How music’s 120/80 principle can improve your next speech

The author, a public speaker and professional pianist, explains the 120/80 principle of preparation, and why it’s impossible to practice too much.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

Speech is a performance. There are many similarities between music performance and public speaking. Many elements of the musician’s mindset, attitude, and preparation for a performance apply to any presentation, any audience, and any circumstance.

In the music world, we use the 120/80 principle when preparing for a performance. That means if I prepare 120 percent of what I want to accomplish on the stage, the outcome will be about 80 percent of what was expected. During the live presentation, a number of things could happen:

Just ask any presenter or performer after the presentation whether they achieved 100 percent of their performance goal. Nearly all would say no; there is always room for improvement.

In terms of piano practice and performance, there is no such thing as “over-rehearsing.” There are thousands of ways to interpret and express each single phrase in music. Just imagine the millions of combinations and possibilities that can be demonstrated in a 10-minute presentation. It is impossible to over-rehearse millions of options.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.