By the end of this chapter, you should be able to
- Identify methods of practicing your presentation that work for you
There is no example of a perfect speech delivery. You are a unique person with your own approach or style in speaking. The more aligned you are with your natural speaking style, the more genuine and effective you will be with your audience. The goal is to speak as your professional self.
Being yourself, however, also means that your concern about what others think of you can cause anxiety, even during the most carefully researched and interesting presentation. Several techniques can minimize that anxious feeling and put you in the best possible position to succeed on presentation day. You need to prepare for your presentation in as realistic a simulation as possible. What follows are some general tips you should keep in mind, but they all essentially derive from one very straight-forward premise: Practice your presentation beforehand, at home or elsewhere, the way you will give it in person.
Practice Your Presentation Out Loud
Practice allows you to learn what to say, when and how to say it, but it also lets you know where potential problems lie. Since you will be speaking with a normal volume for your presentation, you need to practice that way, even at home. This speaking practice not only helps you learn the presentation but it helps identify any places where you tend to mispronounce words. Also, sentences on paper do not always translate well to the spoken medium. Practicing out loud allows you to actually hear where you have trouble and fix it before getting up in front of the audience.
Practice Your Presentation Standing Up
Since you will be standing for your presentation (in all likelihood), you need to practice that way. As we mention in more detail below, the default position for delivering a presentation is with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Also practice using the speaker’s triangle. Practicing this way will help develop muscle memory and will make it feel more natural when you are doing it for real.
Practice Your Presentation With an Audience
The best way to prepare for the feeling of having someone watch you while giving a presentation is to have someone watch you while you practice. Ask your colleagues, friends, family, or significant other to listen to you while running through what you will say. Not only will you get practice in front of an audience, but they may be able to tell you about any parts that were unclear or problems you might encounter when delivering it on the day. During practice, it may help to pick out some strategically placed objects around the room to occasionally glance at just to get into the habit of looking around more often and making eye contact with multiple people in your audience.
Practice Your Presentation for Time
You’ll likely have a time limit for your presentation. Practice repeatedly to make sure you are within the time limit without sacrificing the movements, pauses, and changes of pace that make presentations effective.
It is important enough that it deserves reiterating: Practice your speech beforehand in the way you will give it on the scheduled day.
No matter how hard you practice and how diligent you are in preparing for your presentation, you are most likely going to mess up some aspect at some point. That’s normal. Everyone does it. The key is to not make a big deal about it or let the audience know you messed up. Odds are that they will never even realize your mistake if you don’t tell them there was a mistake.