You've sweated over your outline. You've created some beautiful sentences. You've even got a great humanizing ice-breaker to kick-off your speech. Congratulations! You've just begun!
"What? All that work and I've just begun?!!"
Yep. It's one thing to express an idea perfectly on paper. It's quite another to express those ideas in a set amount of time, in a particular space, with a particular audience. Think of your well-crafted speech as a really well-rolled piece of clay. It contains the pathway of your arguments, your colorful details, your relevant examples. But it doesn't yet have its final shape. It can't have one without an audience. (You might even argue that it'll never have a “final” shape!) The clay of your speech takes it shape each time it comes out of your mouth in real time. And that means that repetition is super-important. Repetition comes in two forms.
First, if you have the luxury, the best kind of repetition comes by working the same ideas over and over again in speaking engagements. Every time you work your material in front of another audience, you will learn more about your relationship to the material and more about how your material lands with people. The more you can do this, the better you will get. Stand-up comics know this very well. Even the most seasoned professionals, once they assemble a new act, do not directly record their next album. Instead, they spend a significant amount of time in clubs trying their material out over and over again. By the time we hear it on the album, they've done those jokes hundreds of times and know how to tell them a hundred different ways. If you have the opportunity to make your speech over and over again, first, thank your lucky stars for that golden opportunity. Second, make sure that after every time you give the speech you take just a few minutes to note three things: what worked, what didn't work, and what new things you discovered.
Now, sometimes you have to give a speech that is a one-shot. Take a wedding toast, for example. But even though you're only going to do it one time, you can still help yourself with repetition. You can do it in two ways. First, you can practice alone. Don't do it front of a mirror; it'll be distracting. And it's artificial. When you make your speech, you're not going to be watching yourself, you're going to be engaging with the people watching you, so don't get used to watching yourself. Instead of practicing in front of a mirror, speak your speech in the shower, on the street quietly to yourself, in your office with the door closed, or in your car. By doing this, you will get a sense of what your speech sounds like; what sounds too long, too short, too confusing, or too repetitive. And the more you do it, the more options will make themselves available to you. How? Because the more you repeat your speech, the more bored you're going to get with the way you do it; and that will provoke you to express your ideas in new ways.
Second, you can get friends to be your test audience. Get a friend, a parent, a roommate, whoever, to sit down in front of you and listen. They'll give you valuable feedback about what's clear and what needs more work. They'll also help you get more comfortable. Rehearsing in front of friends is a lot closer to speaking in front of strangers than you might think. Because everyone in your audience, whether they know you or not, wants their experience with you to be interesting, engaging, and successful.
And, if you want to rehearse with a little guidance, contact MUSE for a free intro session today!