Updated: Jul 16, 2019
This is the final installment of a four part series on how to improve your public speaking.
What is the biggest mistake those who are either, afraid of public speaking, or who are comfortable standing in front of people make?
They don’t practice.
There is something about public speaking that makes people think they can get up and “wing it.” And then it doesn’t go the way they had planned or their habits of wandering or saying the word “like” resurface and they are surprised or disappointed. When we practice in sports, we get better. When we practice yoga, we get better. Actors rehearse. Singers rehearse. But for some reason, practicing public speaking doesn't land in that category.
Now, let’s categorize this a bit. I’ve been standing up in front of people either on a stage or in a classroom for literally decades. I still practice, but I probably need less of it than others might.
If you haven’t been standing up in front of people for decades, and are trying to overcome some of the issues we have addressed in this series, you need to practice. You can’t get rid of bad habits without practice. You can’t learn to be more comfortable in front of people without practice. You can’t get better or become a great public speaker without rehearsing your speech!
When I was young, my Mom made me take piano lessons. I hated it. Finally, after 3 years of futility, Mrs. Telerico called my Mom and said, “I don’t think it is worth your money for her to come any more. She never practices.” To this day I wish Mrs. Telerico had called Mom sooner! It would have prevented me from feigning that I didn’t understand the music or that I had a sudden vision impairment had fallen upon me. (A trick I tried many times!)
Good acting practice, perhaps, but sadly, to this day I do not, play the piano.
I’m not sure why people decide that giving a speech doesn’t require learning it and rehearsing it. Why overcoming unconscious habits doesn’t require practice. Even when I give speeches I figure that preparation for a 15 minute presentation is about 30 hours. 25 to construct a great story and about 4-5 to practice.
To quote Silicon Valley Presentation Guru, Nancy Duarte: “Rehearse. And when you are done, rehearse again. And when you are done with that, rehearse again.”
You get the picture.