This is a tough choice, because you almost never have enough time to devote to either of these activities, let alone both of them.
So if there isn’t time to edit your speech to “perfection” and there isn’t time to practice ’till you’ve thoroughly “internalized” it (made it your own), what should you do? Short-change one activity? Split the difference? Just get onstage and wing it?
Good Old Avoidance
Most people solve this conflict the good old-fashioned way: By avoiding the choice they dislike the most.
And since most people dislike practicing more than they dislike editing, most people (left to their own devices) will edit ‘till the last possible moment, leaving themselves no time to practice.
I have actually seen business speakers (not my clients!) still making notes on their script as they walk to the stage to deliver! Trust me, this virtually ensures a lousy experience — for the speaker and the audience.
Yes, I’m Talkin’ to You!
I was recently reminded that even the best speakers can make this mistake when one of my most skilled clients was still “fixing” her script an hour before she was due onstage. Ironically, I would long since have pulled the editing pen out of most other people’s hands. But in her case, I didn’t, because I figured she could pull it off.
Which she did. But though her speech was honed to a razor’s edge, she didn’t deliver it with her usual verve. Her focus and her rhythm were subtly off, and she allowed herself to be thrown by a distraction (dry mouth) that she would normally have ignored (And by the way, if you need water while you’re presenting, ask for it! Yes, right into your microphone, if need be.)
Though her speech was still highly effective, she knew it wasn’t near her best — and being your best is way more fun.
Don’t Let This Happen to You
There are going to be times when you have to give a speech you don’t know as well as you’d like.
What you really don’t want to ever do, though, is give a speech that you don’t know at all — and, believe it or not, that’s just what happens if you edit up to the last possible minute. You’ve worked so hard on the words on the page that you’ve never felt the words in your mouth… never heard them in your ear… never put them in your body.
A speech is about the words that are spoken, not the ones you’ve “perfected” on the page. So put down that editing pen, bite the bullet, and start practicing.
And if you need more help to get this done, contact me!
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.