Why You Should Stop Practicing Your Speech

I want you to look good on stage! …..Deliciously good!!! …. So good that audiences can’t help but enjoy your presentations or speeches.

I know you have some great information to share.

But what do you do to get ready to present it in front of an audience?

If you follow the classic teenager/adult speaking prep sequence, you probably just practice 1-3 times at your desk and then go for it! Right?

Well, I am here to convince you will look better and feel better if… you expand your process. Even an experienced actor doesn’t run through a script 1-3 times and then jump in front of an audience and expect it to go well. They want more time to rehearse!

PRACTICE vs. REHEARSE

Let me first explain, there’s a difference when I say “practice” vs “rehearse”.

Practice is usually thought of as just doing something over and over until you understand or memorize the actions.

When I say “rehearse”, I’m referencing a CREATIVE PROCESS to develop your content for an audience.

It’s allows for editing, change, finding emotional peaks and valleys that make your presentation (or performance) interesting to your audience.

Rehearsal requires you to know WHY you’re doing or saying what you are. Then you can make purposeful choices, rather than random ones.

Likely, you content will evolve as you understand it better and your intentions. You will paint a better picture in your audience’s mind and allow them to WANT to listen to you.

You will feel more relaxed because your delivery is now partially a muscle memory for you. Now you can mentally be there in the moment…connecting with your audience instead of worrying about your line.

I want you to rehearse and give up simply “practicing”.

You might be thinking…”I don’t have time to put on a play, Lindsay. I’ve got to do research and write a paper too!”

I’ll tell you a secret.

*I have put off a paper until the last minute…and it showed. My grade often reflected my effort.  

I’ll tell you another secret:

While you’re presentation isn’t exactly a full length 2 hour play, it still needs to go through the refining rehearsal process.

REMEMBER: the Payoff!

  • It doesn’t have to take “forever” to put in interesting details and a story that saves your audience from boredom.
  • You’ll get a better grade (if it’s a school thing)
  • You’ll be seen more as a leader (it just happens…)
  • You’ll get better at speaking.
  • You’ll look good. (Less embarrassment)
  • Etc. (confidence, able to do well in job interviews, sales, introducing yourself….)

A Word of Warning

Don’t procrastinate getting started on your presentation. (I know you know this…but it’s worth being said.) It’s just about as important as the content. You won’t get the results you want if you don’t strictly schedule in your rehearsal days.

There’s a saying that says: “You have time for what you make important.”

I know you have a lot of different pressures and stress going on in you’re young life. Luckily, the rehearsal process can actually be fun! And…it makes things easier for you long term.  

To be honest, I probably never would have been motivated enough to try very hard on classroom presentations if I hadn’t seen first-hand how much better my grades were the rest of the year after doing one really amazing presentation early on in the year–and setting my reputation up with my teachers as a hard worker. The rest of the school year, I still was trying my best, but when I didn’t have time to do a full blown performance, my teachers still rewarded me with A’s as I gave them the minimalistic approach too.

You can do this! It’s not an unattainable goal to have a good presentation. It shouldn’t be insurmountable or overwhelming. It actually is really fun once you get over the fear of making a mistake in front of people. (It becomes a game to see how you bounce back!)


Hey, before you dig in, if you already know you’d like a printable version of the rehearsal process to hang by your desk! Just enter your name and email below and I’ll send one to you for free!

Here’s the basic breakdown of what you need to do to REHEARSE your presentation:

Step 1- Table Read

Get your ideas in an outline –and then if needed—a scripted format. Read these ideas out loud at your table/desk a few times. Listen to how your story sounds and what emotions might be hidden in the text.

Underline or highlight anything that sticks out as an area to try to develop further. Such as: Emotion, character’s goals that need emphasis, gaps that might be missing, connections that need to be added to help the story to make sense or move forward towards a resolution.

Step 2- Content Mapping

This is where you take any things you identified in the table read and can start to explore them further. What are your BIG ideas and themes?

Additionally, start considering WHY you are saying what you are. What motivates you? What are you building up to? Identify different tactics you use.

Write these down in the margin of your script (if you have written it out) or on a piece of paper. You will probably have many. Keep track of them.

If you don’t know why you’re sharing something, then you have a problem. It probably is not supporting your BIG Idea and might need to be cut or reworked.

Step 3- Blocking

Now it’s time to take the planning and work you’ve done and get on your feet! Blocking is a term that is used in the theater that just means where you’ll move on the stage.

(History Note: Long ago—I believe a director used literal blocks on a mini-set to represent where the actors would move during a play. Hence the word’s use in the theater arts. This isn’t important for you to know—but might be interesting.

Use CONTRAST to in everything tell the audience what’s important and keep them interested. (In your Content, Vocally, Physically—Pace, energy, movement patterns; voice; levels—high, low, middle; Sitting, Standing, etc.)

As you plan out your blocking, look for how you can use contrast to make important parts pop! Maybe your pacing quickly in one area, and then you slow down and sit down in another.

If you’ve done your content mapping, then you’ll find this stage way easier because you’ll know intentions. The blocking reflects these shifts of intentions/tactic.

Step 4- Tech & Props

Not every presentation needs tech or props, but decide early if you think you’ll need them…then GET THEM and use them in your rehearsal.

