It’s been awhile since we’ve emphasized the need to rehearse your presentations. You’ll not only keep your spontaneity, but more importantly, you’ll be able to benefit from many advantages:
- You’ll be ready sooner. It’s true that if you don’t rehearse you can finish your presentation the night before or even the morning of the big day, while finishing your coffee, but if you rehearse at least once, you need to have finished beforehand. Hence, your prep time will fit in better with your other tasks and you won’t be gripped by last minute stress.
- You’ll be more structured. In giving the presentation, the manner in which you narrate your idea becomes just as important as the idea itself. Those who rehearse have more effective transitions and narrative elements in mind that will increase the impact of their remarks.
- You’ll manage stage fright jitters better. For the most part, we all push back preparing our presentations as long as possible. What we call procrastination is in fact a flight reflex to avoid projecting ourselves into the stress of the presentation. A rehearsal is the time, even without an audience, when we can reproduce real situations and better prepare.
Obviously, you are like everyone else: you don’t have the time. But by refusing to invest the time necessary to rehearse, you’re preventing yourself from making progress. While each speaking engagement should be an opportunity to increase ones skills, you’re going to settle for validating what you already know or reproducing what you should avoid.
After the time factor, the main stumbling block to rehearsing is the feeling of not being ready, of showing the audience an unfinished product. This is certainly the main concern we have with the exercise of speaking: not showing ourselves in our best light, not controlling how we portray ourselves, giving the impression that we’re not ready or not up to the task. But don’t misunderstand the meaning of “rehearsal”: it doesn’t mean rehearsing verbatim what you’ll do on D-day, but rehearsing the structure of your remarks, the sequence and formulation of ideas, to hone your key messages and anchor the better automatic reflexes. If you’re waiting to be ready to rehearse, the rehearsal won’t be of much use. Waiting to be fully prepared to rehearse will perhaps earn you the admiring gaze of a guinea-pig audience. But it will especially prevent you from trying different formulations, testing alternatives to anchor the better hunches and making all the mistakes you can’t afford to make when the time comes. It is by daring to rehearse that you can sustainably expand your comfort zone.
Here are some tips to maximize your rehearsal time:
A rehearsal takes place as close to the real situation as possible; If possible in the room where you’ll be speaking with all your equipment: video projector, computer, remote control and PowerPoint in presenter mode. Even if you know that you’ll be sitting for your presentation, which we don’t recommend, it is more effective to rehearse standing up so that you feel more exposed, which helps you better prepare for the stress you’ll feel about what the audience thinks.
Obviously, if you have a practice audience, it strengthens the simulation. Be prepared however to receive the feedback that will be given to you. Your role is not to justify your choices or respond to all the remarks. On the contrary, you need to be able to listen and to filter in order to receive anything that can make you better. Take responsibility for all of it: approximations and mistakes; this is why we rehearse.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of saying what you want to do. Just do it. Rehearsing is the moment where you switch from a cerebral exercise (I build my remarks), to a physical exercise (expressing my remarks to an audience). Giorgio Strehler used to tell actors who had the habit of unloading too much: “First you play, then you talk!”
If you are alone, you can still rehearse quite effectively. Put yourself, as we said earlier, as close as possible to the real conditions. It is essential to rehearse aloud. Otherwise, you could lose yourself in your thoughts. By hearing your voice, you’ll have to stop and restart, to stick as close as you can to the idea that you want to express.
After all, the biggest prize to rehearsing is succeeding to free yourself from the weight of the words, so that you can be fully concentrated on expressing the ideas you want to convey.