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The best way to improve how you deliver a speech or presentation is to practice it out loud.

I’m presuming, of course, that you’ve prepared your presentation. You’ve analyzed your audience. You’ve established a goal for your presentation and a strategy for achieving it. You’ve crafted a message that is both clear and compelling. And you’ve created audio-visuals to help illustrate, explain, and substantiate your main points.

Doing all that preparation puts you ahead of 90% of the competition. So why waste all that effort? Don’t stint on rehearsing your talk.

The most effective way to rehearse a speech or presentation is to talk it through not in your mind, but out loud.

Sure, you can and should rehearse it over and over again in your mind. Think it through. Make sure it makes sense to you. If you can’t remember the main points of your presentation in order without checking your notes, how do you expect your audience to remember?

So, by all means, have that internal conversation without yourself. But there comes a time when you have to say those words out loud. And you don’t want that first time to be in front of an audience.

Here’s the problem with practicing a presentation only in your mind, not out loud. You know what you’re talking about. You understand the concepts. And you know how they connect, how one point logically leads to the next. So when you practice it in your mind, it makes sense to you because your mind fills in gaps.

Practicing your speech out loud—actually saying the words, not just having an internal conversation—forces you to explicitly explain and develop your reasoning, your logic, your message.

Practicing your presentation out loud also helps you remember it. I’m not recommending, mind you, that you memorize your speech word for word. But the more thoroughly you know it, the less you’ll have to refer to your notes or look at your slides, and the more you’ll be able to engage your audience.

Here are three rules for rehearsing a speech or presentation:

  1. Talk your presentation through several times in your mind. Make sure you understand the main concepts and how they relate to each other.
  2. Stand up and speak your presentation out loud. Moving around as you do so will help, for a reason that I don’t fully understand.
  3. Stand up and speak your presentation in a setting that is similar to the one where you’ll be presenting.

If you can rehearse your talk using all three steps, you’ll be a much more confident and professional presenter. If you can only practice the first two steps, you’ll still be better prepared than most presenters.

Try it and let me know how it works. If you have another way to practice a speech or presentation, let me know.

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