This week's focus:
Recently, I was helping some of my clients improve their public speaking skills. Part of my coaching process involved reviewing video recordings of new speeches that they had given for the first time. Unfortunately, I had to tell these clients that their presentations were missing the mark. These 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 these clients, they agreed with my comments and strived to work on the problems. However, I was shocked when I closed out our discussion with a simple question, "Did you practice your speech before you presented it in public?" In every case, each 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 lame excuses. Let me explain.
When you avoid practicing a speech, you act like a student in school who avoids studying for a big test. If you have 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? 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 "just look over your notes." Real practice means standing by yourself in a quiet room and going through your entire speech out loud. You don't have to memorize your speech, except for 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 you know your speech forwards and backwards and could adjust your message on the fly if a difficult situation happened. 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 reading this tip have a lot more at stake than trying to pass a simple test at school. Your career and your income potential are on the line. Thus, you can't afford to ignore the responsibility to continually 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.
Here's the bottom line. If you want to be a professional speaker (a.k.a - someone who makes a lot of money speaking in public), then you must treat it like a real job, not a hobby in your spare time. If you can't find the time to practice, then you're in no position to be a public speaker. Go do something else. 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. And, that's what we all want to see happen.
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