What to Practice When You Don’t Have an Upcoming Speech
In the first post of this two-part series we talked about how to focus your practice time for an upcoming speech. But most of the time you probably aren’t seven days away from presenting.
That’s a great time to work on the parts of presenting that aren’t dependent on the words you’re saying.
Even if you don’t have an upcoming speech, it’s still incredibly valuable to practice your delivery. When the time comes to give a speech, you’ll be fully prepared and comfortable with your own delivery style.
What specifically should you practice? Here are a few things.
Stand Without A Podium (Or Anything Else) In Front Of A Mirror
Standing in front of a mirror allows you to get a sense of what your delivery is like. It allows you to watch yourself, analyze your movements, and adjust as necessary.
When you stand in front of a mirror, don’t use a podium or anything else that you can lean on. You want to be able to move about as you practice speaking. Podiums are distracting and separate you from the audience, making you less accessible and real.
What should you talk about when you stand in front of a mirror?
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Talk about your day or something you read or how your favorite sports team is doing. If you’ve memorized poetry or a famous speech (such as The Gettysburg Address), recite that. Your goal is simply to get comfortable speaking out loud.
Additionally, focus on building stage presence when you practice speaking. Stage presence is the ability to command an audience, both through your words and movements. The more you can develop stage presence, the more compelling your speech will be.
How can you practice stage presence?
∙ Move around in front of the mirror
∙ Move your head as if you’re looking at different sides of the crowd
∙ Stand upright and maintain good posture
∙ Don’t play with your clothing
∙ Use hand gestures
By doing these simple, yet effective practices, you can begin to develop your stage presence.
Watch Speakers You Admire and Imitate Them
Obviously, you want to develop your own style of speaking, but watching well-polished, professional speakers is a fantastic way to learn the art of public speaking. When watching your favorite speakers, take notes on their delivery.
∙ How do they engage with the audience?
∙ What patterns of speech do they use?
∙ What sorts of illustrations do they employ?
∙ How do they keep the audience interested?
Watch TED talks or Steve Jobs giving Apple Keynote speeches. Watch famous speeches such as JFK’s proclamation that the United States would go to the moon. The more you watch and absorb great speeches, the more you’ll be able to incorporate various elements of those speeches into your own.
Practice Your Speech Patterns
Few things cause an audience to zone out faster than using the same tone and speech patterns throughout your entire speech. If you speak in a monotone voice at the same speed throughout the duration of your speech, you’ll quickly lose your audience.
Vary the length of words and sentences you use. Practice telling exciting stories. Use serious, dramatic tones, as well as lighthearted, funny tones. Practice your transitions between different tones so that they don’t feel overly abrupt. Consider how you can use your position on the stage to transition between your tones.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The more you practice your speech, the more comfortable you’ll become delivering it. The more comfortable you are delivering your speech, the more compelling and powerful it will be.
So don’t skimp on practice. Even if you can only practice for 10-minutes per day, the time invested will be well worth.
Now get out there and deliver an amazing speech!