6 Keys to Preparing For a Successful Speech

Sunday is Oscar Night and there’s only one thing more predictable than Daniel Day Lewis taking home the Best Actor award: it’s the sight of multiple presenters flubbing their lines, mangling their scripted “ad-libs” and exiting the stage in the wrong direction.

And these are professional performers! What chance does an everyday person have to deliver an error-free presentation at a conference or other event?

Of course, there’s no way to guarantee a flawless performance, but you can minimize your margin of error by doing something that many of these celebrities neglect to do: taking the rehearsal process seriously and making the most of every minute of it.

Rehearsal: It’s For Everybody

“All the real work is done in the rehearsal period.”
– Donald Pleasence

Rehearsal is an essential part of any performance, whether you’re introducing the nominees for best actor or unveiling new products to your customers. And it’s for everybody, whether you’re a Hollywood star or a corporate CEO.

And yet I’ve seen countless executives sabotage important speeches by squandering precious rehearsal time – especially on-site at the event, when it really counts.

So if you’ve got a big speech to deliver, here are six things you can do to make the process run smoother and increase your odds for success come “show time.”

1. Be On Time

It’s disrespectful and costly to keep a huge crew of people waiting for you. These are the folks with their fingers on the buttons that control your microphone, your spotlight and your visuals. You want them on your side, so don’t start things off on the wrong foot. This is no time to be a diva.

2. Be Prepared

This should be one of your last rehearsals, not the first. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, schedule a few run-throughs in the office where people can give you feedback. If that’s not possible, make time to do it on your own. And it’s not enough to just read the speech silently to yourself. Perform it – out loud, early and often. That’s the best way to catch tongue twisters, run-on sentences and other issues that may trip you up later.

3. Stop Editing

By this time, your content should be locked down. You can always come up with a better turn of phrase or another amusing anecdote, but messing with your script and slides at this point just introduces more opportunities for mishaps at performance time. SNL Producer Lorne Michaels famously said, “We don’t go on [the air] because we’re ready; we go on because it’s 11:30.” Let go of the words and focus on your performance.

4. Don’t Phone It In

If you have the luxury of being able to run through your entire speech, make the most of that opportunity. Invest it with all the focus, energy and volume you would devote to the actual performance. The more you work that muscle, the more easily you’ll be able to “bring it” at show time.

5. Listen

Put the phone away, stop the side conversations and pay attention to what the producers are saying. Big events have many moving parts – some of them can literally crush you if you don’t know what’s going on. (Just ask Bret Michaels.)

6. Be Positive

Everyone’s tired, everyone’s stressed, everyone’s had a long day. (Especially the crew, who got there long before you and won’t leave until long after you’re gone.) It’s okay to feel all that – just don’t talk about it. Leave it outside the room. Constantly vocalizing your workaday woes is contagious and perpetuates a negative atmosphere.

If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Rehearsing

Keep in mind that you won’t get everything you want out of rehearsal. It’s as much for the people producing the event as it is for you. But if you approach the process with the right mindset, it’s sure to pay off with a better performance.

2 thoughts on “6 Keys to Preparing For a Successful Speech

  1. Hi Rob, I just loved this article thank you. Several years ago I did a simple training tape called “Showtime” based on the same concepts geared toward being prepared each day for work. Have a great Thursday!

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