5 Tips: How to Rehearse a Speech

Christopher Witt —  October 30, 2013

rehearsing a speech or presentationOne of the easiest ways to improve your speaking — your comfort in front of an audience, the naturalness of your gestures and facial expressions, the quality of your voice — is by rehearsing.

(I’m presuming, of course, that you’ve already created your content, based on what you want to achieve and what your audience and the situation call for.)

Here are my 5 Tips for Rehearsing a Speech or Presentation

1. Make the content your own.

Even if you’ve worked with a speechwriter or inherited a presentation prepared by someone else, don’t simply accept what you’re given. Make it your speech. Understand what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. Know how each section logically leads to the next. Change any words, phrases, or slides that don’t make sense to you or that sound strange to your ear. Believe in your message, or change it.

2. Break it down.

Take one section at a time. Even if you’re using PowerPoint, you shouldn’t think of your presentation as a set number of slides; think of it as a few number of sections. Understand how the sections are related. Then concentrate on one section. Practice it until you’ve got it. Figure out your transition sentence to the next section. Then work on the next section.

3. Talk it through.

Be your own first audience. Talk your speech through in your mind. Start with the main points, simply explaining what your central message is and how each section (I recommend no more than three) explains, illustrates, or proves that message. I like to go for walk as I do this, but many people like to think their talks through as they drive to work.

Then talk it through with someone who doesn’t necessarily know what you’re talking about: someone from another department, say, or a significant other.

You’re not trying to memorize your speech word for word. You simply want to get your mind and your mouth around the main concepts.

4. Talk it through again.

This time stand up and walk around with a copy of your text nearby or with your slides visible. Talk it through out loud. This is important. Saying things in your mind isn’t the same as saying them out loud. I don’t care if it makes you feel foolish. It will save you from feeling foolish in front of an audience.

Memorize the opening and closing sentences of your speech and a few key phrases. Memorize the structure of your speech and the transition sentences. Don’t try to commit your entire speech to memory.

5. Prepare notes.

Prepare a one-page outline of your speech with a few phrases or important facts to use, if necessary, as you’re speaking. You can keep your entire text handy to refer to, if you’d like. It’s no sin to pause and check your notes from time to time.

Keep your intention foremost while you’re rehearsing and while you’re speaking: You goal is — or should be — to present ideas and information that your audience can use to their benefit. Keep your focus on them and on helping them.

What do you do to rehearse your presentations?

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

5 responses to 5 Tips: How to Rehearse a Speech

  1. “5 Tips: How to Rehearse a Speech – Christopher Witt”
    was in fact certainly pleasurable and enlightening!
    Within todays world that’s very hard to do. With
    thanks, Remona

  2. I truly believe that rehearsing a speech in your head is way different that practicing saying outloud. It is good to hear someone else state this completely clearly.

    • Ruth,
      Thanks for affirming my experience.
      Rehearsing a speech in our heads is like most thing we play out in our minds, better in the imagining than in reality.

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