Don’t Rehearse…Rehearse SMART!
6 Rehearsal Tips for Turning a Good Talk into a Great Talk
The first two rehearsals are to iron out any glitches in either your text or delivery and to integrate any resource material you may be using (slides, props, etc.). After that your rehearsals are about working toward mastery of your material, using effective vocal dynamics and gestures, and maintaining a strong connection with the audience.
Repeat your speech several times out loud. This is to familiarize yourself with the flow of material from beginning to end. Don’t worry about expression or gestures yet. Your first task is to get the flow fluent, which means, no jumbling the order or hesitating because you forgot what you planned to say.
Now practice in front of a mirror or a video camera and focus on your delivery. I recommend recording yourself. Then listen to where your voice sounds engaging and energized and where it sounds flat or lacks emotion. Your goal is to sound as though you are enjoying giving the whole speech, not just parts of it.
Zero in on where you rush through or recite the words and add some vocal interest to them. Use techniques like “punching” key words and phrases to add more inflection to your voice in appropriate places. It will help you get used to the rhythm and sound of emphasizing them. Use my “Vocal Dynamics Codes” to mark up your script in key spots. For example, try underlining key words and phrases to “punch” during your practice sessions.
What to watch out for:
• Don’t hold back until you feel comfortable. You must show emotion in your voice and face from the very first moment you start speaking. Over-rehearse your opening, because that’s when you’ll be the most nervous.
• Racing through your speech. You pick up speed, especially when you are nervous or getting tired. Write PAUSE in several places where you can imagine zooming through the script.
• Little variation in tone or pace. Aim for vocal variety and expressiveness in your voice, so energy flows through your words and you sound warm and comfortable.
• Whispering too often when you want to vary your vocal inflection. You should do it on purpose and just a few times.
• Pausing or breaking in the wrong places. That weakens or alters your meaning. Aim for delivering a complete thought rather than speaking in small clusters of words.
• Repeated phrases eg. ‘and then I…’, or ‘So, then…’,
• Repeated fillers eg. ‘um’, ‘err’…
• Making your notes visible and/or flipping through them as you speak
• Clumsy use of resources, such as slides, props, video clips, etc. Rehearse how to use these fluidly and without technical glitches.
Remember if you include a joke, it needs special timing. Cue the audience where to laugh by briefly holding back the punch line and leaving space for the audience to respond after the punch line before moving on. If the joke bombs and nobody laughs, keep going as if nothing had happened!
The Dress Rehearsal:
• If you can present to a friend or colleague, do it. Their feedback could provide valuable last-minute suggestions. Tell them exactly what you want feedback on before you start. Ask them to take notes during your speech to give you after you have finished.
• Many meeting planners schedule “technical rehearsals”. This is when you make sure all of your electronic equipment will work. In addition, I recommend that you request a separate time to rehearse in the room, preferably with no one there.
• Run through your entire presentation as though it was the real thing. If possible, rehearse in the venue you’ll be using so you get familiar with the stage and can practice projecting into the space.
• Wear the clothes you’ll be wearing for the event so you can be sure you feel comfortable and that they’re not restricting in any way.
After you follow these effective rehearsal strategies, visualize giving your speech:
You feel confident walking on to the stage. Within the first minute, the audience realizes you are well prepared. They think, “OK! This isn’t going to be boring!” Then they relax and really listen to your message. When you finish, they enthusiastically show their gratitude for the great talk they just heard. Bravo!!