Ways to Rehearse Your Speech for an Effective Presentation

Rehearsing Your Speech for an Effective Presentation
You have done your research, written your speech, and now it is time to rehearse it. One of the most important benefits of rehearsing a speech is the building of self-confidence. While the ultimate goal of rehearsing is to find errors and to make adjustments, the goal of building confidence in yourself and in your material is extremely important. The more comfortable you are with your material, the better your delivery will be.

We will take a step-by-step approach to describing the best way to rehearse.

1. Practice in front of a mirror. In addition to hearing you speak, it is also important to see how others will see you. If you are going to use gestures during your speech, this is the time when you will notice how they will look at an audience. You may find that you need to make adjustments. Are you facial expressions appropriate to the words you are using? Practice making a mistake as well, perhaps using the wrong fact or misstating it. Practice apologizing to the audience and see how that will look in the mirror as well. A good rule of thumb is to have the first 20 seconds of a speech completely memorized so that you can make constant eye contact with an audience. This makes for a very impressive opening.
2. Record your speech. Recording your speech will serve many purposes. In addition to allowing you to hear your own voice exactly as it will be portrayed to an audience, it will also allow you to time the entire speech and distinct sections of the speech. If you need to make adjustments to the total length of the speech, analyze how long each section took and how many necessary adjustments. As you play back your speech, analyze where you need to make a pause for emphasis. Make notes on your written speech, your outline, your key cards, or whatever you will be using during your speech.

3. Videotaping your speech. It is also a good idea to videotape your speech. Just as some people are uncomfortable hearing their own voice, many people do not like to see themselves on video. However, watching the video will be a great way to boost your confidence and to practice your delivery.

4. Ask one person to be your audience. Ask someone you know who will give you honest feedback to listen, and watch, your rehearsal. Even if you watch your videotape or listen to your recording a hundred times, you will still miss something that a different pair of eyes and ears will discern. It is always desirable to get the benefit of someone else's opinion.

5. Rehearse in front of a small group. If possible, also rehearse in front of a small group of people, even if it is family members. Ask them to be constructively critical and to make suggestions on how your speech could be made better. Rehearsing in front of a small group is a particularly good way to combat anxiety and that will help you to alleviate your fears.

6. Monitor your mannerisms. While you are watching your speech on videotape, you should pay particular attention to your mannerisms. We typically do not notice, or even know we have, certain mannerisms. However, watching ourselves on videotape will provide you with an excellent opportunity to see yourself in action and notice some mannerisms that perhaps should be avoided.

7. If possible, practice at the site of your speech. This is not always possible, of course, but it is an extremely valuable opportunity if you can do so. Practicing at the site will ensure that you will have few surprises on the day of delivery. You will know the look and feel of the place and when you arrive to give your speech, it will be familiar ground.

8. Be sure to practice with your visual aids. This is a common mistake beginning public speakers make. They assume that the important part is to practice their verbal delivery and that it is easy to refer to visual aids. Not so. You want to ensure that you know exactly how, and when , you are going to incorporate your visual aids into your speech. Make notes in your speech on when you will use which aid.

9. Practice with some background noise. To better prepare using a more realistic setting, play some light background music while you are rehearsing your speech. This will mimic some of the noise you will hear while you are giving a speech. It is surprising for some people to know just how much noise an audience can make while listening to a speech, and this can be disconcerting for some speakers.

10. Finally, rehearse in the same clothes you intend on wearing on speech day. This might sound silly at first, but the goal of rehearsing is to mimic as closely as possible everything that you will experience on the day of your delivery. If you clothes are ill fitting, you will notice this during the videotaped playback.
Preparing Materials for your Speech

An important part of your rehearsal process will be the preparation of materials you will have during the delivery of your speech. It is on these materials that you will be making notes as you listen to your voice recording or videotape. Most speakers use one of two options, a printed version of their entire speech, word for word, or note cards. Let us look at both options.

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Note Cards

Note cards accomplish three goals, they can contain the right amount of information for you to remember important points in your speech, they are easy to use, and they will not be seen by an audience.

Note cards can be index cards, 3-by-5 inch cards. You can easily fit these cards in your pocket and then take them out when you arrive at the podium. The audience never has to see them. Make sure the cards are numbered in numerical order. This is very important because your cards will be sorted in the order in which you will be delivering your speech. If you drop your cards, it might be disastrous to remember the proper order.

On each card, you will write the main point for each section of your speech, and then the important evidence that you will be citing as support for your main point. You will also make notes about inflection and placing emphasis on certain points.

Full Text of Speech

As an alternative, you could rehearse with the entire text of the speech. For very important speeches, this is considered standard practice, even if you are a seasoned professional. In addition to important speeches, here are some other situations when a full text version is recommended.

  • Every word is vitally important, for example, a political speech.
  • Your time limit is very strict and you cannot deviate from your prepared remarks.
  • You are extremely nervous. Having the full speech in front of your will relax you.
Rehearsing a speech is vital to its success. Never compromise or skip this important step. It will build your confidence and make you an effective public speaker.
Body Language and International Customs
We communicate in a number of ways, and body language is indeed a universal language. The way you communicate with your body can, without overstating the issue, either ensure a successful delivery or ruin your chances of ever bonding with an audience. In this article, we will discuss how to use nonverbal communication effectively. We will end with a brief discussion on nonverbal communication specifically for international audiences.

