How to Improve Your Public Speaking by Practicing Out Loud

A few weeks ago, Gail and I attended the Dynamic Communicators Workshop (DCW) at the WinShape Retreat Center in Mt. Berry, Georgia. Even though I have been speaking publicly for 30 years, I was ready to take my speaking to the next level. I wasn’t disappointed.

A Little Boy Practicing a Speech - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/RichVintage, Image #14318794

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/RichVintage

DCW was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. My friend, Ken Davis, along with a world-class faculty presented extraordinary content. That alone would have been worth the tuition. But the most helpful sessions were with our small groups. In these sessions, we each had to prepare and deliver three speeches. We were then video-taped, critiqued, and individually coached.

Though the experience was initially nerve-racking, I can’t imagine learning as much as we did without the hands-on experience. It was invaluable. So much so, that Gail and I are planning to attend DCW again this fall in Vail, Colorado.

I came away with numerous action items. However, the one that had the single biggest immediate impact was this:

Before you give a speech, practice it out loud, on your feet, as though you were in front of a live audience.

I know, that probably doesn’t sound too revolutionary. But for some reason, I had unconsciously come to the conclusion that I didn’t need to do this. Boy, was I wrong.

In the week following DCW, I gave three speeches publicly. I practiced each speech twice in private before delivering it in public. It made all the difference in terms of my confidence and ability to connect with the audience.

Here are the seven steps I took to make my practice effective:

  1. Create a solid, easy-to-remember outline. This is the prerequisite. We spent a considerable amount of time on this at DCW. They teach you an entire methodology that works with both persuasive speeches and enabling ones. (You also learn the difference.) There’s nothing wrong with notes, but you don’t want the audience to be aware that you are using them.
  2. Find a relatively private location. You want to be able to give your speech as though you were giving it live, without feeling like someone might be listening in. This was pretty easy while practicing at home. I just found an empty room, told my family what I was going to do, and shut the door. It’s tougher in a hotel room, but I did it anyway.
  3. Set a timer with your assigned time. This was critical. I used the timer on my iPhone. I also found that my speeches ran about 10–15% longer when I gave them live. So set the timer for less time in practice than you have been allotted. Note: if you are going to use this when you speak live, put the phone in Airplane mode, so you don’t get a phone call or text message in the middle of your speech. Also, turn the screen saver off.
  4. Stand up and give your speech out loud. This also makes a difference. Your physical posture affects your energy level and overall confidence. I put my outline on a podium, countertop, or desktop, and then moved around as though I am presenting in front of a live audience. It’s also helpful to me to visualize two or three people I am speaking to in the practice audience.
  5. Work on your facial expressions and gestures. This initially sounded inauthentic to me. But I think it was because I had forgotten that 70% of all communication is non-verbal. If that’s true, it is more important to practice this aspect of our communication than the actual words. In watching my video tape at DCW, I found that my face wasn’t always communicating what my heart intended! Overall, I found that I was more effective by being more expressive and with bigger gestures.
  6. Practice pauses, inflections, and vocal dynamics. This is also something I did’t often think about. As a result, my overall speech pattern was predictable—and boring. My goal is not entertainment but communication. Regardless, you sometimes have to be entertaining in order to communicate. I am now working on more variation. The only way to keep this from sounding contrived and inauthentic is practice, practice, practice.
  7. Nail your closing. I have traditionally worked really hard on the opening. This is important to be sure. But I think it is even more important to finish strong. The closing is the last thing people will remember. I want to go out with a bang not a whimper. I am now practicing my closing several times, all by itself.

I can’t believe I got by for as long as I did without intentional and disciplined practice. Although I have seen immediate results, I think this will be especially helpful over the long haul. I don’t ever plan to speak publicly again without practicing it in private.

By the way, if you are interested in attending the Dynamic Communicators Summit, October 17–20, 2011 in Vale, you can get a $200 discount by using the special discount code: HYATTVAIL. This offer expires on June 30, 2011.

Questions: Do you practice before you speak? What have you learned? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/joannamuses joanna

    I had a practice run today in front of my supervisor and a few other students for a presentation I’m giving Friday.  One of the things I found from practicing the presentation is that my writing style doesn’t necessarily work for speaking. Some sentences that are fine in print are too long to comfortably read aloud and needed to be shortened. I also found that when practicing in front of  someone else I speak a little faster than when talking to myself at home so need to adjust the amount of material to stay within the mimimum and maximum time limits.

