I’ve written about the importance of putting down your editing pen and taking up the job of public speaking practice. (In the photo below, 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… [click to new slide]… Y makes a big difference. Or: “Once you understand the importance of practice… [click to 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.
And don’t forget that, while you’re verbalizing words, ideas, key messages, etc., what you’re really practicing is how you want to FEEL when you share your speech with other people.
In other words—don’t practice words, ideas, and key messages. Practice saying what you mean while you feel the way you want to feel.
Your Practicing Take-Aways
For public speaking success, be sure that you practice:
- Out loud
- In small, random sections
- Scattered throughout your day
- While having fun!
In 25 years of speaker coaching, I’ve helped my individual speaker coaching clients develop their strengths and skills to become authentic and effective communicators.
Along the way, I’ve developed tips for everything from small talk to speaking up in meetings, from managing fear to making an impact.
And now, I’ve shared it all in 100 Top Public Speaking Tips: The Book. This beautifully designed PDF booklet is searchable, clickable, and categorized, so that you can find what you need, instantly.