The most common question I receive when helping anyone with improving their presentation skills is:
“How should I practice for my next talk?”
Or, I get the cousin of this question:
“How many times should I practice my presentation?”
I’m going to address both of these items in this post by starting with the latter as the framework for how you should do it.
On that note, you should practice using what I like to call the Plus 10 Rule. I’ve explained this in earlier posts but I’ll highlight it here again. The Plus 10 Rule implies that you should practice a presentation the number of minutes of your talk plus ten. For instance, if you are going to give a 20 minute talk on a subject you would take 20 and add 10. Therefore, you should practice that presentation 30 times.
Please keep in mind that this recommendation is assuming you are building something from scratch. I’m not an expert on giraffes but if I was asked to give an informative presentation on the topic, I would apply this rule. On the opposite end, if I have been living and breathing a topic or subject for the last year and just need to refine my delivery, then 30 times would obviously be overkill. You are ultimately the best judge of the number of times you should rehearse but if you are looking for a guide or benchmark, apply my Plus 10 Rule.
Now that you how many times you should practice, let’s discuss how you should maximize the time you have allotted to rehearse. I’m going to list these from least important to most important.
Practicing in a front of a mirror is not the strongest way to rehearse but it is better than not utilizing one. If you can specifically find yourself a full size mirror, it’s a solid way to see your body language and analyze what your gestures look like and where you can improve with your posture. Utilizing a mirror is also an excellent venue for practicing incantations and getting your mind into the right emotional state of your talk. They say “saying is believing” for a reason. Lots of studies have been done on the positive impact of self-talk so utilize a mirror to coach yourself to a strong mental state.
You can use affirmations like:
“I am strong and powerful.”
“I will add value and enrich lives today.”
“I have a great message to share and people need to hear it.”
It may be awkward at first, in time, it will build your self-confidence and reduce your anxiety.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking in front of a mirror or even practicing incantations or affirmations, then grab a camera. We all have phones so prop it up on something and press record. You’ll be amazed by what you will observe. Your bad habits whether it be your Ahs and Ums, vocal fry, monotone approach, or lack of movement will all stand out. Observe them, document them, and work on reducing and eliminating them entirely. The camera will start out as your worst enemy but you’ll soon discover it is your best friend when preparing and planning for any presentation.
And finally, we have the best option for rehearsing any presentation that is speaking in front of another person. Grab your co-worker, friend, spouse - or perhaps even all three and give your presentation to them. Better yet, give them a score card to work from which makes the rehearsal time even more valuable. I’ve provided one here. What I really love about the score card is that it allows you to get honest feedback with every element of your presentation - from how you open and close, your gestures, the quality of slides, pacing, body language - all of it. The key here is to be open to their feedback and to utilize the constructive criticism to help you move your talk forward. It always amazes me how much things others see that I can’t see myself so be open to the thoughts and observations that will be shared.
No one ever said practicing a presentation is easy. It is actually quite the opposite. It takes a lot of intentionally, perseverance, and vulnerability. It’s hard work but if you are willing to invest the time and effort, you’ll reap the rewards and probably even change lives with your next talk.
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