Every so often I meet a business person or a candidate running for office who seems stunned to learn that being a good speaker requires a ton of practice. The executive invariably confides, “I don’t need to practice. I know what I’m talking about.†And the candidate shares, “I just speak from the heart and it’s usually enough.â€

Just as outstanding dancers, musicians, athletes and actors practice for hours and even years to perfect their performance, I have found that speakers and leaders who are serious about making a difference with their words do the same. The goal of practicing aloud is to make your delivery seem “natural†and ironically, not rehearsed. Only a rare few folks are able to do a good presentation without ample preparation. These individuals are usually veteran speakers with years of experience and deep familiarity with their topics.

How you practice matters! I don’t recommend reading and reciting over and over what you intend to say because you’re likely to get bored and drive yourself a bit crazy. Instead, rehearse your message, in parts, aloud, and out of order. Try the third point first, then the opening, then the close. Mix up the sequence and record or video each segment. You’ll quickly be able to identify what parts are working and where you may be stumbling or sound disinterested.

Once you’ve thoroughly prepared, find a local audience for the equivalent of a dress rehearsal before your big day. This effort helps assure you’ll be the hit you want to be. Let me know how it goes, okay?

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