Examples:

Tech– Computer, Slides, Lighting, Audio, etc.

Props– Pen, Paper, Poster Board, Whiteboard, Stuffed Animal (remember you can always use items as “stand in’s” for other props. You don’t have to have a real microphone to talk about the time you….sang karaoke in Japan. You could use a pen to represent that item. So, don’t get stuck on literal/actual/ real props. It’s great to simplify as needed as just be representational.)


(PSSSsssst… is this helpful? If so, I’d like to send you a printable version of the rehearsal process to hang by your desk! Just enter your name and email below and I’ll send one to you for free!)

Step 5- Improvisation + Rewritting

PLAY AROUND WITH DELIVERY of your CONTENT! Now is the time to go over what you’ve blocked out and see what works. 

This means:

  • Get up out of your seat! (Be on your feet friend!)
  • Warm up your body & voice to loosen up.
  • Pretend you are standing in front of your best friend and give your presentation to them.
  • Allow things to change when they don’t sound natural or seem robotic.
  • Now is the time to play around with the content.
  • Change the order, speed, emphasis…etc.
  • Record any changes to your outline and script as you create a revised working presentation

Over time, you’ll find a flow.

You may naturally start to memorize the structure and find a rhythm. If not, try to memorize the story or…at least the main points you need to hit and then fill in the gaps between.

*You may be tempted to videotape yourself. This can be a slippery slope. It can be helpful if you want an outside perspective! BUT… Keep in mind that I think you should not use it immediately. Get something to work on more developed before you switch on the “go” light on your camera.

Video can make you super self-conscious. I don’t want you worrying about how “fat” you look or how weird your voice sounds. Instead, use video recording with the intention of being a better speaker (not to start negative self-talk).

**Another thing, mirrors won’t make you a better speaker. Beware of talking to yourself —-while watching yourself in a mirror. Since you WON’T see yourself in a mirror when you actually perform, it really won’t help. Again, use a mirror as a tool if you need to see what others and you can’t understand. I needed a mirror in college to see how I wasn’t using my lips to speak. Once I saw what my professor was explaining, I knew exactly what to do and was able to make the correction and continue on without a mirror.

Step 6- Invited & Open Rehearsals

You’ve got a plan…you’ve rehearsed and tinkered with it. Now, try inviting a guest or a small audience to a rehearsal. If you feel comfortable, ask for feedback.

Just make sure the people you invite are the RIGHT people! If you have an overly critical aunt…maybe don’t invite her. Also, if possible, try inviting someone who is similar to the audience that will ultimately be in your audience. Then you can see if there’s anything confusing that they might not understand.

You can use my templates and checklists to make sure your feedback insanely useful. Click here to checkout the REHEARSAL FEEDBACK TOOLKIT. In there I have:

  • A quiz for you to use to make sure you actually ARE picking the right person for your rehearsal.
  • How to Ask for what you need (there’s different levels and types of feedback…you may or may not want it all.)
  • Template to Set up Rules & Structure  for your Rehearsal (So you feel safe and comfortable)
  • Clear Comment swipe sheet (the person watching can just “check off” the feedback they have for you from a long list of options)
  • Notes Template (so the feedback you get is organized and user friendly)

REMEMBER: You can always go back and work on parts that might be confusing or that need to improve.

If possible, leave time in your schedule for to rehearse alone (improvise time) and another run through with invited guests if needed.

Step 7- Tech & Dress Rehearsal

Now it’s time to do a run through of your presentation in the clothes, shoes, and hairstyle you plan to on the day of the presentation.

This is the time to make sure you can move and feel comfortable in your clothes. Maybe you need to wear black or white in case you’re known to sweat a lot and get armpit spotting! You can also make sure your shoes are comfortable to wear and won’t click and clack to much as you walk (unless you are okay with that).

Make sure your hair isn’t in your face (or falls into your eyes every 3 seconds) when you talk.

Let’s not forget about the tech! If you are using slides, practice with these. If you can, get into the actual space you’ll be speaking in to do a fast run though.


Once you’ve worked out the kinks of the tech and you know your story content really well, you can know get in front of an audience more confidently because you’re prepared.

 

Sooooo, yeah! YOU MADE IT THROUGH! You know the process to refine your presentation and make it a rehearsed piece of content!

The only thing left is to go GIVE THAT PRESENTATION!

To recap:

  1. Table Read- Get familiar with story content
  2. Content Mapping- Identify your BIG Ideas, Why’s, Tactics, Themes. Mark them in your script.
  3. Blocking- Block out movements you’ll make on “stage” that are purposeful.
  4. Tech and Props- Slides, visuals, etc. Start working with them early!
  5. Improvisation + Rewriting – Play with the content delivery to find the best way to share info with you audience.
  6. Invited + Open Rehearsals (with invited guest or small audience)- See how people react and understand your content.
  7. Tech and Dress Rehearsal- Check to make sure any use of technology goes smoothly and rehearse your presentation wearing the outfit you plan on wearing when you rehearse.


It might not sound simple—but it’s surprisingly comforting process once you get the hang of it!


Remember: Follow the Rehearsal process! It will make you look, sound, and be deliciously prepared!


If you haven’t gotten it already…I’ve put together a printable version of the rehearsal process to hang by your desk, enter your name and email below and I’ll send one to you for free!