Practicing out loud: The ONE BIG THING that will exponentially improve your next presentation

If you think the above statement is hype, it’s only because you’ve never tried it. Practice – and by practice I mean OUT LOUD. In your head does not count. Sitting in your pj’s in front of the TV or in your office clicking through your PowerPoint slides does not count. Writing out a script of what you want to say does not count. You must practice your presentation OUT LOUD for any of the benefits to be realized. Why? So glad you asked.

First, things never sound the same inside your head as they do when you say them out loud. This is true for any communication, by the way, not just presentations. You must say the thoughts OUT LOUD in order to hear what it will sound like and feel like coming out of your mouth. A certain combination of words may prove to be a tongue twister – something you won’t know until you say them OUT LOUD.

Second, until you give the presentation OUT LOUD you don’t know what’s missing, what really doesn’t belong, what may need more elaboration or what may be so big it requires its own presentation. Typically when I’m doing a first run-through with a client he or she comes to a screeching halt about 5 minutes in. “I don’t know how to get to my next point.” my client says, stunned, surprised and often a little sheepish. “No problem.” I say, “This is exactly why we’re doing this now, and not the day of the presentation in front of REAL LIVE PEOPLE.” Nervous speakers, giving your presentation OUT LOUD for the first time in front of REAL LIVE PEOPLE would terrify anyone. Realizing you’re missing a transition in front of REAL LIVE PEOPLE is no fun at all. Frankly, the first time through OUT LOUD is not even really practice, it’s more a work-through.

Once you’ve got the kinks ironed out you should practice OUT LOUD at least two more times. The introduction and conclusion can be practiced in the shower, in the car, while you’re walking your dog. These are two of the most critical parts of your presentation – your initial connection to your audience and your parting words. You want to deliver both with terrific confidence. Which brings me to the third reason practice is so important.

Like anything else in life, the more you do it the more your confidence and comfort increases. Having your presentation down – without having to wrack your brain to recall it – feels great. In fact, having a solid knowledge of your presentation will allow you to expend energy where it should be expended, in the service of your audience. You’ll have the mental (and for nervous speakers, emotional) bandwidth to really focus on and connect with them. That is the mark of a great presenter.

Whether you’re goal is to be a great presenter, a more effective presenter or simply a less nervous presenter, practicing your presentation OUT LOUD is the key.

Oh, and you’ll be heard.

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