Speaking Tips: Prepare

Have you ever been confused about the difference between practice and preparation? When it comes to speaking, sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.  There is a distinct difference though and not just in the academic definitions.

Let’s say you’ve analyzed your audience, made your promise, created your outline, and written your speech. Perhaps, you’ve edited it to some extent as well. What’s your next step? Easy: the next step is…practice.

Practice is just like it sounds. It’s just a matter of finding the method that works for you. Some people like to stand in front of a mirror. Personally, I like to use an open room. If I’m going to a new venue, I want to be sure I practice there at least once as well. How many times you practice is based on your own needs, and to some extent the length of your presentation. It’s not about memorizing your presentation. Many great speakers have said to me, “you need to internalizing your speech, not memorize it”.

What’s the difference between memorize and internalize? Think of it this way, do you have your name memorized, or do you just know it? Another way…when you memorize something, you recite it, when you internalize something you don’t provide it the same way every time.

Preparation, on the other hand, includes all of the actions you need to take to be successful, including practice. For instance, making sure that your handouts are ready and that you have the necessary equipment and props that you need. This pre-event preparation even includes things like having a pressed shirt and a way to get to the location.

As for on-location preparation, there are a few specific actions you should take prior to the presentation:
1. Know the room – hopefully you practiced on site at least once. If not, get there early enough to pick out locations in the room, and see where any dead spots might be.
2. Have your media ready – this includes electronic and handouts. Test the slides all the way through to make sure the colors still look right.
3. Have any recording equipment set up and tested.
4. If there are too many chairs, remove some from the back to bring the audience closer together.
5. Make sure the MC has your introduction ready.
6. Turn off (and remove) your cell phone!
7. After all of that, be sure you have time to rest/reflect for 5 minutes before going on stage.

There is a lot to think about when preparing for your next presentation. Don’t wait until the last minute to get set up. Take your time, use your own checklist, and be ready when it’s time to take the stage. With proper practice and preparation you will be more comfortable, more confident, and more valuable to your audience.

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