Look at you!
You’ve overcome your glossophobia and you’ve accepted an invitation to be the guest speaker at the Secret Society of Persons Dedicated to Watching Paint Dry (SSPDWPD). And you’ve written a brilliant speech, to boot.
Now comes the part that stops you in your tracks.
Your delivery. And yes, you want to know about practicing your speech so you deliver the perfect speech.
That’s where I come in.
I will now surround you with love and give you 7 great tips for really practicing your speech, in a way that will truly nail it for you, as delivery goes.
But before I do, let me tell you why you should even be practicing your speech at all.
Benefits of practicing your speech
Every Speaker wants to have the audience eating out of their hands and YOU are no different!
But if somebody is going to eat out of your hands, then you’d better make sure that you’re holding something delicious in those hands. So lets compare delivering your speech to a great meal.
Your great content is of course, the main course. But for dessert, you really want to seduce your audience. To do this, you want to connect with your audience in such a way that the experience becomes a silky-smooth experience that they will remember for a long time.
Without practicing your speech, you will not achieve this.
That’s not all.
When you don’t practice, you worry about your speech and you don’t feel confident delivering it. Practicing your speech also guarantees that your delivery is just about flawless and your focus is where it belongs…on pleasing your audience.
Now that you’re completely convinced…here are your 7 super tips for practicing your speech.
1. How many times should you be practicing your speech?
This is the first question that most people ask me, especially when I am teaching public speaking.
The answer is not straightforward and is tied to your “mode of delivery” (as the pros like to call it).
There are 3 common modes of delivery. Let’s look at them.
1. Speaking from memory
Unless you’re a contestant in some oratorical event, you don’t want to memorise your speech. Especially if your memory is like mine (just about average). If you do, you might sound like you…aahhmm… memorised the speech. And if you forget your “lines,” don’t even call my name!
If you are doing the memorising thing, you will have to decide how many times you practice. But make sure it’s enough to stick the speech in your head.
2. Speaking from a manuscript
You can also write out you speech and present it from the script. This is used for formal speeches, where it is important to say the right words and not forget any important points. But this approach is a “no-no” for a persuasive speech.
If you’re presenting from a prepared script, you want to practice enough times so that if you lose your place when you look up, you’re not totally lost for words.
3. Speaking extemporaneously
This is when you speak without a formal script. Instead, you prepare note cards with the IDEAS and information that you want to share and deliver your speech from these. Many speakers prefer this approach.
This delivery style gives you a chance to sound sincere, appear more confident and in complete control of the occasion.
If you’re speaking extemporaneously, you want to be able to quickly glance at your note cards and pick up the idea or information you want to share, look back at your audience and share it.
As an unscientific guide for the number of times for practicing your speech, for this mode, works out at anywhere between 3 – 6 times. Less than 3 might not fix your ideas in your head, more than 6 could make you sick of the poor, innocent speech.
Remember: These are only guidelines and are impacted by your level of expertise and your level of confidence before you speak.
2. Don’t short change the approach to your practice
Most persons new to public speaking rehearse in ways that are hazardous to their public speaking health.
They begin, come to a place that needs more work, stop to work on it and then begin again. The results? The beginning gets practised and polished many times and the ending just a few. (Wuhloss…I can’t believe I used to do this too!)
A better approach is to go through the entire speech, make a mental or quick note of all the rough spots and then work on them collectively. In this way, each time you practice, you will have fewer rough spots and you will rehearse the entire speech.
3. Don’t use a “practice” script
Use the actual note cards or script that you’re going to be speaking from.
What usually happens is that you will make some note cards just to practice from. You will practice with them and edit them until you are satisfied. When you’re satisfied, you will write up a new set of cards and put them away until it’s time to deliver the speech. Right?
Wrong! When you make changes and you write new cards, rehearse from them at least a couple of times. In this way, you will be familiar with the new cards when you come to speak. This prevents your mind from comparing the 2 sets of cards and wondering what you left out.
4. Should you try practicing your speech out loud?
This is a matter of choice. Yours – not mine! But here are some relevant tips to help you choose:
- Practicing your speech out loud allows you to hear your voice and lets you know how well you have fixed your ideas in your head. Don’t forget, your voice is also part of your “WOW” arsenal.
- My friend says that practicing your speech out loud to an empty space makes her feel like a clown. Believe me, unless you’re speaking in a circus, it’s better to feel like a clown in private than to be a clown in front of an entire audience.
- Don’t practice in front of a mirror unless you think it will help. Trying to think of brilliant words to express your ideas and looking at yourself, distracts one from the other. (No offence to you or your speech!)
- If you can, make a video of a couple of your efforts. This would be a great help but, a word of advice. When you review the video, don’t be overly concerned about the size of your eyes or the shape of your nose. You cannot change these. Check for your overall impact as a speaker i.e. your strengths and weaknesses. These you can control.
5. Please practice with your visual aids
Yes I really did say that!
Practice with your pictures, models, overhead projector, multi-media presentation, whatever. Be sure you know how everything works and that everything works!
I’ve seen it too often – you’ve worked hard on how you look and how you sound, your speech rocks and then the powerpoint sucks!
6. Do practice the timing of you speech
If you are not told how long you are to speak for, ask the organisers and then time your speech as you rehearse it.
For some unknown reason, (I suppose to take you down a notch) the rehearsal time and actual “before the audience” time almost always differ.
Therefore, in practicing your speech, leave from 30 seconds to a minute at the end of your speech to accommodate this reality.
Practicing your speech in this way prevents you from having to speed up at the end to cover all your points or worse, having to slow down to stretch them out. Oh! nd if you’re expected to answer questions, check out this post.
7. Practice, practice but don’t over practice
Some speakers claim that they don’t like practicing because the speech is no longer fresh when they’re ready to present it.
I don’t agree but maybe I’m too chicken (or smart!) to present anything but a short impromptu speech which I have not practiced at least once.
It’s worth repeating here that when you don’t practice you worry about your speech and you don’t feel confident delivering it.
How do you know when you have practiced enough? When you feel within yourself that you’re ready to deliver your speech.
If you feel like you’re never going to be ready, stop working on your speech and start working on yourself!
Your next “practicing your speech” step…
So there you have them, 7 great tips to help you practice so that you deliver the perfect speech!
Practicing your speech also guarantees that you can handle anything that goes wrong during your speech.
It also establishes you as a professional when it comes to making a presentation and makes people happy to give you a winning vote of thanks.
So for your next speech, come right back to these tips and use them as a guide to help you improve your delivery. And if you feel comfortable with the way you practice, use them as a checklist.
To your great speaking success…