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Practice Makes. . .

Updated: Feb 5


Practice Makes Perfect! Really?

If only that were true!

What if the material, and delivery you are practicing, isn’t correct? Practicing that over and over won’t result in you presenting a great talk.

How about: “Perfect Practice will lead to a perfect presentation.” Good luck with that, also!

The quote on the topic of practicing I prefer, and I can’t recall who said it first, is: “The road to perfection never ends.”

Let’s start this discussion about Practice with the fact that a presentation has two components: Content and Delivery.

Let’s continue with the premise your Content is in place. It has been written, re-written, critiqued by others, and tweaked more than several times. You, and others who have reviewed your

Content, agree it is excellent! That alone will not result in your talk rocking your audience because Delivery trumps Content. You may have the best content ever on your topic, but if it’s not delivered in a manner that educates, entertains, and explains it well, your audience will never GET IT! GETTING IT! is the goal of all communication; visual, written, or spoken.

Now it’s time to Practice. Here are Five Ways:

  1. Make an Audio Recording of your talk.

    1. This is also important to do when working on your Content. Recording and listening will help fill in presentation gaps and make corrections in the language and text of your presentation.

  2. It is not just what you say, but how you say it.

    1. Listen, critically, for pacing, inflection, pauses, and filler words; uh, so, like, you know, etc. Record and critique your presentation repeatedly for improvement.

    2. Do you mumble? Are you pronouncing each word clearly so they are easily understood?

    3. How is the projection of your voice? Does it ever fade?

    4. It will help to have your “coach” listen, also!

    5. You are too close to yourself to do this well and our minds often filter out things others will see and hear. Remember: “Professionals have coaches, amateurs don’t.”

  3. Deliver your talk in front of a Full Length Mirror.

    1. Take note of your facial expressions, gestures, and other non-verbal communication.

    2. The audience believes what they see. If there is a conflict between what you say and what they see, non-verbal wins.

      1. Remember one of the Obama / Romney presidential debates where the president almost blew it because he seemed aloof and disengaged?

  4. Make a Video Recording of your talk.

    1. You don’t need a fancy camcorder to do this. Your mobile phone or iPad will work fine.

    2. Evaluate your talk with your ‘coach.’

    3. Is your message, verbal and non-verbal, in sync?

  5. Practice in front of Friends and Family.

    1. Rather than ask, “How did I do?” Ask each person to name one or two things about your presentation they liked, and to suggest one or two areas that need improvement.

    2. Do this in front of several groups. Toastmasters is a great organization to join and practice your talk.

  6. If possible, practice at the scheduled venue. This can make a huge difference. At the very least, on the day of your talk arrive at the location early to familiarize yourself with the ‘lay of the land.’ Surprises can stress you out!

  7. Practice in your ‘Mind’s Eye.’

    1. Napoleon Hill, one of the earliest producers of the modern genre of personal success literature, said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive, he can achieve.”

      1. Picture yourself calm and collected as you deliver your presentation.

      2. Picture the audience loving your presentation; leaning forward, giving you eye contact, and delivering other positive nonverbal communication signals.

Other Practicing Tips.

  1. Memorize your Opening and Closing.

    1. The Presentation Law of Primacy and Recency says your audience will best remember the first and last things you say and do. Q&A, if done, should be placed before your Closing.

    2. This is why you want a strong opening and a strong closing. Memorizing, and repeatedly practicing them, will ensure this.

    3. A strong closing is important because the last thing you say and do will be the first thing they will remember!

  2. Practice Sticky Spots.

    1. We have a tendency to practice parts of our presentation we do well, and avoid problem areas. Those sticky spots will not get better left alone!

    2. It may be the words, inflection, or pacing that needs adjustment. Practice those areas until they are as good as the rest of your talk.You may need to change a few things here.

    3. Not doing this can cause angst and affect other areas of your talk.

  3. Be Conversational.

    1. An excellent speech should be delivered as if you were talking one-on-one to those in attendance. Don’t use words and phrases they don’t understand or you’ll lose your audience. Clean and simple language rules!

  4. If your presentation includes Slides, and there are good reasons to employ them, use high quality, universally understood images.

    1. “Bullet Points Kill! Kill the Bullet Points!”

    2. We cannot multitask! If you are reading a bullet point, your audience is likely reading a different one, and there is a disconnect.

    3. Bullet Points do not reinforce a message.

      1. They complicate the message.

      2. They confuse the audience.

      3. They conflict with the presenter.

  5. Your audience has the following three learning styles. Appealing to two or more of them increases the probability they’ll GET IT!

    1. Visual.

    2. Auditory.

    3. Kinesthetic (Learn by doing.)

  6. Practice – Practice – Practice with your slides.

    1. Presentation mode, in PPT and Keynote, makes this easier by letting you view what your audience sees and the upcoming slide.

  7. Amount of Practice.

    1. A good rule of thumb for how much time to devote is: One hour practicing for each minute of presentation.

  8. Little Things can make a Big difference.

    1. If you’re using slides in your presentation, practice with a remote control that can make the screen go blank. The attention of the audience will go from the screen to you, where it should be since non-verbal communication trumps verbal.

    2. Inflecting specific words in a sentence can dramatically change, and make memorable, points in your talk. This takes trial and error and practice!

      1. Example: “If you get something right the first time you do it, you probably don’t give it a second thought.”

  9. P-a-u-s-i-n-g gives folks an opportunity to think about what you said, digest it a bit, and anticipate your next statements. This takes practice!

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

–  Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

Follow the above suggestions for Practicing and I guarantee that presentation will be absolutely, positively – NO SWEAT!


Pausing is a key component of presenting.

About the Author Fred E. Miller is a speaker, an international coach, and the author of the books,“NO SWEAT Public Speaking!” and“NO SWEAT Elevator Speech!”

Businesses, Individuals, and Organizations hire him because they want to improve their Networking, Public Speaking, andPresentation Skills.

They do this because they know:"Speaking Opportunities are Business, Career, and Leadership Opportunities."

They also know:We perceive really great speakers to be Experts. We like to work with Experts.

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