A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not in the branch but in her wings.
It never occurs to her to wonder, “What if?” because she instinctively understands that, if the branch does break, she can always safely fly away. Yet, as people who speak in public, we often swamp ourselves with “what ifs.”
You really don’t need to put yourself through this! Just like the bird landing on a branch, you can have complete faith in yourself and your presentation. How? By sufficiently rehearsing.
I know … I talk about rehearsing all the time. But rehearsing is key to both being calm and presenting well. But knowing that you should rehearse and knowing how to rehearse are two different things. So, to help with that, here’s my process.
After I create my presentation, I edit it. But this editing process isn’t to search for grammatical errors. It’s really to determine whether or not:
Once I’m satisfied, I sit at my desk and read it out loud, listening for the parts that sound “written,” as opposed to “spoken.” Like most of us, I speak much more casually than I write, and since this is to be spoken, my draft needs to be written that way.
When things are all set, I read it out loud again, this time recording it. Now, I can play it back, asking myself the same questions I had before. And I’m also listening to hear:
After making any necessary edits, it’s time to step it up a bit. It’s time to begin to practice portions of my presentation. At this point, I’m not interested in presenting the entire presentation, just portions of it so I get familiar with each segment. I’m also not trying to present it verbatim. I’m just trying want to get the feel for each particular point.
During this time, I prop up my phone, and record on video. Then I play it back three times, each in a different way. First, is audio only so I can listen to the content, as well as for fillers and voice variety, including pitch, rate, tone, and volume. I take notes while listening.
Second, I watch it with the sound off. How do I look? Do I look at ease and confident? Am I pacing? What’s my body language saying? Again, I take notes.
Third, I review the audio and video together. Once again, taking notes.
Once each segment is as I want it, it’s time to bring it all together. I include any slides and/or props. If I’m going to be holding a microphone, I hold a microphone or substitute. If I’m going to move on stage or in a room, I’m sure to move while rehearsing. And … I do all of this at the volume I’ll be speaking at during my presentation. And! … in the clothes I’ll be wearing that day! All the while recording each rehearsal.
Does all of this take a good amount of time? Definitely! Is it worth it? Only if you want to have as much trust in yourself when speaking in public as the bird does when landing on a branch.
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