We’ve all heard the adage “Practice makes perfect.” This implies that the more we practice the better we get at whatever we are doing. But, is this really true? What if we are constantly making the same mistake each time we practice? Are we going to get any better? Yes! We will become adept at whatever it is that we are doing wrong! But that is certainly not what we intend to do. We need to practice right if we are to improve.
So, what is right practice? How should we practice our speech or presentation and what should be our key focus areas? What should we do after delivering our speech? Let us find answers to these questions.
We practice to improve our speaking skills be it relevant well structured content or correct use of language, body language, voice or time management. Each time we practice, we can focus on one aspect of our speech repertoire.
While it is a good idea to practice in front of the mirror, the benefits of practicing in front of an audience are far greater. What we choose to do after our practice session is key to our success. Every time I practice, I do the following:
- Seek feedback
- Devise an improvement plan
After every practice session, perform a self-analysis. You may have a fair idea regarding your delivery and its effectiveness. Based on this, ask yourself the following questions and write the responses in your journal or diary:
- Were you satisfied with your speech or presentation?
- Were you able to establish a rapport with the audience?
- Could you answer their questions with confidence? Were they satisfied with your responses? Were you satisfied?
- Were you able to create the impact that you desired?
- Did you make good use of time?
The answers to these questions help you to understand what you could have done to enhance the speech or presentation.
While it is a good idea to introspect and think of what you could have done to improve, it is important to seek an external opinion. Before the session, request at least one person in your audience, whom you trust, to rate you on the following parameters:
- Content: Was my content relevant? Was the content well structured and easy to understand? Were my examples relevant?
- Language: Were the sentences well framed? Did I pronounce words correctly? Were there any verbal crutches? Was I using fillers and were they too many of them?
- Body Language: Was my body language positive and energetic? Did I do anything that was distracting?
- Voice: Was my voice positive? Was I speaking too fast or too slow? Was I varying my pitch?
- Time Management: Did I use time well?
After the speech, seek feedback from the observer and record that in your journal. In addition, you could also record your speech or presentation and answer the above questions. By doing this, you can see how you performed as opposed to how you believe you performed. This video will also put to rest any disputes that you may have with the observer’s feedback.
Develop an improvement plan
Once you know, what are the areas you need to improve, you can set about the task in right earnest. Work on one area at a time. Say, you have received a comment that you were speaking too fast or that your voice is very soft and cannot be heard. Work on just these aspects till you get it right. Practice every day on a specific area and see the change that it brings in you. That is the power of practice and it is beautifully summed up in this quote by Bruce Lee.
To understand how to improve each aspect of your presentation, please refer to the following posts:
- How to plan your speech or presentation
- Know your audience – 1
- How to determine the purpose of your speech
- Writing a speech outline
- Fleshing out a speech outline
- Crafting an interesting beginning for your speech
- How to end your speech effectively
- The structure of great talks
Now that we know how to practice right, seek the next possible opportunity to practice. To begin, practice in front of the mirror. Then, practice in front of friends and family and improve your performance. As you get better and more confident, volunteer to speak in front of a large audience. Every practice session will help you to come closer to your your best self.
Did you find this post useful? It would be great to hear from you.