Rehearsing a Speech Makes It Better

Christopher Witt —  January 17, 2014

man rehearsing a speechRehearsing a speech out loud is one of the best ways to improve it — both its message and your delivery. 

Never, never, never (well, almost never) give a speech without first having spoken it out loud, either to yourself or to one other person. 

There are five ways that rehearsing your speech improves it.

First, by rehearsing your speech out loud, you discover how (or if) it holds together and whether it makes sense.

If you simply outline a speech and think it through (i.e. talk it through silently in your mind), it always makes sense…at least, to you. That’s because you supply all the background information and insights you’ve gained preparing the talk. You know what you mean, so you think you’re saying what you know. But when you force yourself to speak and  pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth, you become aware of the gaps or inconsistencies. And you can fix them.

Second, by rehearsing your speech out loud, you compose it — or recompose it — for the ear, not for the eye.

Written communication is different from oral communication, which needs to be simpler, to use shorter sentences and parallel construction, to be immediately comprehensible. It’s fine to begin with a written text. But talking it through helps turn the written word into the spoken word.

Third, by rehearsing your speech out loud, you pay greater attention to the sound of words.

It’s perfectly legitimate, for example, to use “eschew” in a written piece, but I would never say it aloud in front of an audience. And I have a hard time getting my tongue around certain sound certain phrases. (I made a fool of myself once trying to say “fluent French.”) It’s better to find these things out before we have to say them from the stage.

Fourth, by rehearsing your speech out loud, you simplify it.

You eliminate extraneous material, simply because you forget it. If you can’t remember what you’ve prepared after practicing it a number of times, referring to your notes as needed, how can you expect your audience to remember any of it, given that they’ll only hear it once? Sometimes you need to have a text or a detailed outline to refer to. But even then it should be so clearly and simply structured that you can remember its main point and how one section flows into another. 

And finally, by rehearsing your speech out loud, you learn how to deliver it. You master its pacing, when to speed up or slow down, when to pause, when to increase or decrease your volume. And you learn which gestures come naturally to you, spurred by the thoughts you’re expressing.

If your speech is important enough to prepare for (to research, think through, and write out), it’s important enough to rehearse. Practice your speech out loud and you’ll improve its impact tremendously.

(In a future post I’ll tell you how I rehearse my speeches, but for now let me just suggest that you stand up and walk around while you practice speaking out loud.)

For suggestions on overcoming the fear of speaking, check out How to Develop Confidence.

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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.

3 responses to Rehearsing a Speech Makes It Better

  1. Just read this. Wonderful! Bang on!

    I’d like to add one more benefit – by rehearsing out loud you get a feel for the length of the presentation. I hate it when a talk goes overlong (not that I’m innocent in this regard). By practicing out loud you can time yourself to see if your speech/presentation is too short (unlikely) or too long (almost guaranteed). I advocate doing an “out loud” practice run as soon as you have a rough draft – at this stage it is easiest to rescope the content to make it fit, instead of panicking the night before in your hotel room.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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