Hints for efficient practice

Read through the text before you begin. For the first few tries, and again for the last few, stand in front of a mirror but far enough back so you can see your head and feet. Work at being relaxed. Stand with feet slightly apart and one foot slightly forward to prevent swaying and weight shifts. Hold your notes in one hand, with the other held naturally at your side. This posture will seem awkward, but looks natural and relaxed. Practice it.

Breath slowly and deeply, and speak from your diaphragm; project your voice. Practice making eye contact with your imaginary audience, but don't single out one individual (a real person eventually will notice your attention, and end up squirming in their seat).

Don't procrastinate when you actually are ready to practice. Take two deep breaths, then begin. Avoid looking at your notes when you don't need to do so. Watch your reflection in the mirror as you speak, looking for odd and distracting habits.

Your words will probably be different each time you practice, but do try to stick to the general outline of your notes. Don't attempt to memorize your text; use your notes only as reference points to keep you on track. Think about the ideas, and your words will follow naturally. Speak slowly and clearly, and use gestures.

A tape recorder or videotape are the most useful tools for feedback. Look for variations in speed or tone, or for the dreaded 'um's (and those cousins, the 'er's, 'like's and 'you know's). Again, look for distracting mannerisms - don't pace, twirl your hair, or adjust your clothing. Make sure you are speaking to your audience, not to the floor, ceiling, or projection screen. Don't hide behind the lecturn.

What you say should be readily understandable by the audience. Pay strict attention to diction; it is essential that you speak clearly and distinctly. If you have a regional or foreign accent you should be careful to speak even more slowly. Check often to be sure that your audience understands and is following what you are saying. It isn't necessary to attempt to eliminate your accent. On the other hand, rightly or wrongly, there is little room in professional presentations for regional or cultural dialects.

Listen carefully to the words you use, not to what you think you are saying. Are these the best words for making your point? Are they unambiguous? Avoid using jargon whenever possible.

RETURN to the Practice page.


Jeff Radel