Rehearsal: Is it Really That Important?

We live in a face-paced world.  This is no surprise.  Virtually ALL information is at our fingertips, and our collective attention spans have shortened commensurately.

I make no value judgement about this … it’s the way things are.  This sentiment is also not new. Adults in the 1950s said this about their children, and those children grew up to say it about their children, and so, and so on … and that hill to school got steeper and snowier with each generation.

Another casualty of this “culture of immediacy” is the concept of “rehearsal.”  It is alive and well in the performing arts and has not lost any of its importance.  Finances may have caused typical rehearsal schedules to shorten, but if the performance community had its druthers, rehearsal periods would lengthen considerably. Why?  Because they know that rehearsal is IMPORTANT!

In the world of corporate presentations, however, the idea of “rehearsal” has taken many hits. Executives (and everyone down the corporate hierarchy) works under extreme timelines, and the idea of “rehearsing” for a presentation or sales interaction (read: tradeshows), has lost much of its importance.

This blog will reinforce why rehearsing is important, and provide some high-level tips to ensure your rehearsals are useful and fruitful.

First, here is what rehearsing a business presentation is NOT:

  • Reviewing your notes over lunch.
  • Reading through your remarks in your office or cube.
  • Standing in front of a mirror and saying your presentation out loud.

Yes, these can be useful, but they need to part of a larger, more robust structure. What follows are the Top 4 Tips when preparing a corporate presentation rehearsal structure:

Rehearsing is a MUST.  Rehearsing a presentation is not a “like” to have, it is a “must” have.  NOT rehearsing is not an option. You can have brilliant ideas, but if you cannot effectively communicate them, they are worthless. That may sound harsh, but it is true. Furthermore, your value is inextricably linked to the value your audience places on your presentation.

Speak the speech, I pray thee.  You must rehearse OUT LOUD, either in the space you will be delivering your remarks, or in one HIGHLY similar. How you hold your body, how you look people in the eye, how you interact with other people and your visual support cannot be replicated in your office or cube.

Do not memorize.  This may seem obvious because few people CAN actually memorize a 20-minute presentation.  However, what I mean with this Tip is; do not strive to deliver your presentation the same way each time. Professional actors work for years to be able to deliver scripted lines in a casual, seemingly spontaneous manner.  You may wish to script key parts of your remarks, and refer to your notes at specific moments because word choices matter, but for the most part, work from bullet points and know WHAT you want to say, and HOW you want to say it. Your audience will have an easier time relating and connecting with you as a human being if you are, indeed, speaking and acting like a human being, and not like an automaton.

Give yourself a break.  Yes, the content of your remarks is important … perhaps HIGHLY important to your company …but give yourself a break.  Give yourself permission to flub a word or line.  If you’re properly prepared, this flub will not make you appear off track or confused … it will make you appear …  normal and intelligent.  HOW you handle a flub or technical error says more about you than the actual content of your presentation.  If you’ve given yourself permission to make a few errors, when they do occur (and I guarantee you, they WILL occur), you can simply correct yourself, and move forward. If quizzed about it, the audience will most likely not remember the flub.

Here’s another tip; they WILL remember the flub if you let it flip you out, and you obsequiously apologize for it.  This only his draws greater attention to the error, and weakens your power.  If you’re not concerned about it, the audience won’t be either.

Of course, there are many other specific ways to prepare a business presentation (you can take a deep dive into this subject here), but to sum up, if you accept the fact that you MUST rehearse, that you must rehearse IN REAL TIME in an appropriate space, and that you must acknowledge that MISTAKES HAPPEN, you’re well on your way to being a better, more successful speaker.

So print up your next presentation, find an appropriate meeting room, get it on its feet, and talk like a human.

You, and your company, will be better for it.