“Everyone loves to win – but how many love to train?” Mark Spitz – 1972 Olympic Gold Medallist Swimmer When I was little, I wanted to be a magician. I loved the idea of entertaining people with illusions and mysteries. I read books and learned tricks and even put on shows for my childhood friends. The magic fraternity has a number of rules. The most important one is that you must never reveal the secret of a trick (so don’t ask me!) But one of the rules that I learned that has been useful in my real profession as a speaker and trainer of speakers is that you must practise and practise – and then practise some more. And only when you are thoroughly rehearsed do you perform the trick in public. Practice and rehearsal also make a huge improvement to the delivery of presentations and speeches. I work with speakers all the time and I get to see the difference between those who practise and those who don’t. And that difference is stark. Here’s what happens to an unrehearsed speaker:
- They “um” and “ah”
- They can’t remember what comes next
- They get sidetracked and waffle
- They go over time or run out of time
- They read their presentation and put the audience to sleep
- They lack confidence, control and credibility.
- Learn your opening – know your first line in your sleep so that “starters nerves” won’t stop you from remembering or delivering your opening words with energy and confidence
- Know your closing – for maximum impact you want to be able to deliver it directly to the audience without any notes and without PowerPoint
- Practise with any props and visual aids – especially PowerPoint. Get the timing of your slides right and be thoroughly familiar with their content.