    • Anonymous

      I understand. I try to communicate the same way when speaking and writing, but sometimes when speaking I loosen up a little more than if I were writing it down. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I find that if I write out a full manuscript like I used to do in my early days of speaking, my delivery sounded wooded, even if I memorized it. I sound more natural if I just have an outline and speak conversationally.

      • http://profiles.google.com/helenleemail Helen Lee

        LOL! I just wrote in my comment how helpful it is to write the talk out. I think we each develop our own system for what can work best. I’m not a natural extemporaneous speaker so this step does help me. But I do think you are right that for some people it can be a crutch and contribute to wooden delivery.

        • http://twitter.com/raspberrygirl12 Roanna

          I write my speech out in essay format and then write my outline from my essay. Probably not the way it is supposed to be done, but it works for me.

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

    Thanks, Michael, for providing such a concise summary of practicing and making a speech. Connecting with an audience demands so much more than just words. I don’t give very many formal speeches, but I use some your principles in my classroom. I’ve learned how important numbers 5 and 6 are in being an effective teacher and giving effective instruction. If God ever opens the door for me to give a speech, I will practice, practice, practice. 

  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    Thanks for these tips, Mr. Hyatt. Yes, I do practice outloud and it is always an eye opening experience on many levels.  I learned so much of what you shared when I attended CLASS (Christian Leaders and Speakers Seminar) a few years ago. Like you, I had been speaking for years prior to going to CLASS. To be very honest, I went to CLASS with an attitude of ‘I know how to speak and there is nothing you can teach me’. WRONG!!  It was an awesome experience! I’ve been thinking about going to DCW Vail.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have heard good things about CLASS, too. My friend and neighbor, Patsy Clairmont, used to be an instructor with them.

  • Timothy Fish

    I have practiced before a spoke, but that hasn’t been my practice. Most of my public speaking is done in a class environment. It is difficult to practice discussion. At best, you can practice asking the questions and you can guess how the class will respond, but there’s always someone who answers in a way that you aren’t expecting.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t usually practice Q&A either, although in the past I have. I became the CEO of Thomas Nelson when it was a public company. We had quarterly phone conferences with the financial analysts who followed our company. We would always make a short presentation of the previous quarter’s financial results and then open it up to questions. The analysts were tough and everyone was listening to how we would respond.

      I quickly got to the point where we would rehearse this segment of the call. My team and I would write down every question we could think of. Then we delegated the questions and each person would prepare written talking points. We then got together and rehearsed giving the answers. Our goal was to be direct (answer the question), clear, and brief.

      This helped us tremendously. We earned real points with the analysts and it gave us great confidence going into these calls.

      Thanks.

  • Paulj

    Use your iPhone to videotape yourself! Prop it up and you can work it like anaudience and get feel how well your non-verbals realigning to the message you want to convey.

    • Anonymous

      Great idea!

    • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

      videoing yourself can be helpful, but beware. Sometimes it causes you to be overly concerned about yourself and what’s happening on the outside. I think the hard work of practicing is getting over yourself and working out what inside me.

      I find that if I take care of what’s on the inside and reach a level of comfortable transparency, then the outside takes care of itself.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Connie-Walsh-Brown/1224074283 Connie Walsh Brown

        Thanks for sharing this. So true.

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        So, I guess the point here would be to use videoing occassionally to help in the learning/growing process; but, not so often that you become focused on the manipulation of people’s perception of your performance.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Yes, I agree with that. I don’t want to use it all the time, occasionally to check myself.

      • Joe Lalonde

        Geoff, I think videotaping yourself can be helpful more often than not. You can pick up on little things that you’re doing that may be distracting; hear audible umms and uhhhs; and see how comfortable you look.

        It may be a fine line for some, but I think it’s helpful overall.

        • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

          I do believe videotaping can help—I used it for years when I worked as a presentation coach. Those years also taught me how dangerous it can be if mishandled. 

