How much time do you spend writing a speech? I would guess that your answer is somewhere between a few hours and a few days.
But how much time do you spend practicing the speech? I bet the answer is much less.
The practice phase is the most important phase of speech preparation. Practice is what makes the difference between a “good enough” speech and a transformational speech.
Let’s look at 3 different ways you can practice your next speech:
1. In front of a mirror. I practice every single speech several times in front of a mirror. This lets me try out different hand gestures and other types of body language. Try this: stand in front of a mirror and imagine an audience which you can only see through the mirror. Make eye contact with everyone; watch your body language, watch your face, practice your smile, and become comfortable moving around while speaking. You can hold your notes in your hand if you need to. This is an easy and repeatable way to practice before any speech; you can easily start and stop and figure out what techniques look and feel most natural.
2. In front of a camera. For really important speeches, I record myself on my iPad and then analyze the video. Try this: set your iPad on a tripod mount or on top of a filing cabinet and record yourself giving the speech. Unless you’re preparing for an on-camera interview, don’t look only at the camera lens, rather look around the room, imagining each piece of furniture to be a different person. Make eye contact with three points in front of you: left, center, and middle, as if you were speaking to a crowded room. After recording the speech, play the video back a few times. Yes, it’s OK to cringe when you see yourself on camera, we all do from time to time. But then, watch the speech as if you were an audience-member. What do you like? Watch with the sound off to analyze your body language. Do you smile? Then, turn up the volume, close your eyes, and listen to the sound of your voice. How well do you enunciate every word? Is your tone of voice expressive and conversational?
3. In your mind. The night before a speech, I visualize the entire experience. Try this: sit comfortably in a chair or lay in bed and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and visualize the room you’ll be speaking in. Visualize the introduction and the applause as you walk on stage. Then speak the entire speech in your mind and hear the applause as you take your seat. Most importantly, imagine the speech going well. We remember visualizations as if they were actual memories (which is why sometimes you can’t remember if something actually happened or if it was a dream), so the act of visualizing the entire speech makes you feel like you’ve already given the speech once successfully.
There are many other ways to practice and we’ll get to them in subsequent newsletters. In the meantime, remember to leave yourself just as much time to practice the speech as you do to write the speech.
Using the three techniques mentioned above, you’ll feel much more prepared, more confident, and more relaxed as you take the stage. You’ll spend less time focused on your nerves and more time focused on your message.