you see… This slide shows you… Here you can tell that…”) sap your audience’s energy and leave them adrift. Instead, carry them forward and build momentum with transitions that continue the previous slides point. (“Now, we’ve said X… but it’s also true that [new slide] Y makes a big difference. Or: “Once you understand the importance of practice [new slide] it’s a lot easier to master the basics.”)
- Practice your opening and close. Your opening should be confidently delivered, to set your audience at ease. Your close should feel like a “big finish,” so they know they’ve heard something important. Both those goals are much easier to reach if you’ve practiced your content and can focus on delivery.
- Practice any stories in your presentation (and don’t stint on the drama!). Few of us can tell a great story the first, or even the tenth time we try. Your stories deserve to be well-considered (what do you take out? what do you emphasize?) and well-shaped (with a beginning, middle, and end that are all about equal in length and weight); and only practice will guarantee that your stories are clear, concise, and satisfying.
But What About the Bulk of My Speech? Don’t I Have to Practice That, Too?
But have fun while you’re practicing, don’t flog it to death.
If you always practice the entire speech from beginning to end, beginning to end, beginning to end, beginning to… you’re going to start sounding (and feeling!) like someone who’s dragging themselves up Heartbreak Hill.
Instead, mix up your sections. Start talking at Slide 27. Work on your ending first. Discuss a point while you’re doing jumping jacks, or cooking dinner.
You may feel silly doing these things, but they’ll increase your mastery, and make practicing a delight instead of drudgery.
Your Practicing Take-Aways
For public speaking success, be sure that you practice:
- Out loud
- In sections
- While having fun
- A lot!