Mastering the art of presentation requires both practice and, importantly, rehearsal. It’s true that a touch of anxiety makes for a better performance but too much anxiety has the opposite effect. When we are over-anxious about our presentation the raw emotion that makes for a successful presentation performance is replaced by a faltering, unstructured and disorganized speech. Preparation and rehearsal are vital when we need to manage this mix of emotion. These 5 effective rehearsal techniques will boost our performance when we present.
- Sit down and read silently. We should typeset and format our presentation as if we intended to read it to our audience. We start each sentence on a new line and we format with double line spacing. Our choice of typeface and font should be for legibility and not style — and we use upper case characters only for the beginning of sentences, proper names and points needing emphasis. Our aim is to read through the presentation getting to grips with the sense of the piece, its structure and meaning.
- Sit down and read aloud. Once we have read through our presentation or PowerPoint deck several times we are ready to read aloud. Reading aloud is a vital memory enforcer helping us to visualize and memorize key points within the presentation. Note that we are not looking to memorize the speech in its entirety — we are aiming for familiarity with its content.
- Stand up and read aloud. Once we have read through our presentation several times it’s good practice to do so standing up. When we stand up we can apply emphasis to those passages of the speech that require special attention. We can speak up where appropriate and single out key words with extra intonation. At this stage we should look out for words or word combinations that are difficult to pronounce. where pronunciation is tricky we should consider editing the offending passage. We also look out for long sentences that do nothing for our breathing routine. Cut them down in size. We must think of our effective pauses.
- Stand up, read aloud and move. With these key tasks completed we can now practise our presentation aloud — moving around. We should walk around and move our arms — pointing for extra emphasis perhaps. We should move our head adjusting our gaze to establish eye contact with an audience as we make each decisive point. With a mirror we can build a sense of our own mobility and speaking presence.
- Record our presentation. Our last rehearsal step is to prepare an audio recording of ourselves. Our target is to prepare a recording that we can listen to when travelling to and from work or during a quiet moment at home or the ball game. Again, we are not looking for memorization but familiarization. And with familiarity goes confidence.
These 5 simple steps enable us to prepare and rehearse our presentations to perfection. We manage our anxiety, we control our nerves and we become more comfortable with the material that we intend to present — boosting our performance.