          I believe counting ums and judging “how comfortable you look” only serves to make you more self-conscious. What truly sets people free as a communicators is when they become unself-conscious and shift their focus solely on their listeners. The best presenters I’ve ever seen weren’t thinking about themselves at all.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I agree with where you are headed, Geoff, but I think people sometimes need to get through that awkward stage to get to the other side. For example, practicing scales on the piano was particularly awkward when I started playing piano. However, it ultimately is what allowed me to improvise and get lost in the music.

            I think practicing any new speaking technique is similar. Whether you are trying to eliminate umms and ahhs or make different facial expressions, video can help. It can actually speed up the process, so you can you can, as you say, focus solely on your listeners.

            Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I have done this, too. I was surprised how much video-recording helped.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      I like the idea.  I have learned a lot when being able to see what others see when I am speaking.  Now, I just need an iPhone with videoing capabilities (I still have an old version without video) :-)

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I just set up our video camera on a tripod out of the way.  Worked just fine.  Then I reuse the tape.  Wouldn’t want that surfacing on YouTube or anything…

  • http://www.pier07.com Ingmar Kuehn

    Thanks Michael! I normally try to  practice my speeches in front of my
    wife. This is really threatening the first times because you feel just
    really stupid to talk to her like that.  But overcoming these fears is
    very good and I got double feedback – one from her and one from me! AND -
    she tells me very honestly were the weak and boring parts are.

    Btw: Best book I’ve read so far concerning communication: “Communicating for a change” by Andy Stanley. Just awesome!!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I have read Andy’s book, too. It was very helpful!

    • Anonymous

      Love that book!  I also try to watch Andy speak online as much as I can. He not only teaches great content, but he also teaches by example how to communicate clearly.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        He is definitely my favorite speaker. The incredible thing is that it’s not just one speech; he consistently delivers great stuff.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      I greatly appreciated Andy’s book!  It’s one worth going back to ever so often.

  • http://davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

    Thanks for the tips, Mike. I’m about to go speak in two hours :)

    I usually do a run through as well but I always face resistance doing it. I think it’s the best way to reveal how well you’ve internalized your message. I always notice the benefits but I’m afraid to face the facts sometimes.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Very good point. I think that was my problem, too.

  • http://jasonfountain.blogspot.com Jason Fountain

    Great info, Michael. I have oftentimes practice “out loud” before giving a speech. When I actually practice out loud the speech oftentimes comes out very different from what I envisioned in my outline on paper. I think, at times, it feels somewhat inauthentic to practice out loud (it “feels” too rehearsed), but I think it is a must. Nothing beats practice!

    I love the quote by Mark Twain: “…it takes me about three weeks to write an impromptu speech.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is a GREAT quote by Mark Twain!

    • Anonymous

      Great quote!

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      Love the quote!

  • http://twitter.com/kevintomeo kevintomeo

    This is good advice.  If you were a professional baseball player, you need to practice; why would you not need to practice if you speak professionally?  I find that I can work on my outline/manuscript all I want, but practicing it ALWAYS helps bring the presentation to another level.  

    I also find it helpful, at times, to record my practice sessions and listen to them back.  

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great point. This seems to be the one professional activity people feel they don’t need to practice. I am not sure why.

    • Joe Lalonde

      I like that analogy Kevin!

  • Martina

    Thanks for sharing, Mike. I have stumbled across many of the things you have listed through trial and error in an effort to improve my speaking and preaching. I have discovered that I am a kinesthetic learner, and the more I can actually walk through the speeches, nuances and pauses, the better I can nail it. I also find that as I say the words aloud, I can feel the flow and remove things that don’t fit in, or move items to a more appropriate part of the talk. By getting up and moving around, I can feel the speech. This is helpful in case I momentarily lose my train of thought, or my place in the outline; I can feel myself “wander.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Me, too. I find that helps me internalize it as well.

  • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

    Michael – Excellent, excellent advice.  I also have always felt that I could “just wing it” since I don’t mind getting up in front of people.  However, the result in the past has been a very “academic” sounding message (yuck!).  I’m speaking in D.C. next weekend and am going to make sure that I fully practice out loud and in private at least twice!  :)  I’m thinking that DCW sounds like something I might have to fit into my schedule.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Brad, you must fit it into your schedule. It will take your speaking to another level. I can’t recommend it too highly.

