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  • August 29, 2014

Talking Points: Practice Makes Perfect - Ladue News: Business & Wealth

Talking Points: Practice Makes Perfect

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 12:00 pm

The 2014 Winter Olympics were recently held in Sochi, Russia. Does anyone think those great athletes just ‘showed Up’ for their big game? Absolutely not!

For many, at that level, it had been eight-hour days, six days a week, working out and practicing their sport—for years! All serious athletes do the same: Practice, practice, practice.

What about professional musicians, singers and actors? Anyone think they merely ‘show up’ for their big concert, show or play? No Way! Even bands that have been together for 30 years still rehearse before big concerts!

So why would anyone think they can ‘show up’ at an event where they're scheduled to deliver a presentation and just ‘wing it?’ Incredibly, folks do this all the time.

If you're speaking, you literally have the platform to promote your platform! All eyes and ears are on you! What a magnificent opportunity to shine in the spotlight.

There must be a reason you were given the opportunity to present to the audience. Grab that opportunity and make it pay off!

• Promote your cause

• Promote yourself

• By having the opportunity to speak, you'll be judged by the audience. You want to make a positive impression, don't you?

• That is unlikely unless you practice, practice, practice!

Practicing should include:

Review and revise your content.

• Editing usually means less!

• Check that you're not using buzz words, acronyms or ‘techno-speak.’

• Language the audience is not familiar with does not impress them. You'll lose them if your words aren't simple and easily understood.

• No one wants to feel stupid. We see the emperor with no clothes, but no one says anything!

• Plain, easily understood language should be used.

Rehearse your opening and closing, so you don't need to look at notes.

• The law of primacy and recency says the audience best remembers the first and last things they see and hear. Own those parts of your presentation!

Practice out loud.

• Practicing in your ‘mind's eye’ only goes so far. You must hear yourself.

• It's not just what you say, but how you say it that conveys the meaning of your message you want the audience to understand.

• Enunciation and pronunciation, projection, inflection, cadence and pausing all are verbal elements of communication you must be aware of and practice.

Make an audio recording of your talk.

• Listening to yourself intently will review areas that need your attention.

• Are you enunciating and pronouncing all words distinctly? Do you mumble or slur words?

• Are you projecting your voice to the back of the room?

• How is your cadence? Are you varying it and not speaking too quickly or too slowly?

• If you have an accent, regional or other, will the audience clearly understand you?

Practice in front of a mirror.

• Your nonverbal communication will trump what you say. We believe what we see. Look at yourself as you present and adjust accordingly. These include: facial expressions, gestures, posture and body movements.

• They must be in sync with your message, and can enhance your delivery.

• Practice these and exaggerate if you'll be speaking to a large audience.

• Be aware: All gestures are not universal! The difference in meanings can be viewed as offensive by some attendees.

• Nonverbal communication also has an involuntary component. The audience believes what they see!

• If you are one of those folks who ‘roll your eyes’ when you hear or see something you disagree with or think is silly, keep it in check!

Practice in front of friends and family.

• Encourage them to give you suggestions for improving your presentation. Lots of “That-a-boys” feel great, but they don’t improve your performance. Ask them to offer two things you can work on to improve your presentation.

Practice your sticky spots.

• We tend to practice what we do well, and avoid the parts of our presentation we don't excel in delivering. These could be super-important to your message. They're sticky for a reason: poor use of words, structure, etc.

• Fix them! Rewrite if necessary, or change specific words to make it easier to say.

Practice in your mind’s eye.

• ‘See’ yourself at ease, confident, and the audience watching and listening intently to you.

• ‘See’ yourself—from start to finish—paying attention to all the verbal and non-verbal elements of your presentation.

If your presentation includes slides, practice ad nauseam with them.

Practice until it’s right! Steve Jobs was one of the best presenters ever. If he was scheduled to give a keynote presentation on a new Apple product or service, he would practice for weeks! This man was the best, but he still knew the great value of practicing. Follow Steve Jobs' example of practicing ad nauseam and your next presentation will be - NO SWEAT!

Fred Miller is the author of NO SWEAT Public Speaking! For more information, email him at Fred@NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com or visit NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com.

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