Talent alone doesn’t make a great speaker. It’s a lot of things―BEFORE, during, and after a talk! [Wednesdays: “Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”]
According to Chris Anderson, TED’s curator:
“Whichever mode of speaking you decide on, there’s a very simple, very obvious tool you can use to improve your talk, but it’s one that most speakers rarely undertake.”
Any guesses about what tool he’s pertaining to?
Rehearsing your talk repeatedly.
Take note: Anderson did not only say “rehearsing your talk” but also emphasized it by saying “repeatedly.”
Why is this important in public speaking?
Let’s take a look at a few comparisons:
Musicians rehearse before playing their songs in front of an audience.
Dancers practice countless times before their actual performance.
Theater actors rehearse their play before opening the doors to the paying public.
For public talks, the stakes may be as high or higher than the performances above, yet some speakers think they can simply walk on stage without practicing at all.
As a result, there are occasions when hundreds of listeners’ time are wasted because one speaker didn’t prepare adequately.
For Chris Anderson, this is a “crying shame.”
Even Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Inc., didn’t become a good corporate communicator by talent alone―he put in hours of meticulous rehearsals for every major product launch.
Look at how successful his business is now. Apple is one of the biggest brands in the tech industry!
There are a lot more speakers who see the importance of rehearsing repeatedly.
According to stem cell scientist, Susan Solomon:
“By the time you are ready to give your talk, you should have rehearsed it so many times that you feel as if you could do it in your sleep and in front of any audience. Rehearse in front of friends. Rehearse by yourself. Rehearse with your eyes closed. Rehearse walking in the garden. Rehearse sitting at your desk, but without using your notes. Be sure that in your rehearsals, you include your visuals since timing with them is critical.”
American writer and lecturer Susan Cain also credits rehearsing in front of an audience for significant improvements to her presentation about her newly published book in 2012.
Here’s what she said about her experience:
“If you’re going to memorize your talk, make sure you know it so well that the words come from the heart. It’s not enough to practice it in front of the mirror or while you’re walking the dog. Use a real stage, and speak to at least one audience member. The Friday night just before my talk, the amazing Wharton professor Adam Grant gathered an audience of his 30 top students and alums, and I gave my talk to them. Their feedback was so insightful that I stayed up all night to rewrite the final third of the talk. Then I had to spend the rest of the weekend re-memorizing. I don’t advise waiting until the last minute like this! But I do recommend working with a real audience and a sage friend like Adam.”
Meanwhile, Rachel Botsman, a Trust Fellow at the University of Oxford, says speakers should be careful who they practice their speeches or presentations with.
“Practice your speech in front of someone who knows nothing about your work. I made the mistake of running through mine with people who are very familiar with me and what I am doing. The best feedback will be from people who can tell you where there are gaps in your narrative or where you are making assumptions that people will know X, Y, Z.”
The best scripted talks become familiar enough for speakers to concentrate on delivering their message…
… and the best unscripted talks are planned thoroughly so that speakers know exactly what trajectory they should take on the actual day of their presentation.
However, let’s also acknowledge the fact that public speaking rehearsals can be challenging and stressful at times.
There might even be some occasions when you simply cannot justify taking the time to do this!
In such instances, here’s what you have to keep in mind:
Every speech or presentation is important.
By “important,” we mean you REALLY owe it to yourself as a speaker and to your audience to work through the stress you feel by rehearsing.
In doing so, the stress will gradually turn into confidence and excitement.
Here are several questions to ask your listener/s during a practice session:
- Did I get your attention from the beginning until the end of my talk?
- Was I making eye contact with you?
- Were there enough examples to make my main points clear?
- Did you notice any annoying or distracting traits while I was speaking?
- Were my body gestures natural?
- Were there moments when you got a little bored?
- How was my tone of voice and pacing?
- Did my talk succeed in building a new idea for you?
- Did I finish on time?
For better results, you may also ask your audience to record your rehearsal on a smartphone so you can take a look at yourself in action.
As for your presentation time, it’s important that you take the clock seriously, especially if you’re part of a packed program―meaning, there are A LOT of speakers that will also speak at the event where you’re speaking.
Be mindful of the duration of your talk because overrunning your presentation time is like stealing time from other speakers who follow you.
This is not just about avoiding upsetting these people and the event organizer. This is also about landing your best talk.
Remember: Audience members respond more positively to crisp and powerful content. Even in history, some of the most powerful talks are short and straight to the point.
Take for example the 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
That speech only lasted for about 2 minutes and yet it’s one of the most renowned speeches until now!
When it comes to the actual day of your presentation, one of the last things you should worry about is if you’ll be able to deliver your presentation within the given time frame.
To avoid going over your time limit, use your rehearsals to fine-tune your talk. This will allow you to see where and when you should have allowances in giving your audience time to react to parts of your presentation and anticipate possible glitches or technical difficulties. Doing all these will enable you to focus more on the points you want to discuss.
Here’s a tip from spoken word artist, Rives:
“Your finish line is your time times 0.9. Write and rehearse a talk that is nine-tenths the time you were given: 1 hour = 54 minutes, 10 minutes = 9, 18 minutes = 16.2. Then get on stage and ignore the clock. You’ll have breathing room to pace yourself, to pause, to screw up a little, to milk the audience’s response. Plus, your writing will be tighter and you’ll stand out from the other speakers who are dancing to the rhythms of the same time limit.”
To sum this article up:
- It’s important to rehearse your speech or presentation multiple times, preferably in front of people who will give honest feedback.
- Work on your talk until it’s within your allocated time limit.
Rehearse your presentations seriously and take every insight and feedback you receive to heart!
By doing so, you’re helping yourself have a talk structure that is second nature to you so you can concentrate on meaning and delivering the message you’re trying to convey.
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”
In a meeting with one person
…a boardroom with five people
…or a huge venue with hundreds of people
—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.
No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.
What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?
Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.
The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.
(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)
Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.
Have that advantage.
Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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