(Photo by Sanctu)
In last month’s article (“Layer Your Presentation: Research“) I covered the basics for getting ready to write your presentation. In this month’s article (part two of three) I cover the details for practicing your presentation in the comfort of your own home or office.
Get feedback. Before you go any further, find someone to read your draft and look at your supporting visuals. The reader should be someone who would be able to put themselves in the mindset of your audience member. If they can’t understand things now, fix it. Don’t assume that the power of your speaking voice will make things better.
Practice the speech as written. A speech on paper often doesn’t sound natural when read aloud. You’ll want to add natural word connectors (more formally called “discourse markers”) such as oh, well, like, and now. You might also find that certain phrases trip up your tongue too much. During this phase you’re subtly rewriting the speech to make it sound right to your ear.
Practice the speech as if you haven’t memorized it. The flip-side to memorizing your speech (or reading it from your notes) is that you’re more likely to give each word you speak equal weight and timing. This sounds mechanistic. In your natural speech pattern you speak at different speeds, different octaves, and even grasp for words. Practice adding these natural patterns to make your speech sound a bit less rehearsed.
Practice the speech while standing. Get used to standing comfortably (and naturally) for an extended period of time. The simple act of practicing your speech while upright will naturally adrenalize you, so standing can help you practice relaxing more.
Experiment with body dynamics. Your body dynamics can also be used to support your speech in similar ways to using visuals. Walk around a little when talking. Pay attention to what your hands could be doing. Lean forward. Research has shown we get as much meaning from watching body language as we get from listening to a speech (do you prefer to listen to a speech over the radio or watch the video?). On the day of your speech, you can always “dial down” the body dynamics. But if you need to infuse energy in your speech, and you haven’t practiced doing so, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to suddenly add it.
Practice with technology. Will you be reading from a dais or a teleprompter? Will you have a handheld microphone? Will there be camera people filming your talk? Technology can easily fluster you if you haven’t used it before. Borrow a friend’s gear to get familiar with how it works and what works best for your style.
Get fit. If you’re not in shape, start a small fitness regimen. Why? Treat your presentation as a marathon. By having a fitter body, you’ll be more able to handle the rigor of mental stress and physicality of standing (for hours on end, if you’re recording a video).
Next month I’ll cover how to actually perform your presentation.