Over the last couple of months, I’ve worked with 2 different people while they prepared for important presentations. As they created their content and fine-tuned their PowerPoint decks, they both asked about what they should do for practicing for the actual presentation. Today, I’ll share with you 3 different tips I shared with them about presentation rehearsal.
This simple tip is many times ignored by presenters. Early in my career, I would consider rehearsal to be nothing more than going through my slides in presentation mode. Then I would just think about what I would say to a slide. I would go through the animations on the slide to make sure they worked but I would never verbalize, or speak out loud, what I would say. While this kind of “silent practice” is good to get the flow of your presentation in your head, you don’t hear how the words go together. Verbalizing your presentation while showing the slide gives you a feel for whether what you want to say actually goes with what is showing on the slide.
A bonus tip for this is to stand up while you’re doing this kind of rehearsal. This puts your body in the same position that it would be when you will actually present.
While tip #1 is hard for many people, tip #2 gets harder. Rehearsing your presentation in front of someone is more difficult. Now you are standing up and presenting and letting someone watch and hear you. This type of rehearsal is sometimes referred to as a “dry run”. It’s not the real presentation but yet you are still almost as nervous doing this as giving the actual presentation. This type of rehearsal gives you 2 advantages. The first is that you get to feel what it’s like to give the presentation in front of a live audience (hopefully it’s a friendly one). The second is that you can get feedback from someone about whether what you are talking about makes sense.
I did this recently with a presentation I was giving with my wife as my audience. She noticed that whenever I began to tell one story that I have told numerous times that I completely lost my conversational tone that I had during the rest of my presentation. She reminded me that I shouldn’t go into my “automatic mode” of telling the story and I should tell it as though I was living through it again. It was a great suggestion that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had not done this type of rehearsal.
This is the hardest tip to follow and it’s one that I have a hard time with as well. Doing a presentation rehearsal with someone actually recording it and then watching the video after you’re done is incredibly hard to do but also very rewarding. What this does is show you what you look like to your audience. The first time I was told that I should be doing this, I refused. My reason for this was that I didn’t like looking at myself. The response I got back is classic. The person giving me the idea said: “Well the audience has to watch you so why shouldn’t you”? At that point, I gave in and now I do it when I have something that I really want to fine tune.
Follow these 3 tips for rehearsal and I promise that your final presentation will be much more polished than it would have been if you just did the “silent practice”. Remember, winging it is not a good strategy for any presentation.