      • http://Busyness.com Dr. Brad Semp

        Oh it’s IN my Personal Action Plan now!  Thanks again for sharing.  :)  I hope that you are enjoying your sabbatical!  When you get back, Email for Busy People is ready for you to peek at AND I have to tell you an awesome story about meeting someone at church this past Sunday who you just might know a little bit……… Robert Wolgemuth – a great dude!  And yes, I asked the question, “Do you happen to know Michael Hyatt?”  ha ha

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          The sabbatical is going great. Hugely clarifying.

          Robert is one of my very best friends. I’m so glad you met him!

  • http://www.paulbevans.com Paul B Evans

    The most important part of the post to me… “Even though I have been speaking publicly for 30 years, I was ready to take my speaking to the next level.”

    That’s how great communicators are “born!”

    I’ve been speaking for a little more than 30 years as well. I count my sixth grade valedictorian speech as the starting point… “Much to Do. Much to Love. Much to Hope For.” Still have the notecards to prove it. :) (And for inquiring minds… no, I was not able to repeat as class scholar at the end of my secondary schooling. Uh… a little problem with taking it all seriously got in the way. )

    In addition to practicing before speaking, I make sure I understand the audience – especially their humor. Believe me, American humor does not translate well in Russia. And what works in Russia does not work in India. So I put extra practice into lines/stories that I do not think are funny at all, but never fail to bring the house down in their respected countries.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing this.

      One of the things that has also helped me is to have a pre-engagement call with the event sponsor. I have a standard list of questions I go through in order to understand the audience. This has been hugely helpful to me as well.

      • Lkfischer

         Great post.  Would you mind sharing the list of questions you ask the event sponsor? 

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I’m actually planning to do a post on this, but here’s the list. By the way, most of these items are covered by my agent and submitted to be in a form. However, I want to get the nuances and confirm the details.

          - What is your organization’s mission?

          - What organizations are similar to yours? (Who are your competitors?)

          - What are the issues that are front-burner for your organization right now?

          - How would you describe this event?

          - What outcome are you hoping for?

          - What do the people who attend want out of it?

          - What do you hope I cover in my presentation?

          - How many people will attend?

          - Are there any cultural issues I should be aware of?

          - What kind of dress is appropriate?

          - When, exactly, will I go on and how much time will I have?

          - Who will introduce me?

          - What kind of audio/visual/lighting setup will you have?

          - Do you have everything you need from us for this event (promotional material, photos, bio, intro, etc.)?

          I don’t always ask these questions in exactly this order, but I have them open in Evernote and try to fill out a response to each one.

          • Lkfischer

            Thank you for this.  There are some things I never would have thought of!  I look forward to reading a post about this topic. 

  • Tk Beyond

    It’s funny how those of us who speak a lot in front of others & even teach others to do so, often don’t practice what we “preach” (teach)! I know that’s true for me. All that you said is pretty normal, or should be, for homiletics courses, but the practical aspect is often overlooked. Good reminders!

    I know when I preach from the same message outline, the message morphs after doing it a few times. I’ll often make adjustments after the fact. How much better if it were done, before the actual delivery, instead of “practicing” in front of a church or audience. I know how it helped my students while teaching in the Philippines. I guess it’s the old adage, practice makes perfect… well, not perfect, but a lot better, anyway.
    Thanks for the post!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is a good point about the message morphing and improving. I think when you say things out loud you more quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t. Some of this requires a live audience, but some of it becomes clear just be speaking it!

  • Anonymous

    I practice in the mirror a couple times before I speak. Working on my facial expressions is something I still need to work on, because I can tend to look mad, even when I’m not, especially when I get passionate. My eyebrows do something goofy. Love this advice. Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The mirror is huge. My coach from DCW encourage me to tell one story, in front of a mirror, using just my face—no words. That was a GREAT exercise.

  • http://philgerbyshak.com Phil Gerbyshak

    This is SUPER helpful Michael, as are all your tips on speaking. I get better every time I speak and practice. Do you have any tips for crafting a powerful speech, from open to close? Is there a book you recommend, a course to take, or are you planning to offer tips on this in future posts so maybe I just need to be patient? I’d be interested in buying an book from you on the topic of speaking with all these tips bound up (this article included) as you are one of the most comfortable and instructive speakers I’ve encountered.

