From time to time, a worker may be called upon to give a presentation, such as a simple review of lessons learned to a small team following a group project or a pitch to senior executives in support of launching a new initiative.
Whatever the context, too many people put too little time—and sometimes none at all—into practicing their presentations, and they are often disappointed in their own performance as a result.
When Presenting, Practice Really Does Make Perfect
“The best speakers often seem like they just glided on the stage and gave the presentation of their lives without much effort, but the truth is that the best speakers practice, practice, practice!” writes Dana Brownlee in an article for Forbes. “When you try to ‘wing it,’ you’re much more prone to stumble through the material, default to reading slides or get rattled by questions. Also, when you’ve not practiced much, you’re just not as confident and that lack of confidence comes across big time!”
Consider the points Brownlee makes in her statement. First, practicing helps avoid missteps in the live presentation. When rehearsing a presentation—not just reading it in your head but also actually speaking it—you can often find clumsy wording or awkward transitions. Practicing helps identify those in advance and correct them.
Moreover, practice helps commit content to memory, reducing the temptation to simply read from slides or prepared notes. Additionally, practicing builds confidence. Even for those without a mortal fear of public speaking, having a robust familiarity of the presentation’s content provides a considerable confidence boost.
Take Time to Get the Timing Down
In addition to Brownlee’s recommendations, another key benefit of rehearsing a presentation is timing. There may be general rules of thumb for the number of words a person speaks in a certain amount of time, but that can vary widely based on how fast the presenter talks and how dense the material is. The only way to truly get an accurate sense of a presentation’s timing is to practice.
Too many employees squander their opportunities and deliver a subpar presentation simply because they failed to practice. Although public speaking may not be everyone’s favorite pastime, getting up in front of a group of people and efficiently and effectively conveying information is a great confidence builder and can set employees apart from the rest of the team.