Eye contact, the way you move on stage, and the motions you make is an important part of your message. In fact, there are speech experts who have concluded that the words we use account for less than 40 percent of our message delivery. The rest is communicated through body language and other nonverbal communication. You want to use these movements to your advantage, and you do not want the audience to misunderstand them.

The main obstacle that most people have with poor body language is that they are unaware that they are using such language. The majority of people are not conscious of receiving nonverbal communication from a speaker, but we do register a great deal of thought and we constantly draw conclusions throughout a speech. Therefore, it is often difficult to control what you are not conscious of. This is why rehearsal with a videotape becomes invaluable. It gives you an opportunity to see your body language and to make any necessary adjustments.

Your speech does not begin the moment you start speaking at a podium. Your speech begins the moment the audience sees you. This could be while you are walking toward the stage or across the stage to the podium. First impressions are vitally important for a public speaker, and the audience will form an opinion about before you speak even your first word.

Here are some tips on how to approach a podium before you begin speaking.

  • Walk in an energetic, comfortable manner, but not quickly.
  • If you are using a full text version of your speech, hold it inconspicuously, and then arrange it quickly on the podium.
  • If you are using note cards, pull them out of your pocket after you have arrived at the podium, not while walking toward it.
  • Hold you head up and do not look at the floor. When you arrive at the podium, make sure you are looking directly at the audience.
  • Pause for a moment and take an inconspicuous deep breath before you begin speaking.
Such an approach to the podium will immediately convey self-confidence to the audience, and you will have made an excellent first impression.
Eye Contact

It is an established fact of public speaking that the more eye contact you make with an audience, the more effective you message will be communicated. Try to select several members of the audience and make eye contact with them throughout the speech. It could be people you know well who are there to support you, or you can select a stranger. However, be careful not to make eye contact with the same person constantly unless they are a close friend and have given you permission to do so. Too much eye contact with the same person will make that person uncomfortable.

Eye contact also serves one other important purpose: it gives you feedback during a speech. You will be able to read the body language of your audience just as they are reading your body language. If you sense that your message is not getting through clearly enough, or you sense other thoughts about the audience, you can make any necessary adjustments.

If you are nervous, it is best to keep your hands on the podium at all times, out of sight of the audience. Nervous people tend to have shaky hands, and this will be seen by the audience. You should refrain from drinking water during a speech if you are nervous because your hands will be shaking and the glass will too. If the speaker feels that the audience is noticing this, it will make the speaker even more nervous. However, if you are comfortable using your hands to make gestures during a speech, it is a powerful way of communicating your message.

Here are some gestures that will help you to connect with an audience.

  • Emphatic gestures. These can be used to emphasize a point strongly. Perhaps you are delivering a motivational speech and you want the audience to become involved in something. You can point to them. This is not considered rude. They will feel as if they are involved in your speech. Other emphatic gestures include making a fist, and sweeping your hand in the air to motion to the audience.
  • Using fingers to count points. When people are giving a list to someone else, they often use the fingers on their hands to count them. "Number 1. Get milk, number 2. Get bread, and so on." In a speech, this is often a subtle but very powerful way of letting the audience know that you are enumerating several important points that they should understand.
  • Descriptive gestures. We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words and if a picture is vital to your message, you will have a visual aid. However, if you have not prepared a visual aid and you want to give the audience a general idea of the object you are referencing, you can draw a picture with your fingers and hands.
Stage Movement

If you are not using a podium, you may simply be standing on a stage and addressing an audience. If this is the case, you should, contrary to popular belief, keep stage movements at a minimum. No one wants to see someone moving back and forth on a stage while they are giving a speech. It will look amateurish. The simple rule of thumb is to move when it is required, and not much more than that. If you are using a chart, for example, you might occasionally have to walk toward it, and then you can move back to center stage. However, keeping your movements to a minimum will serve you best.

If a podium has been provided for you, use it. Do not leave the podium and walk around the stage. This is especially true if you are nervous. The podium will help you to maintain your calmness throughout the speech.
International Customs

Nonverbal communication is especially important when you are visiting a foreign country. You may be speaking in front of an audience who knows your language, or you might have a translator. Either way, the gestures you think are appropriate in your native country might not be appropriate elsewhere. If you are not absolutely certain about the use of certain hand gestures or body movements, do not make them. It is perfectly acceptable to remain at the podium with your hands on the podium throughout your speech.

We all know by now that you must thoroughly research your audience before you arrive for your speech, and this is especially important when you are visiting a foreign country. However, in addition to research, it is important to convey to a foreign audience that you are honored to have been invited to speak to them. You are an ambassador of your native country and there are some people in the audience who will know some positive and negative stereotypes of your native country. One particularly powerful tactic a speaker can use is to rehearse at least one line of your speech in the foreign language. Make sure that the line is very important or, at the very least, would be very warmly received by the audience. You do not need to speak it perfectly, the audience will be very forgiving and they will be impressed that you made an effort. Either at the beginning or at the end of your speech, deliver this line and you will immediately gain a high level of rapport with the audience.

Most foreign audiences are delighted to see and hear a foreign speaker. Make it a rewarding experience for both you and the audience.