You’ve created the PowerPoint. You’ve written the speech. You’ve booked the room. It’s time to practice for that big presentation. But where to start? Firstly, you have to know yourself. How do you memorize content? How do you present the best version of yourself? You should be able to answer these questions before you start. But some guidance is always useful.
In this article I’ll show you 7 confidence building ways to practice for a big presentation. Using psychology, expert advice and business research, you can formulate your perfect way to practice your skills. Read on to find out more!
Practice daily confidence
Not all practice has to be directly presentation based. Practice confidence in other ways. Embrace the scary situations of everyday life. Have fun at a party where you don’t know anyone. Do that open mic gig you always dreamed about. Be open and friendly when you meet strangers. Become a confident person in everyday life, and that big presentation might seem a bit less scary.
Rehearse in front of your favorite people
Now that your confidence is steady, rehearse your specific presentation. You favorite people should be those you know will give you both support and constructive criticism. It might be a group of work buddies, a group of friends at the pub, or in front of your family in the living room one evening. Either way, get used to speaking in a room of people, being the center of attention and feeling all eyes on you. Feel empowered by it rather than intimidated.
Hopefully, when you present, it will be new each time, and freshly delivered at that moment. Embrace the fluctuating nature of your presentation. Accept that it might change day by day. Allow it to be flexible and spontaneous.
Learn from the best
Many businesses offer courses or seminars in public speaking. Individuals take it into their own hands and go on confidence retreats for that extra boost. You could try asking your boss, colleagues or friends for advice. Watch YouTube videos of inspiring speakers. Absorb their energy and techniques and see if you can copy their style or adapt it to your own.
In this popular TED Talk, Julian Treasure shows the importance of speaking as a way to express ourselves. He starts by talking about the seven deadly sins of communication. These are mainly for everyday social interactions. Don’t gossip, don’t complain, don’t make excuses, etc. But he goes on to explain the significance of things like pitch, volume, and effective silences, all of which make a massive difference to a presentation.
So basically, you don’t need to practice only the content of your presentation; you need to practice how to speak it. It is ultimately just as important.
Practice beyond content
How are you going to walk onto the stage? What are you going to wear? How will you use body language? Answering these questions prepares you for the small and easily forgotten details that make a huge difference. More than that, they help you conceptualize and visualize your presentation.
Stand up when you practice. A more active stance will energize you. Also, practice your hand gestures and body language. Don’t be afraid to construct purposefully certain facial expressions. Or emphasize movements you might not use in daily life. There are hundreds of articles advising better body language techniques (after all, most communication is non-verbal).
If you want some direction, check out this one about powerful body language tips. It discusses the use of hand gestures while speaking, stating that moving our hands can stimulate thinking and create more coherent thought patterns. It also shows the link between voice pitch and authority. By talking with a lower voice arc, without the rising note of approval at the end of sentences, you come across much more self-assured.
Embrace your presentation persona; they might be more controlled and calculated than you usually are, but they give excellent presentations.
Don’t miss an opportunity. Use your practice time to improve the presentation. Writers, teachers, presenters, all agree that reading out loud is the best way to notice mistakes in a text. By practicing, you know if a sentence is too long or clumsy. Change it, shorten it, articulate yourself better. You might also notice if one idea doesn’t fall into the next. Fix the wording, bring them together, create a linking sentence.
And don’t forget those ever important PowerPoint slides. Do they flow together? Are there any technological errors? Any spelling mistakes? Just because you’re rehearsing, it doesn’t mean you have the end product in your hands.
The reason some professionals warn against over-preparation is that you can end up sounding robotic or awkward. Some lucky people are born with the natural charisma to throw in a joke off the cuff or change specific wordings as they speak. Others stick religiously to the text, too nervous to change a word. Luckily, spontaneity is a thing you can totally learn.
Practice your adlibs; free yourself from a structure. Not only will this keep you on the ball, but it will also awaken your audience. By asking questions, playing games, using props, or making jokes, you ignite surprise into the presentation. The current buzz word surrounding natural spontaneity is internalization.
Rather than memorizing, many speakers endorse internalizing content. So they know the stories, messages, and key points back to front. But also deny the temptation of learning every word, allowing for a smooth and conversational tone.
A typical piece of preparation advice for a good reason. You get to witness yourself from the audience’s point of view. It gives you an objective perspective of yourself, which is not something we usually have. But recording our voice is a great way to realize the speed, inflection, pitch and enunciation of it. Once you pick up on mistakes, like speaking too fast, mumbling, or sounding monotone, you can work on corrections.
It’s also a fantastic way to examine your timings, a crucial aspect of presenting. Don’t keep people longer than you promised. More importantly, don’t rush the presentation you worked so hard on. Make sure you have a comfortable time bracket. Allow for spontaneity, distractions, and flexibility.
Recording is also a great way to pick on the “um’s” and “ah’s” plaguing your speech. And actually, don’t just record yourself, video yourself. See how your body and words go together. Would you listen to you? Would you be engaged and interested if you saw yourself on stage? Praise, critique and motivate yourself. We are our harshest judge. Plus, criticising your work avoids the harsh realities of criticism from others.
Looking for even more advice?
Check out this SlideShare mini-guide for an extra boost.
Remember: your PowerPoint is there for the structure and stability. So let the rest of your presentation be flowing, fluctuating and free.