The poorer your preparation is and the less work you do, the greater the probability that no-one can relate to your speech, in a way that will make the audience forget you already during your presentation.
So, how to practice a speech? A well-prepared speech means practicing. The poorer your preparation is and the less work you do, the greater the probability that no-one can relate to your speech, in a way that will make the audience forget you already during your presentation.
Practicing your speech requires time and persistence. This is also the main reason why most public speakers prepare themselves for presentation thinking „I prepared the slides, totally last minute, but still, now I’ll just be waiting for my presentation“.
Well, this is not the best approach in the world. An ordinary person is as lazy as they can be. Therefore in today’s post, you’ll find out how to practice a speech and how to make your speech practice more effective.
Table of Contents
Prepared speech and proper preparation
Proper preparation is the basis for making a good speech. Being properly prepared, you will avoid many potential problems. Practicing your speech is a vital part of the preparation process.
I’ve posted about how to improve public speaking skills, pointing out that you need to check the background of the audience. This means finding answers to the main questions about your listeners:
- Why are they attending?
- How much do they know about your topic?
- Have they seen anyone else making a speech on the same topic?
- What is the main benefit they can expect to get from your presentation?
- What happens before your presentation?
- What happens after your presentation
- How old are your listeners?
- Are there any gurus in the audience?
These are just a few questions to ask when analyzing the audience before your presentation.
In addition to analyzing your audience, making a speech plan, and thinking through all the preparations, you also need to practice your speech at home. This is especially true for shorter speeches.
When it comes to longer speeches, you should certainly practice making an introduction, a summary as well as review the parts you feel most uncertain about. So, now let’s talk about how to practice a speech (by the way: you can also use those tips when preparing to impromptu speech)
How to practice a speech?
Practicing your speech, it’s important to highlight ten main aspects to make your presentation more effective.
1. At first, practice in an empty room. If possible, in the room where you’ll be making your presentation
When practicing in an empty room, you don’t have to worry about what others may think. If you can use a video projector in this room and show slides, even better. Imagine keeping eye contact with the audience in the room. To practice doing this, place random photos of people on the chairs in the room.
If you get a chance to practice in the room where the actual presentation takes place, you can also get a better picture of how to use the space most efficiently. This way, you’ll be able to eliminate some of the potential problems (placement of chairs and/or tables, technical issues, etc.). If possible, prepare the room for your presentation in advance, and leave some space for moving around.
2. Practice for your presentation standing
Even if you’re at home in front of your computer, practice standing upright. That’s how you get used to not hiding your nervously trembling body parts from the audience. In addition, you will be able to practice what you can do with your hands. And most importantly – making a speech standing upright, not sitting behind the desk, has a better effect.
Also, practice moving around the room. Note that your pace should be slow and calm, this way, you’ll leave a more confident impression than when rushing around the room. If you’re planning to show slides, find a good and comfortable spot near the screen so that you can see the notes on your computer, not in front of the screen (or too far away from the screen).
3. Practice using slides and explaining their content
A prepared speech means, among other things, that you know the technique you’re planning to use. Thus, practice using slides at home and think about what you’ll be talking about. If you find yourself reading in a monotone off the slides, stop immediately and think about how to improve.
We all know that the Death by PowerPoint presentation is annoying. Therefore, always keep in mind that you are the main speaker, not the slides on the wall.
When practicing, never think „Okay, when this slide appears, I’ll be talking about this and that…“ but just talk as you have planned. And see how it goes. It won’t be easy but practice so that you keep eye contact with the audience, not the screen.
4. Prepared speech = Make using notes smoother
Remember that prepared speech means also making cue cards. Many people think using notes isn’t good. Quite the contrary, notes are your tools, and nobody cares if you have them or not. Your point is to make your notes clear so as not to mess your speech up using them. So, here are the main mistakes made when using notes:
- Notes are too general or say nothing. This means that whenever you look at your notes, you’re confused, asking yourself, „What did I mean by this sentence?“
- Too much-written text. This creates a situation in which it’s difficult to search in the long text, which means long pauses or voiced sounds, e.g., „erm…“, „hm…“, etc.
- Don’t start pulling at your notes during the presentation. Hold them firmly in your hands or on the table; as soon as you start pulling at them, the audience will notice, mistaking it for uncertainty.
- Speaking to your notes, reading from paper, and not keeping contact with the audience. The listeners want to keep eye contact with you, they don’t want you to gawk at your papers (or slides on screen).
- Don’t apologize or talk nonsense during pauses. The fact that you’re using notes is nothing unusual. It’s also fine to lose trace of what you were going to say next. Never apologize for these two things. Why? As soon as you apologize for losing trace of your thoughts, the listeners will immediately think „I see, something’s wrong!“
5. Watch your body language and think about how to use it effectively
Many public speakers face the problem of what to do with their hands, literally. So they will do basically everything with their hands that catches the eye of the audience: scratch, twist their fingers, cross their hands on the chest, etc. Basically, everything BUT what they should actually do – gesticulate.
Therefore, use your hands and body language during speech preparation as well. When doing this, remember the following:
- Explore situations for using hands: show how big or small a thing is or which point you’re talking about (first, second, third, etc.).
