Practice, practice: 4 tips for rehearsing your presentation

Simulate the venue, work on sections at a time, include transitions, record and review your talk, and—whatever you do—don’t just wing it.

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They believe rehearsing robs them of their spontaneity and that their instincts will guide them once they get in front of an audience.

That’s almost always a mistake. Practice sessions inevitably reveal soft spots—listless anecdotes, awkward transitions, distracting visuals and myriad other problems. Without practice, those trouble spots often can’t be spotted in advance, and the off-the-cuff speaker ends up committing avoidable errors.

Still, off-the-cuff presenters have a point about striking a balance between practice—which helps them get comfortable and work out any kinks in the presentation—and over-practice, which can make them come across as stilted.

Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma once offered a simple formula for finding a middle ground: “Practicing is about quality, not quantity.”

These tips will help you optimize your rehearsal process:

1. Start with chunks, not full run-throughs.

Beginning with a full run-through makes it challenging to focus on any single section. It can, after a few takes, make your practice feel redundant and unnecessarily long.

Instead, divide your presentation into chunks, or sections, as in the following example:

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