The classic maxim, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail,” is extremely true when it comes to public speaking. If you have to deliver a speech and haven’t practiced your delivery, you’re going to fail.
Here’s the stark reality: You are the presentation.
Yes, your arguments, illustrations, facts, and anecdotes certainly matter. But if these things are delivered in a flat, uninspired way, they won’t resonate with the audience. Your speech will fall flat, failing to motivate your listeners and becoming mostly forgettable.
Stage presence is vital to motivation and audience and just as important as the presentation itself.
The good news is that you can practice your delivery to the point where it’s compelling, interesting, and highly motivating. And you don’t need to spend hours every day practicing. In just ten minutes per day, you can master the art of delivering a speech.
In this two part post, we’re going to give you effective tips for delivering more effective, powerful speeches.
In part two we’ll cover what to practice when you don’t have an upcoming speech. But for now…
What To Practice When You Do Have An Upcoming Speech
Practice Speaking Out Loud
Don’t simply review your notes, again and again, repeating everything in your head. Say your speech out loud and listen carefully to your words. The truth is that the written word sounds different than spoken words. When you give your speech out loud, it allows you to get a sense for what you’ll sound like when you deliver your speech. You can adjust as necessary.
Practice In Front Of A Variety of Audiences
Additionally, consider practicing your speech in front of different audiences to help you get comfortable speaking in front of people. Start with yourself as the audience in front of a mirror. Then give your speech in front of a camera and watch the final product.
Then ask your significant other or a close friend to hear your speech and give you constructive feedback. Finally, give your speech in front of 3-4 people and get feedback from them as well.
When you’re practicing your speech in front of the small group, make a concerted effort to make eye contact with each person on a regular basis. This will help you get in the habit of looking at and engaging with your audience.
Dress In The Outfit You Plan On Wearing
When practicing your speech, wear the outfit you plan on wearing the day of your speech. This will allow you to get comfortable in those clothes and keep you from playing with them. It also enables you to practice using elements of your clothing for emphasis, such as rolling up your sleeves or taking off your jacket.
Be smart when wearing jewelry. It can catch the light and add to your stage presence as long as you don’t overdo it.
Practice On The Stage Itself
If at all possible, do a test run of your speech on the stage where you’ll be standing. This test run doesn’t need to be long — even just 10 minutes may be enough. You simply want to get comfortable standing on the stage with the lights shining on you.
7-Day Sample Practice Schedule
Assuming that your speech is completed (fully written, etc.), here is a sample 7-day practice schedule that can help you prepare to give your speech.
On day 1, just practice giving your speech out loud. Don’t worry about your delivery or making eye contact. Simply focus on the vocal portion of your speech. You want to get comfortable with the words of the speech and try to burn them into your memory. If there are any tricky parts in your speech, rehearse them more than once.
On day 2, practice your speech in front of a mirror or camera. This time, focus on your stage presence and delivery, not the vocal portion of your speech. Your goal during this session is to develop your stage presence to the point where it’s engaging and interesting. Don’t focus much on the vocal section at this point.
On day 3, practice in front of a mirror or camera again. This time focus on making eye contact and your stage position. Pretend you’re speaking to an audience and making eye contact with specific members of that audience. Move back and forth in front of the camera as if you were moving back and forth on a stage. You’re not focusing on vocal delivery or stage presence at this point.
On day 4, practice in front of a camera again and put all the elements above together. Work on your vocal delivery, your stage presence, your eye contact, and your stage position. Act as if you were actually delivering your speech to a live audience. Then review the video and make adjustments as necessary.
On day 5, it’s time to do your speech in front of a live person. Incorporate all the elements into your speech and wear the clothes you’re going to be wearing when you deliver your speech. After you conclude, ask them to give you helpful, constructive feedback.
Days 6 and 7
On days 6 and 7, you’re going to repeat your performance from day 5 but with an emphasis on implementing feedback. After every delivery, ask the person(s) for more constructive feedback. Then seek to implement that feedback into your speech.
Stay Tuned for Part 2
In part two of this article we’ll talk about what you can practice when you don’t have an upcoming speech. The more you practice when there’s no pressure of an upcoming speech the easier it’ll be to focus on the speech itself when it comes, rather than all the other aspects of speaking.