How to Rehearse an Important Presentation
February 09, 2023
When you have an important presentation, you must rehearse your presentation properly. The better prepared you are, the more likely it is that your presentation will go well.
But how do the best presenters practise their presentations? This is what we have learnt over the last 15 years of coaching senior executives.
Why you should rehearse an important presentation
You only get better by practising. You’d never play in a tennis match without practising. You would not want your dentist to look at your teeth without practising. It’s the same with presenting.
Every time you practise your presentation you get better. Most people underestimate how long it takes to practise a really good presentation. For example, when we coach Capital Market Days for large, quoted companies, the CEO and CFO will typically each spend at least 3 or 4 days practising and rehearsing their presentations. How do you prepare for a board presentation? By practising.
How many times should you practise your presentation?
This is one of the most common questions we get asked. Our answer: practise until it’s ready. Every person is different and each presentation is different. If you are a real expert, you may need just one or two run-throughs.
But for most of us, who are not yet at the top of our game, you probably need to practise your presentation 5 or 10 times. You should keep practising until you are confident it can’t get better. And if you are early in your career, then practise more. Invest time now to build the skills you need later in your career.
How to practise a presentation on Teams or Zoom
The good news about rehearsing an important presentation on Teams or Zoom is that you can record yourself. So record the first couple of minutes, then review. Try it again, but this time for 4 minutes, then watch that back. Again, make any fixes and try it again for a bit longer. Like this you keep building your skills and practising at the same time. Spend an especially long time working on the start and the end of your presentations. These are the most important parts.
Can you rehearse your important presentation too much?
It’s hard to practise too much! If you, or the person you are practising with, is still finding mistakes, you know there’s more work to do. But what you don’t want to do is just keep running through the same script and making the same errors. The real art of practising an important presentation is to continually change and improve your script so that it sounds better each time.
Best way to rehearse an important presentation
Based on 15 years’ experience of coaching people to deliver brilliant presentations, we suggest the following 5-step plan for practising your important presentation like a pro.
1. Start rehearsing an important presentation early.
Have you prepared just one part of your presentation? Practise that. Do you have an early draft of your talk? Start practising with that. Do you want to know if an element of your talk works? Practise it now. Have you found a brilliant idea to finish your presentation? Practise that. Don’t wait until you’ve finished everything. Instead try out each part of your presentation as you go along.
2. Practise, don’t rehearse your presentation.
A “rehearsal” suggests that you have finished writing your presentation and you just need to deliver it. On the other hand, “practise” allows you to change your script, your messages and everything that’s not right. You want to be constantly changing and improving so that you know your content is as good as it can be.
3. Introduce PowerPoint only after you’ve practised your talk.
Only amateurs narrate slides. A good presentation is more like an illustrated talk. So prepare your talk and then introduce your slides later. And make sure all your slides actually make it easier for your audience. Read this article about creating great PowerPoint slides.
4. Use a critical audience when rehearsing your presentation and get feedback.
The real art of practising it to get feedback and learn from that feedback. If you have an audience to present to, you will get better feedback than just running it though by yourself. The process of taking feedback and changing your script or your performance is part of becoming a better presenter.
5. Use video feedback when rehearsing a presentation.
Recording and watching yourself is an important part of the process of rehearsing your important presentation.
Important presentation rehearsal mistakes to avoid
These are some of the common mistakes we have seen when people rehearse an important presentation.
1. Being happy with the first draft.
The biggest mistake people make is to rehearse a first draft over and over again. Instead, we like Earnest Hemmingway’s advice: “The only type of writing is rewriting.”
2. Narrating slides
A presentation is more than narrated slides. A great presentation should be like an illustrated talk. Create your talk first, then illustrate it with visual aids.
3. Avoiding practice
I’m always surprised how many people are happy to wing it in front of an audience but are reluctant to practise in front of their colleagues. This is completely counter-intuitive. You must always rehearse an important presentation so that you increase your chances of success.
4. Just mumbling it through
To practise well you want to perform at the top of your game. Get yourself in the mood to perform as if it was the real thing. Then you’ll start to see what works well and where changes are needed.
5. Not watching yourself on video
We all hate watching ourselves, but it’s a skill we need to learn. Keep watching yourself until you no longer squirm and you start to observe what you are doing well and not doing well. That’s what the best people do to rehearse an important presentation.
How to become a master presenter
So to really become a great presenter, you need to practise. You could practise by yourself, or you could call in one of our presentation coaching experts to help you. We’d love to help you. It may take just a few hours over video. It might be the best investment you ever make. Call to discuss.
How to practise your next presentation
About Benjamin Ball Associates
At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help our clients to communicate better. You get presentation coaching for executives.
Over 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has coached thousands of senior executives globally to present powerfully. You get access to a transformational toolbox of presentation skills & techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.
We’ll help you create a powerful first impression that hooks and engages your audience immediately, and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.
Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email email@example.com to find out more and discuss your upcoming speech or presentation.
Contact us for a chat about how we can help you with your presenting.
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