If you think you’re out of practice

Ever feel you just can’t make enough improvements because you don’t get enough practice? Many speakers would agree this is something that holds them back. And to a degree, I understand. Yet I also know this type thinking is an example of narrow application.

Many litigators have told me a similar tale. They focus their energies on the argument and the strategy yet can’t get enough presentation  practice. Their inability to learn key techniques and then apply them to regular life prohibits their presentation and just may be prohibiting their practice. One presentation basic, being clear, can be practiced in many daily ways.


This past Saturday I spent the day with Protrackers – folks involved in a professional speaking business training with the National Speakers’ Association. It was day 4 of our training, a day centered on each of us presenting our signature speech, one that demonstrates why we speak on the topic we make a business around. We had been given some guidance last class on the organizational and delivery elements. This class we were to be videotaped while speaking in front of a panel of NSA speakers. Although the tension was much higher, we felt better prepared. Still, there were things for us to learn.

I listened to the presentations and critiques of 6 speakers before taking my turn after lunch. I had practiced on my own 3 times, had spoken to a local audience 3 days prior with this message, and then made some minor adjustments the night before our Saturday class. My concern was how much time I would take. Each practice I ran anywhere from 8.5 – 10 minutes.

As I came to my conclusion that day, the 2-minute warning sign came up and I decided to abbreviate the rest of my talk. This shifted my focus from the audience to me, the speaker, and I momentarily lost my train of thought. The punch was written at the end, and since I abbreviated the end, I missed the punch. Yet the panelists’ feedback opened my eyes to a very constructive criticism.

Don’t wait until the end to share your punch. The clearer your point, the more focused your message. This is a daily communication technique to practice. Why wait until the end of your conversation to make your point known? By then folks may be tuned out or assuming your point is something completely different, or we may simply run out of time.

Remember the great lyrics in Sound of Music during the song, Do Re Mi? “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”

Although I heard many pieces of feedback, this is the piece that drives home what I need to practice every day. Get clear, at the beginning, what my point, my intentions as well as my plan for the day is. This helps me practice and apply a basic speaking technique, regularly.

If I’m not speaking every day, I am most certainly doing some other activity, all of which start with a plan. And if I plan without focusing on what’s most important, my activities will be a waste of time, just like any details of my signature story which are shared before I get clear about the point. My communication with others will be superficial unless and until I specify what is important about our relationship, or our current call or meeting.

Can you see how this presentation strategy (being clear at the beginning) can enhance your regular daily focus? If so, then you now see the power of understanding and applying presentation techniques, whether you speak in public or not.

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On December 19th, 2011, posted in: clarity, litigator, practice, public speaking by
One Response to If you think you’re out of practice
  1. It’s ok to have public spikaeng fear, it’s one of the top 10 phobias1. I would suggest taking Public Speaking (the class) if they offer it in your high school or a community college around you2. eat a banana, it helps with nervousness sometimes3. drink water before you go up or if your throat closes up, eat a cough drop3.5 take a deep breath before you start4. if your hands shake, put your hands to your sides and have your thumb and middle finger tip touching; if you’re holding a manuscript, if there’s a table available or lectern around you, put it on there and glance down every now and then to see where you are try to use an outline, so you don’t rely on your manuscript word for word5. just know your stuff well and practice your speech over and over again (yes i know you said to not say this)but you’re up there to inform a group of people something, not look nervous in front of them (which you probably don’t) No one really knows you’re nervous unless you say you are, which you shouldn’t be telling them. Just don’t do some weird continuous action like tapping your foot or twirling your hair, etcif you really need a manuscript and do bring one up with you, something a classmate of mine did was literally write in the text pause , look around at audience oh also, don’t forget to time yourself during practice if there’s a time limit. It helps if your speech is comfortably around the middle of the minimum and maximum time when you’re practicing

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