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"Practice makes perfect." We have all heard the cliché time and time again, but as speakers we can use this as a motto when preparing. While perfection shouldn't be the ultimate end goal, it is clear that practicing and preparing before a presentation can make all the difference. In order to become more confident, and even brush away some of those nerves, it is important to be well prepared for a presentation. Practicing can instill more confidence in a speaker and help produce an overall better product. Below, different approaches to practicing a presentation are discussed.
Try practicing in a location as similar as possible to your actual presentation space. Try to find an open classroom or use the Speech Lab. Practicing in your bathroom mirror is better than nothing, but your entire audience isn't going to fit in there.
Venue: Find a place where you feel comfortable enough to practice out loud. Where to practice can differ from person to person, so it is important to decide where you feel most comfortable practicing. This can make all the difference! By practicing somewhere you feel comfortable it will be easier to practice the presentation in its entirety.
Audience: Practicing in front of a few people can help decrease nervousness and help build your confidence for when it is time to present in front of the larger audience. Seek out people whom you feel comfortable around and practice presenting to them. Presenting to a smaller crowd is a great stepping-stone for preparing to deliver your actual presentation. Feel better practicing with a larger audience? Gather your friends, roommates, or even GVSU Speech Lab consultants to hear you deliver your presentation.
Using your time well can make all the difference when deciding when and where to practice. It is important to set goals for yourself as well as to avoid procrastination.
Goal Setting: Setting realistic and achievable goals can help make practicing for a presentation a lot less overwhelming. Try creating a practice schedule by setting aside designated times to practice during the day. For example, maybe you dedicate 15 minutes of your morning to practice your introduction out loud while you get ready, and then you use that hour break between classes to work on practicing the body of your speech, then after dinner you practice the conclusion. While the task may seem daunting at first, breaking it up and setting goals for yourself will make it much more manageable!
Avoiding Procrastination: It is always important to get a good night's sleep before the day of your presentation. Staying up late the night before and waking up extremely early the day of can actually hinder your ability to present. Try and begin your practices at least a week before presentation day. Overall, this will make you feel more confident and prepared.
Methods for Practicing
Once you find a comfortable location to practice in, it is important to begin the actual preparation. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to even start. Remember, that once you are ready to practice your whole speech out loud, one of the most helpful things we can do as speakers is to simulate the environment in which we will be giving our actual presentation. While you might not be able to get into the actual room that you will be delivering your presentation, standing up and practicing your speech out loud is a great start!
Familiarize: Many speakers might not know where to begin when practicing for a presentation. Start by familiarizing yourself with the presentation. Flip through the slides, skim over the speech outline, and look over any visual aids you plan to use during your presentation. By having an idea of what slide comes next or what main point is next, you will begin to feel more confident and more prepared in your presentation.
Practicing out Loud: Start delivering the text out loud-remember Nike's motto and just do it! A good place to begin is by simply reading everything over a few times. Try highlighting, underlining, or bolding certain words or phrases you want to emphasize during your actual presentation. This gives you a visual reminder that you can use while practicing. As you become more confident and aware of the information in your presentation, begin to use your outline, PowerPoint, etc. as only a guide to reference. It is important to practice your presentation in its entirety, just as you would present it in the classroom. What voice or tone would you use? What gestures or movement? Try doing whatever comes naturally.
Pro Tip: As you practice your presentation, record yourself speaking. Listen to your recording while you're in the shower, on the way to class, or working out. The more you hear it, the more familiar you will be with your presentation.