How to Practice a Speech, Talk or Presentation Easily

October 2010

by Sandra Zimmer

My speaking clients often ask me how they can practice for their talks and presentations. They  feel overwhelmed with learning a talk and just don’t seem to have enough time to practice, so they don’t!  I do practice, but I like for it to be easy. I don’t want practice to take a long time. If you follow my directions, it can be easy for you to practice your talk so you will shine in your presentation.

  1. Write your talk the way that you speak.  Don’t try to write grammatically perfect as you would for a written article. Keep sentences short and simple – just the way you talk.
  2. Type your talk in 14 point Ariel, double spaced, with wide (2 inch) margins.  This is so your eye does not have to track as far from side to side while reading aloud.
  3. Break your talk into short segments or chunks that make sense and that are less than about 5 minutes in length.
  4. Practice one chunk at a time.  Start by reading your first chunk outloud a few times.  Then look away from your script and try to talk it aloud.  Don’t worry about saying it word-for-word, just articulate the essence of your script.  Talk that first chunk aloud until you can do it without your notes.  Each chunk will take less than a half hour to learn.
  5. After learning the first chunk, move to the second chunk and repeat the practice process in step 4.  Continue until you have completed all the chunks. I prefer to work with only one chunk per day and to learn the whole talk over a week or two.  I practice no more than 30 minutes per day.
  6. Once you know all the individual chunks, start putting them together and practice the whole talk a few times until it is time to deliver your talk.

I like to start learning a talk as far I advance as possible, but I don’t like to work hard or long at a practice session.  So, I count my chunks and figure out how many days I have to learn the talk.  If I have 5 chunks and 2 weeks to learn it, I will practice about 30 minutes a day.  In the first 5 days, I practice and learn only 1 chunk per day. The next 5 days, I will repeat one chunk each day. The last 4 days, I will practice the whole talk once a day. It’s easy!

I have found this approach to be the best for me.  It’s too much work to try to learn a whole talk all at once.  This approach not only seems easy, but it assures me I will know it when the time comes to deliver my talk.  I can count on knowing the talk quite well with minimal daily effort.



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