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

    PS Your blog is one of the very few I read every day in my e-mail because you are a blessing to my world.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words, Phil. I would highly recommend DCW. It does all that you are asking—and more. I think it is way better than merely reading a book. I had read plenty of books before I went, but this forces you to have to put it into practice. As I mentioned in the post, it was so powerful to me that I am going back in October. Come join us!

  • Anonymous

    As someone who speaks  before a large audience a few times a year, this is super helpful. Practicing in my hotel room out loud is something I have always done, it’s the only way I can ensure that my talk and slides match the alloted time well, and it really bolters my confidence. 

    Practicing helps get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation. 

  • http://www.gracehousedesigns.com Sharon Poarch

    I had the pleasure of attending a DCW with Ken Davis and his crew at The Cove near Asheville, NC.  It was an amazing experience and has helped me tremendously in speaking situations…as well as just being more comfortable in front of a large group of people.  I am a member of our praise and worship team and can agree with recording (with iPhone, etc.) one’s practices (whether speech or song).  You learn a lot about those things you involuntarily do and say that can sometimes be distracting. 

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    I find that practicing a speech in my head is like thinking about going to the gym.

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      Great analogy

      • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

        yeah, I just wish it worked ;)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Can I quote you on that? I’ll give you credit the first three times. ;-)

      Seriously, that is the perfect analogy!

      • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

        Deal.

    • Joe Lalonde

      I like that Geoff.

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    I get the opportunity to speak fairly regularly on Sundays to either the middler or high schoolers at my church. I always practice my speech a few times out loud and have found that it not only gives me more confidence with it, it helps me internalize and memorize it better.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great post, Mike. I follow a similar routine with an outline and a timer in front of me. For me, this usually ends up being in front of the stove. I set the oven timer for the desired time and make sure I can finish in the allotted time period. As I practice each time, I have a pencil along to write down changes and key phrases that come up. After practicing three or four times, the speech and the outline usually come to life. 

    Now I’m ready for step two…

    I take the corrected outline and schedule the speech for my local Toastmasters club. Then I give the practice speech live before our TM group and receive an evaluation afterwards. For speeches that I’m planning to give elsewhere, I usually ask for a round-robin evaluation, where selected audience members give me feedback for improvement. These round-robins have been amazingly helpful, since each person sees the speech a little differently.

    I recommend this approach for speeches, Powerpoint presentations, and even award banquets. Practicing your speech in front of a friendly and helpful audience will help you gain confidence and really fine tune it for the real audience. Toastmasters has local clubs all over the world and they are very inexpensive. While I hope to be able to attend one of Ken’s workshops sometime soon, having a local TM club has been priceless.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You have recommended TM several times, and I have to check it out. I like the round-robin idea. That is essential what we did at DCW, so I see the incredible value.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Toastmasters will be having their International Convention on Aug 17- 20 in Las Vegas at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel. They have a great lineup of speakers this year from around the world. I think you would make a great addition to their lineup in the future. Your leadership message is one that many people need to hear. (This year’s lineup can be found here http://goals4u.us/lkRIem )

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          That is an amazing line-up. I would love to go. I’ll have to think about it. Thanks, John.

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    I find it refreshing that you’ve
    made it all these years and are just now starting to intensely focus on
    what you mentioned. Gives ME hope too. I really love points 4, 5, &
    6.  These are points I need to master. Makes sense to practice out loud.
    I love to sing, and do it everywhere. Even though I may not be the
    level a of Grammy Nomination, there’s no doubt I would not sing as well
    as I do if I would not have always done it (for years).

    Side Note: I’m sure my family wishes I would stop sometimes.  :) 

    But it makes sense to continue to practice – even in speaking alone –
    and it will make you better when in front of people. Now I’m going to go
    find my Lincoln Brewster CD and crank it up. Let me know if I’m too
    loud. Ha!

    Twitter: @wmarkthompson:twitter 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I find that going back to the basics routinely is hugely helpful. That’s why I plan to go back to DCW. I hope to be at a different level this next time. As a result, I think I will take away new things I can use to get to that next level. Tony Robbins calls this “CANI”—continuous and never-ending improvement. I am committed to it!

