How Often should you Rehearse your Presentation?
Rehearse your Presentation Everywhere and All the Time
In late 2009, I gave a ten-minute presentation, about presentation skills, to a networking group. Afterwards, someone asked me how much time one should use to prepare for a presentation. My answer was simply that there’s no set amount of time someone needs to prepare. Presenters need to prepare until they’re as ready as they can possibly be. Essentially, no amount of preparation is too much.
Later, I calculated how much time I spent preparing for that ten-minute presentation, and the answer was almost fifty hours! That doesn’t mean I sat at my computer preparing slides, researching material, and working on the presentation for fifty hours. Preparation includes rehearsal as well, and not all rehearsal happens on a stage.
To be ready for that ten-minute presentation, I prepared the information, created the slides, gathered my evidence, and then rehearsed. I practiced how I was going to open and how I was going to close the presentation, out loud and in my head. I worked out the questions I’d ask the audience, and even to whom I would ask some of them. I visualized the entire ten-minute presentation in my mind over and over again. I rehearsed it in my mind while I was in the car or in the shower, and even while doing house work. Whenever I could afford the mental time to do so, I rehearsed the talk.
I approach every talk I give the same way. I run it through my mind thousands of times. I stand in front of the mirror and run through sections of my talks. I set up a video camera and record myself rehearsing the talk in my basement, and then I review those videos. I try out my talks on my partner, and then I get her feedback.
Now, here’s an important point. You’re not rehearsing in order to memorize the talk word for word. You’re rehearsing so you can deliver key phrases the way you want them to sound. You’re rehearsing so you can remember the order of your points and familiarize yourself with your material so well that you won’t have to rely on notes.
So, what’s the lesson?
When you have a talk to give, rehearse it all the time, everywhere you can, in your mind and out loud. Rehearse it until you know your material so well you could talk about it in your sleep.