I’ve given up saying “I’m sorry, Jon, I haven’t practised much this week”. Jon is my saxophone teacher. It’s my third year of learning the alto sax. Normally I have a half hour lesson each week and Jon has always said that I need to practise at least 20 mins a day apart from the lesson. Inevitably life tends to get in the way of my practicing and by the end of the week I may have only practised once. But when I tell Jon that I haven’t been practising he simply says “Well, let’s get on with it then”. You see, my practicing or lack of it doesn’t really affect him; it only affects me.
But if I’m scheduled to do a presentation and I haven’t practised then it affects not only me but everyone in the audience. And practising presentations is a key to success if you’re presenting. How many times have you walked away from a talk and said to yourself, “I wish that had gone better”? Practising the presentation might well have made a difference. Because if I don’t practise I dramatically reduce my chances of success – if it’s a business pitch then I’ll probably lose any chance of getting the business; if it’s a key note I may not be asked back again; or if it’s a presentation as part of the recruitment process I may not get the job.
Practising presentations means saying the words out loud, even if it’s only to the furniture. At least once, but really as many times as it takes to really know what you’re going to say without total reliance on slides or notes. Why should we do that? So we can concentrate on engaging the audience and not just trying to remember what comes next. And, by the way, if you’re looking to persuade them, you have to engage with them. By the way, I’m also learning to sing and my singing teacher, Anthony Witt, has a lovely motto about practice: “Amateurs practise until they get it right; professionals practise until they can’t get it wrong!”