  • Anonymous

    I would really like to get to Colorado! Improving my communication has been my focus this year. I have found that I was not spending enough time on my conclusion, which is what most people tend to do.

  • Anonymous

    It’s amazing what you notice when you watch a video of yourself speaking.  It’s something I haven’t done in a long time, but this article jogged my memory that it’s something I’ve been meaning to do.

    Thanks for the encouragement to practice ahead of time.  Like you, I used to do this before every time that I spoke.  This has become more difficult as I now speak three or four times a week, but it’s still something that I need to fit into my schedule.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The other thing that you might try, Karl, is just to practice the main speech you give each week. In other words, don’t think it’s “all or none”—which I tend to do. Something is better than nothing. Thanks.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wm.spinks William H Spinks

    Thanks for this help, Michael.  I’ll be giving a presentation next week that will include at least one “speech.”  (Can’t do a speech for four hours!)  I plan to use these tips to prepare for it and I can only imagine it will go far better than it would without this specific help.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.
    -bill spinks

  • http://scottkantner.com Scott Kantner

    I don’t think one can’t practice to become authentic. Authenticity comes through automatically when you’re passionate about the topic and the about the audience senses it you are simply being “you”.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think where practice helps authenticity is that it enables you to become less self-conscious. That is the biggest barrier to authenticity.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lennon.noland Lennon Scott Noland

        I really agree on that point, Michael. To get your message in your heart and mind through practice helps you lose yourself in the message because it becomes part of you.

  • Curtis

    Great post Michael! (and a great synopsis too) I look forward to seeing your face in Vail!  :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Curtis, you were one of the main highlights of the event. You were a fantastic coach and one of the best speakers I have ever heard. Can I be you when I grow up? ;-)

  • Jill Kemerer

    Perfect timing. I’m slowly expanding my speaking engagements, and this post made me sigh in relief. Thank you! I’m bookmarking and favorite-ing this one!

  • Karen Nolan Bell

    I started speaking when I was in 7th grade – way back when. That was one of the first things my Speech & Drama teacher told us. I used to line up my stuffed animals around my room and “speak” to them. Even now, as I write, I have to read it out loud (don’t use the stuffed animals any longer, though).

  • http://profiles.google.com/helenleemail Helen Lee

    Great suggestions here! I also do two things that have always helped me in terms of giving talks/presentations. 1) I always script the entire talk out to begin with. While I may not stick to the script word for word, and I certainly don’t “read” it when I’m speaking, writing the talk out gives me a sense of the overall narrative flow of what I’m trying to say and I’ve always found doing so very helpful as a writer. 2) I also always memorize my opening and my closing, word for word, and  I will practice those parts of the talk specifically over and over again until I have them down (including any jokes, physical gestures, etc.). I think doing so helps me to both start and end strong. 3) I try to build into my talks opportunities for audience engagement. This is easier if you are speaking to smaller groups (I’ve not yet given talks to audiences 1,000 or more!) but even so, giving the audience chances to raise their hand or call out responses and get them involved helps break up the talk and keep people engaged, I find, rather than just being passive for the duration of your talk. Those are just a few things I would add!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree on audience engagement. I am trying to do ore of this as well.

  • Aaron Foster

    I attended one of Ken’s first DCW classes and it was some of the most incredible training that I’ve gotten in regards to speaking. Loved it! 

    Glad to hear you and Gail also loved it too and are planning to go back. I knew you’d love it when I heard that you were going. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Aaron. I can’t wait to go back.

  • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

    I’ve learned to practice the illustrative stories I’m going to tell during my presentation — not until they’re so rehearsed that they’re plastic, but until the trivial details are stripped away and the key point is clear.

    “Last Tuesday…or was it Wednesday?  My daughter came down for breakfast…or maybe it was lunch?” becomes, “One day, my daughter was hungry…” Without practice, a simple anecdote can wander all over 5+ minutes, searching desperately for a point. With practice, I cut to the chase in a couple minutes, including only the details necessary for the “ah-HA!” moment.

