5 Timesavers To Make Practicing Your Next Presentation Easy(ier)
You’re busy. I’m busy. So are my speaker clients, however those that deliver presentations confidently and with ease – the ones that engage and connect with their audience are protective of how they use their time when practicing.
It’s easy to put off practicing until the last minute or over-practice until you sound like a robot (and have diluted every ounce of passion out of your presentation).
It’s even easier to make good use of your time.
My first rule of thumb is not to be tempted to memorize your presentation word for word. I can, as can your audience, tell when a speaker has memorized their presentation. It’s obvious because there is a flavour of performance art – the delivery is a bit disassociated from the words. Memorized presentations sound robotic because it’s hard to instil passion in them – they lose their fresh, conversational vibe.
Rote memorization sets you up for a big problem. Forget one word and you’ll look like a deer in headlights and be grappling for what to speak to next.
Pull Out The Key Concepts
Here’s what I do and have my clients do instead:
- Practice your full script once or twice (out loud).
- Then gather a stack of note cards.
- Scan through your presentation and write down key concepts – one per card.
- Do a few practice run throughs (again out loud) expanding from your key points.
You’ll be surprised at how much you know and remember.
Many speakers have a hard time letting go of their notes. Notes are like a pacifier. One of the toughest leaps of faith I’ve watched many of my clients take is tossing them. There’s been a few stare downs while I firmly ‘asked’. What’s the benefit? You’ll sound natural, at ease, and confident. I developed the next practice assimilation technique by accident.
One of my very first clients was scheduled to deliver at a conference with a few months to prepare. Sadly, the previous year she had been in a massive car wreck and suffered a brain stem injury that effected her memory. First we worked together on the content and then I created a method to help her deliver her words.
For each concept, we found images that aligned to a key concept…an image that would trigger meaning. Sometimes the image made no sense to me but it was the right trigger for her.
She practiced from these and once she had made a solid connection she memorized the images in order. It wasn’t easy – it took a lot of work. She pulled it off beautifully.
I learned the value of aligning concepts with visuals. When I practice a presentation I’m usually in my living room. In a clockwise motion I attach each key concept to a piece of furniture … chair, credenza, couch, etc. I practice with each piece of furniture triggering my memory and riff off of the key concepts.
Some clients find this too discombobulating because having to retrieve the images conjured up from their home while standing on a stage is too confusing. For those clients I recommend they use their own body from the top of their head to the tip of their toes.
Only Practice What You Trip Over
As my requests to speak at events grew I soon realized that practicing a presentation from start to finish each time was time consuming. Many new presenters get trapped doing this. A better approach once you have your presentation in good shape is to only practice the parts that you are challenged by. This technique does double duty. It saves lots of time and also prevents over learning/memorizing. And while you’re practicing…
Many people shy away from recording themselves and then critiquing the playbacks. Once I got out of my own way I realized how valuable video and audio recordings are. My clients say the same. This is one of the richest forms of feedback. The trick is to remove your ego and put your critiquing hat on as though you’re watching or listening to someone you don’t know.
With your disassociated lens:
- Does your opening hook your audience in within the first 30 seconds?
- Have you established a solid through line and is it obvious during your entire presentation?
- Is your content persuasive? Have you established common ground and then inched your audience along to influence them?
- Does each concept flow well into the next (smooth transitions).
- Is your audience inspired by your close? What will they do because of your presentation?
- Are you using the full power of your voice and compelling body language?
- Did you pace your content well – will your audience be able to easily follow your arguments?
- Do you appear relaxed and confident?
Take what you’ve identified and apply them to your next practice round. It’s doing the hard work and learning these nuances that support delivering masterfully.
Block Out Time To Rest Your Hardworking Brain
A client recently returned from a conference in Italy and remarked how civilized the days were. The event was relaxed and the days were long because the organizers had scheduled a 30 minute break between each talk or session. The coffee flowed as did the wine later in the day. How civilized. During each break she had the opportunity to meet people and talk about the previous session. The beauty of this is the learning was becoming embedded.
The same holds true for your practice sessions. It’s important to block concentrated scheduled time and then have rest time to integrate the learning. As this article by Amir Afianian shares the research of how elite achievers excel, “To join the stars, do less. But do the work with absolute, intense, and hard focus. And when you’re done, be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day.” Because an overburdened mind is not capable of efficiently learning a presentation just like cramming for exams in uni didn’t work either.
Some of these concepts may be new to you and make you feel uncomfortable. I encourage you to try them to save yourself lots of time, make practicing more enjoyable and to deliver presentations confidently.
I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out and let me know how it goes.