When people ask me for tips on presentation skills and public speaking my knee-jerk response is always, “Prepare, prepare, prepare.” Whenever I coach speakers for a specific speech or presentation they almost always realize, within five minutes, that they’re not as prepared as they thought they were, and part of that preparation process involves rehearsal.

Writing a speech and delivering a speech are two different animals. Just because you assembled your slide deck or completed your outline doesn’t mean you’re ready to go live in front of an audience. Until you stand up and rehearse out loud you can’t say you’ve done everything in your power to be fully prepared.

There are many reasons why you might not rehearse. Perhaps you wait too long to write the speech so there’s no time to rehearse before the event. Maybe you know the information like the back of your hand so you assume you can communicate it clearly without practice. Or maybe rehearsal just seems boring when you could be watching TV.

Inadequate rehearsal has serious consequences for your performance. Failure to rehearse makes you vulnerable to nervousness. There is nothing that will freak you out more than standing in front of a live audience and realizing in the first thirty seconds that it’s not going as smoothly and easily as you assumed it would.

No rehearsal leads to rambling. When you haven’t practiced making your point out loud you end up using unnecessary words, going down dead ends, and repeating yourself as you struggle to articulate your message. That makes you look bad and it’s frustrating for your listeners.

Until you’ve delivered your presentation out loud you have no idea how long it will take. With no rehearsal a single bullet point in your notes can easily turn into five minutes of babble. Show me a speaker running overtime and I’ll bet my last dollar that speaker hasn’t rehearsed.

You can compare rehearsal to the test-driving phase of developing a new car. The first prototype is never ready for market. There are always flaws to uncover and improvements to be made, some of them major, but you’ll never find them until you take that car out for a spin. That’s also true for speeches and presentations.

It’s in rehearsal where you’ll discover how to express an idea with more simplicity and clarity. You’ll find ways to reorganize your content so it flows more smoothly and logically. You might even realize whole sections of material can be cut altogether. With no rehearsal you forfeit all those opportunities to improve your performance.

Some aspects of public speaking are hard, but rehearsal isn’t hard, and the ultimate payoff is way out of proportion to the time and effort you invest. Every run-through makes your speech better and makes you the clear, concise and confident speaker audiences love. So get your notes, get on your feet and get started.

Thanks for watching. Leave a comment and tell me how rehearsal has made you a better speaker. I’ll see you in the next video, which I think will address some of the things you should look for when you rehearse.

Public Speaking Skills: Rehearsal

Rehearsal is one of the most neglected aspects of public speaking and presentation yet it can take your performance from mediocre to great. The improvements just keep coming and the speech just keeps getting better. It’s not sexy activity but diligent rehearsal will raise your speaking ability head and shoulders above that of your peers.