Ugh… the monotony of practice

By / Corporate Storytelling

When I see someone do a flip, I always wonder, “How did they progress to that stage without killing themselves?”  The image to the right is from an article titled “5 truly incredible images of gymnasts on balance beam at Rio 2016.”  It is truly incredible.  I can do a summersault… or at least I think I still can.  I’d probably tear something if I tried.

Anyways, not only are flips amazing but gymnasts will do them above a tiny balance beam.  That is astonishing!  I have a little cousin that can do this stuff at age 10.  I asked her, “How do you progress from summersaults to flipping on a balance beam?”

She said, “You just start small and slowly build up.  The coaches help you with a bunch of small steps.”  When she explained the intermediate steps it made sense.  I’d still be terrified but it now seemed possible in my mind.

When you are preparing for a presentation, you will likely create a script and some PowerPoint slides.  If you are a Corporate Storyteller you will have completed your storyboard before anything.  Once those are complete, it’s time to practice out loud.

Sometimes its hard to start practicing out loud.  It’s almost like going from summersaults to flips.  The leap seems to be too much and so we procrastinate doing the out-loud practice.

Some people like to write a script.  Personally, I don’t like to spend the time writing a script but I will create my Storyboard.  For those that don’t know, the Storyboard is a particular way to outline your talk to make it interesting and concise, etc..

Also, I don’t like to create a script because I like to “wing it” a little bit to feel natural but I know should practice some out loud.

If you also suffer from “Presentation Practice Procrastination,” perhaps you need to create an intermediate step, like the gymnasts.  Perhaps a step between “created my storyboard and slides” to “practicing out loud”.  Here is my version of the intermediate step:

Start your practice by simply rewriting your outline from memory. If you are a Corporate Storyteller, re-created your Storyboard from memory.  Grab a blank sheet of paper and draw the correct number of rows and the 4 columns and fill out the storyboard in the order you will present it.  Call it a “Storyboard Memory Test.”

I will do this 2-3 times.  Each time noting what sections I forget or that I struggle to remember.  I find this is a good way to *ease* into the actual practicing… out loud!  After 2-3 times I will have it memorized.  Then, I’m ready to start practicing out loud.

Oh, one last thing: Did I mention that you should practice OUT LOUD! ALL CAPS is meant to emphasize that you should practice out loud. Practice out loud!

Don’t just click through PowerPoint slides and present in your head. It always sounds perfect when you do it that way. But you are fooling yourself. Practicing out loud forces you to think about the details of the speech.

If you are in a place where you have to be quiet, move your lips.  I will often practice while on a flight.  During take-off, I will do my “Storyboard Memory Test” a few times.  Then, I start to present it.  However, the passenger next to me doesn’t want to hear me talking to myself the whole flight.  At least, I assume they would rather not deal with that.  So, I will stay quiet but move my lips as I practice without making any sound.  This still forces you to form actual sentences (as opposed to imaging wonderfully poetic words magically flowing from your mind to your lips).

Give it a try.

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Brian O’Keefe is a Corporate Storyteller at Articulus LLC. He can help you get to the point and help your audience make a decision. He coaches leaders, sales people, engineers, etc. how to get to the heart of their message and be persuasive (not just informative).

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