Everyone knows the age-old mantra that “practice makes perfect,” but given my experience as a high school tennis coach, I believe this statement is not always the most accurate. Instead, I think a more realistic statement is “practice makes permanent.” You can practice over and over again, but if you are not practicing the right way, you can end up emphasizing bad habits and creating difficult patterns to break. Practicing using the wrong form can be even more detrimental than not practicing at all.
Don’t get me wrong – practice is absolutely important. In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell says that in order to become an expert at something, you must spend 10,000 hours practicing it. Once you’ve reached that number, you have achieved true mastery of your craft. The key is to practice your craft the right way. Practicing a presentation is one of the most important steps in preparing for the stage. But just practicing once in front of mirror is not enough; you need repetition and coaching to guarantee a home run on the big day.
We’ve developed a 3-step process that will guarantee you are prepared when you step in front of your audience.
Read your manuscript.
The first step in practicing for your presentation starts by taking time to read through your manuscript. This may seem like a simple step, but it’s crucial to your success. Taking time to read your manuscript out loud allows you to catch any awkward sections of your content that seemed to flow in your head but now seem clunky when spoken out loud. Use this final read through as a chance to rearrange where needed, clarify where confused, and cut when justified.
Deliver to yourself.
This step might feel awkward to some, but delivering your content in front of a mirror or video is a valuable way to see the visual distractions that you may be creating unintentionally. Often, we become accustomed to the distracting movements we make with our body so that we no longer recognize certain gestures or mannerisms we have. Much like the constant drone of a plane eventually fades to the background, the constant view of our body language eventually just becomes normal to us. This step will help you identify the nervous ticks you have which will raise your level of awareness on presentation day.
Practice in front of a coach.
Coaches help us to see the things we often miss ourselves. In this step, you have the opportunity to receive valuable feedback that you might not otherwise get from your audience. This feedback can help you to modify your presentation before it ever goes on display. Think of this as the final edit before a book goes to publish. As presenters, we must be open to outside feedback if we want to continue to grow. Many times, we become so close to our presentations that we need an objective set of eyes to let us know where things are missing the mark. It’s important to note that you don’t want to let just anyone be your coach. Make sure you ask a trusted friend or advisor who you know will be honest and give you usable, constructive feedback.
If practice makes permanent, then perfect practice makes perfect. So, take the time to practice well. Don’t think that your content will carry itself and that you are too busy to put in the practice time. Even the most elite athletes in the world still put in hours of training to perfect the fundamentals. The same is true in your presentation skills – it may be a little uncomfortable or time consuming, but being intentional and dedicated will make you an expert at your craft.
The team at Ethos3 would love to help you develop and deliver the best presentation possible. Contact us today to find out how.
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