Updated: Mar 1
Once you’ve written your speech or presentation, your work isn’t over. You still need to practice it. Specific methods on how to prepare for a speech aren’t discussed as much as ways to structure a speech or calm your nerves before giving it.
Some speakers try to practice their entire speech in one go during each session. This is fine for short presentations, but what happens if you have an hour-long presentation to prep for?
One method on how to prepare for a speech involves planning out your practice sessions well in advance of when you have to give your speech. Each session should focus on a particular part of your speech and build off the previous session. The goal is to practice the speech in small parts and continually add on to parts you’ve already mastered. For this example, let’s say that your speech has an introduction, closing, and 3 main points in the middle. Furthermore, you have about a month before the presentation.
For how to prepare for a speech like this, one way to set up your practice schedule is like the following, with each number being a practice session:
Practice just the introduction
Practice the closing
Practice the introduction and closing
Practice the introduction, point 1, and the closing.
Practice the introduction, point 1, point 2, and the closing.
Practice the introduction, point 1, point 2, point 3, and the closing.
Practice full run-throughs until comfortable.
It’s up to you to decide if you should go on from one step to another. The idea here is to practice the speech in small parts and then gradually add on as you gain confidence. The added payoff is that by practicing in small sections, you are able to master the speech over time. You might be asking, why not just start with the introduction and then add on from there? Audiences remember most what they hear first and what they hear last.
If you practice both your introduction and closing ahead of time, you’ll ensure that what your audience hears first and last are the most rehearsed parts of your presentation.
In planning your practice schedule, it’s actually easier to plan “with the end mind” (h/t Steven Covey) and work backwards from the big day. This will ensure that you have enough time to do a full run through and that you can prepare adequately beforehand.
Taking the practice schedule above, use the last week before your presentation for 3 full run-throughs. Then schedule out steps 1-6 for at least 2 practice sessions each.