I wonder why I’m so reluctant to practice my speeches. As a member of two Toastmaster clubs, I get a chance to give a few talks each month. We all know that practicing the talk greatly improves it. Yet, with an upcoming talk, I find myself avoiding opportunities to give it to my wife (critical feedback), dog (totally accepting) or a mirror (doesn’t give a damn.)

Turns out I get frustrated when I practice. The words don’t flow easily and then my memory fails. Anger ensues. Why can’t I just remember what I’m trying to say and then say it?!

Practicing communication skills requires some patience and a few techniques:

  • It’s going to suck at first…so get ready to revise
  • Re-writing the talk many times is OK (and quite normal)
  • Practice the talk a few times and then forget about it…go do something else
  • Practice with someone who will give you honest feedback without crushing your spirit
  • A mirror is distracting… visual overload will block memory…avoid the mirror until maybe the last few practices…then use it to perfect your gestures and body language
  • Write and then memorize powerful opening and closing lines. Then, just remember the outline of the talk…allowing the freedom to improvise each of the sections of your talk based on how your audience is reacting. However, keep in mind time limits for the overall talk. Cut out sections if you feel there is too much to cover in the allotted time.
  • Set up a practice schedule that suits you and then stick to it.

Final thought: practicing speaking, like practicing a sport, requires lots of repetitions. The more reps, the easier it is for me to get up in front of any audience and have some fun talking.