August 9, 2011

Practice like you mean it, revisited

I wrote a post two years ago about watching some young football players giving their all on the practice field. It was impressive, and I'm pretty sure that when game day came, they were completely prepared.

The other day, at the track again, I witnessed the opposite approach to practice.

Two young women stood to the side of the track, practicing a dance routine. Every move was halfhearted. Hands hung limply, legs flopped lazily, and there was no energy or effort behind the steps. Worst of all, I could see them looking around to see if anyone was watching. They looked embarrassed, and only "practiced" for a few minutes before returning to the sidelines.

Let me ask you this, and be honest: Are you embarrassed to practice your presentations out loud? Are you uncomfortable putting the full effort into your practice, because it feels awkward to speak out loud, move your body and gesture as though you're in front of an audience, when you're not?

As Joey Asher says in a well-written blog post on rehearsing out loud,

"Practicing a speech in your head is like warming up your golf swing in your head. Speaking is a physical act. It’s done with the mouth. You need to get your tongue and lips and vocal chords accustomed to forming the actual words."

You may not even say the same exact words or use the same exact gestures in your live presentation, but it's critical that you practice in a way that is similar to how you want to deliver the presentation. You must get a feel for how your words sound out loud, how your content flows, where you might get a laugh or need to pause for emphasis.

You know I don't advocate memorizing a presentation or speech, and this is not what I'm suggesting. I am suggesting that, unless you practice out loud, with full intention as though your audience is in front of you, you won't really know how your presentation is going to sound or what it's going to look like.

And with so many factors out of one's control during a presentation (life happens, right?), wouldn't you want to control the one thing you can? Your own presence and delivery?

Practice. Practice out loud. Practice like you mean it. It makes all the difference in the final result.

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