- Use different movements, otherwise, you’ll look like a robot. Also, predictability reduces listeners’ attention.
- Put your hands in the applause position – this is the rest position to use during pauses. As soon as you start speaking, your hands will move away from each other, each time at different distances. In larger rooms, you can make wider movements; in smaller rooms, they’ll be more humble.
- Use bold gestures that show confidence and authority. If you need to express anger, show your fist; if you need to express blame, point with a finger, etc.
- Don’t memorize your movements. Think about which movements you normally use when speaking, but don’t memorize them – the audience will get it and think you’re being ridiculous.
6. Turn on a video camera and record your presentation
“90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” – Somers White
If you ask yourself a question “How to practice a speech” then don’t forget videocameras. The quickest way to improve your body language is by recording your presentation and watching it on a big screen later. These days, recording and watching your presentation is super-easy using a smartphone, that’s why I strongly recommend you to do that. The camera reveals movements that we do unconsciously.
Read more about how to be comfortable in front of a video camera here.
How to practice a speech while using a video camera?
Watch the first recorded version without sound
When you have your first recording ready, watch it without sound. Watch your face, body position, and hand movements. Watching yourself, you’ll see what needs improvement. Let a friend or family member watch with you and give you feedback.
When you’re done, repeat everything from the beginning. I can promise you that watching yourself on camera for the first time can be quite painful, but the more you do it, the more likely you’re to look at the screen at one point and think „Not at all bad”.
However, what this self-recording and analysis really does is being the best feedback about what you hardly ever notice about yourself. (read also an article “Prepared Speech: The important question of “What do I do if…”)
7. If there’s a time limit, use a stopwatch when practicing
If there’s a certain time limit, you have to stick to it. If you exceed it, you’ll be wasting the time given to other speakers or you will have to modify the schedule. Therefore, you need to keep in mind one simple rule: if you finish your presentation a bit earlier, you’ll always get bonus points. However, if you exceed your time, you’ll be doomed.
If you’re making a short speech, be sure to use a stopwatch when practicing and see how long it takes to go through one or another topic. Also, pay attention to the total time of your presentation. If you have exceeded the time, you’ll have to make your presentation shorter.
For example, you have 15 minutes for your presentation and practicing, you end up with 14 minutes and 30 seconds. Try again a few more times and don’t forget to check the time. If you’re ‘on time’, change nothing before going on stage.
Otherwise, it might happen that if you add something to your speech, you’ll be running out of time. However, if you leave something out, your presentation may end sooner than planned. Therefore, making a short prepared speech, stick to the scheduled time.
8. After practicing on your own several times, make a presentation for your friend
Or to a family member. Anyway, it must be a person you trust. Let them watch from beginning to end and take notes without interruption so that they can give feedback. If something wasn’t good, you will be able to correct it immediately.
9. Think of the answers to potential questions in advance
„Don’t start arguing, but if you are in a dead end, ask a non-related question and lean on the back of your seat with a self-satisfied smirk. While your partner is trying to figure out what’s going on, quickly change the subject.“ – Murphy’s Law
Practicing your speech, think about what your listeners could ask you and think about the answers to them. You can test potential question with your friends or family. Namely, give them a short overview of the content of your speech and ask them to ask you questions based on your overview. You’ll probably be asked a lot of questions to think about.
If you have to make more than one presentation on the same topic, put down all the questions you get asked and, in the future, try to answer these questions making a speech. This way, you’ll disarm your listeners, and, at the same time, your presentation will appear much more professional.
10. Repeat. Repeat again. And then again.
Prepared speech means Practicing it as long as it takes and then a little bit more. Therefore, don’t limit to practicing just once – practice as much as possible. So much that you get slightly tired of it.
Why is feeling slightly tired good for you? Because this is a way to counterbalance stress – you need to talk calmly and confidently. Not showing you’re tired, but being more like „I’ve done it dozens of times, and I know what I’m talking about“.
Summary: Prepared speech and question “How to practice a speech?”
Practicing your speech requires time and persistence. It may seem tedious and unnecessary, but if you want to share good emotions with your listeners, keep in mind that a well-prepared speech is what makes it possible. The poorer your preparation is and the less work you do, the greater the probability that no-one can relate to your speech, in a way that will make the audience forget you already during your presentation.
So, these were my tips to the question “how to practice a speech?”. Do you have any additional thoughts? Let us know.
How to make a presentation? It’s always up to the speaker to decide how to make a presentation and find out what listeners like. At first, it may seem like a difficult thing to do. The less time and energy you give and the more careless you are, the greater the likelihood of making a presentation nobody enjoys. (Read more about it here)
What is the elevator pitch? An elevator pitch is a well-thought, meaningful, and repeatedly practiced brief (about 30-60 seconds long) overview of who you are, what you offer, and how your partner can benefit from it (full article here).
How to overcome stage fright? 7 effective and proven tips you should use are (full article here):
- Acknowledge that stage fright is a very common phenomenon
- Remember that the audience wouldn’t understand you’re nervous
- Proper preparation with proper practice
- Change your attitude to the audience
- Don’t try to impress the audience
- You don’t have to feel the urge to talk all the time
- Keep in mind that everything is in your hands