I’ve helped numerous clients improve their public speaking skills and raise their speaking fees. Part of my consulting process involves reviewing video or audio recordings of new speeches that a client presents for the first time.
Recently, I had to tell some clients that their presentations were missing the mark. On the recordings, the individuals stumbled through their words and looked uncomfortable on stage. In addition, their speeches lacked focus, and they rambled through too much information.
As I relayed my feedback to the clients, I was shocked when I began our discussion with a simple question, “Did you practice your speech before you presented it in public?” In each case, the client confessed “no.” Their reasons ranged from “I was too busy to practice,” “I ran out of time,” or “I didn’t want to sound canned.” Frankly, these are lousy excuses for the following reasons.
When you avoid practicing a speech, you act like a student in school who avoids studying for a big test. For example, if you’re a parent with kids, I expect that you want your children to do their homework and study for school, right? Do you think your child would pass a test if he or she never studied? No. Likewise, you won’t pass the test of public speaking if you don’t make time to practice. Is practicing fun? No. Neither is studying for a test. But, it’s crucial to your success.
By the way, practicing doesn’t mean “I’ll just look over my notes.” Real practice means standing by yourself in a quiet room and saying your entire speech out loud. You don’t have to memorize your entire speech, just the opening section. The point is to let your mind get comfortable processing the material from beginning to end. This prevents you from stuttering and rambling through your content.
Your ultimate goal should be to know your material so well that you mentally “own it.” This means knowing your speech forwards and backwards and being able to adjust your message on the fly if a difficult situation happens, which occurs more often than most speakers anticipate. If you want people to pay money to hear your speak, then you deserve to give the audience more than an unrehearsed presentation where you show up and try to “wing it.”
Some of you have a lot more at stake than trying to pass a simple test at school. Your business career or your income potential is on the line. Thus, you can’t afford to ignore the responsibility to practice your speeches. And, don’t believe the myth that practicing will make you sound canned. Practice doesn’t make you sound canned. Practice makes you sound like a pro.
Successful speakers treat their presentations like a real job, not a hobby in their spare time. If you can’t find the time to practice, then you’re probably in no position to be professional speaker. However, I can assure you that consistent practice will position you to move up the speaker scale, make more money, and spread your message like wildfire.