    I don’t have an iPhone (and I’d probably forget to put it on airplane mode if I did!) but I’ve been using a dual timer with large display for years and love it.  At a glance, I can see how long I’ve been speaking and how long I have left.    http://www.amazon.com/Champion-Sports-Timer-Display-DC100/dp/B001E6BWSS

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great points. Thanks.

      I usually speak with slides. The “Presenter View” in iWork Keynote (the program I use for slides) has a timer built in.

      • http://www.cheriblogs.info Cheri Gregory

        From reading your reflections on PowerPoint vs. Keynote, I’ve switched to Keynote and love the ease of use! 

        I’ve used “Presenter View” for a presentation only once thus far. Made the mistake of situating my laptop farther away from my blind-as-a-bat eyes than I’d had it during practice. (Lesson learned: Figure out the ideal distance and set computer up accordingly!)

        I also used the little white remote that came with my MacBooks. Four times — count ‘em, FOUR! — I accidentally advanced to the very end of the slide show. (I’d never used that remote before, so I didn’t know what I was doing wrong…or how to prevent it!) Needless to say, I got home, searched your blog for the remote recommendation I remembered seeing, and am now a very happy owner of a Keyspan!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Good for you. I love the KeySpan. I haven’t found one smaller or more simple to use.

  • Lynette Sowell

    Great tips! I haven’t done much speaking recently, but I always remind myself to speak more slowly than I normally would. When people are intently listening and it’s a one-sided conversation while we’re speaking, our listeners don’t have the chance to ask us to repeat ourselves. Also, don’t shy from the microphone. There’s nothing worse than a speaker who won’t work with the basic technology in front of them. Let your sound person do their work and adjust  your levels if you’re too loud or too soft. Don’t play trombone with a handheld microphone. That said, never assume the microphone is on!

  • Jordan

    I am a preacher and I practice my messages at least 2 times, once or twice on Saturday evening and once or twice on Sunday morning. I find and expose so many flaws during these “run throughs.” The end result is a note-less, passionate delivery on Sunday morning.

    I couldn’t do it any other way!

    Did you practice your Catalyst Dallas presentation? You did VERY well in that setting.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jordan. Yes, I did practice that speech. That was my third speech after attending DCW. I went through it twice in my hotel room that morning. I also gave the same speech in Atlanta that morning. So, the Catalyst presentation was my fourth time.

      • Jordan

        Again, well done.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    In my school days, I used to practice my speech in front of my parents.  One can never disagree to the truth that ” practice makes perfection”. Thanks for your professional tips on public speaking.

  • http://change.me Oleg Sinitsin

    Michael, this is one of y0ur best posts in my judgement! Very good information, and I mean it. It’s already on my Facebook page.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Oleg!

  • http://ashleyscwalls.wordpress.com Ashleyscwalls

    I do always practice my public speaking outloud. But I think this post was extrememly helpful and provided some meaningful reminders! Going to share.

  • Nora

    Yikes!  Out loud?  I have not done that in a long time but it makes so much sense.  Finding a place where my concentration will not be interrupted will be a bit challenging but this goes with my goal to challenge myself often. 
    I completely agree with the outline suggestion.  I have so much trouble staying with a speaker that reads there presentation.
    Thank you Michael.  I always enjoy reading your posts.

  • bethanyplanton

    This is definitely everything that gets taught to us communication majors about giving speeches. All these steps are quite important to having a very polished presentation. I would also recommend looking into getting PresentationZen. It would be a good reminder of the things you learned at this conference while also giving some design tips for visual aids.

    The only thing I would caution people on is in 3 you mentioned your speeches were slightly longer when you actually gave them live. This is not the case for a majority of people. Many people can practice the speech nice and slow, but then when they get in front of an audience and are really nervous they talk much faster. It is just good to know which way you tend to be. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      PresentationZen is one of my favorite presentation books. I have read and re-read it. Nancy Duarte’s two are also MUST reading: Slide:ology and Resonate.

      Thanks for your comments.

      • bethanyplanton

        I am following Nancy on twitter, but I need to add her books to my shelf! I am always looking for great resources. 

  • http://twitter.com/tweetJill22 Jill Marie Codere

    Great article!
    I recently graduated from college and during our Diploma Works presentations one of my fellow graduating art students stood up and pulled her camera out and took photos of all of us in the audience.  She then said she was wondering why she was so nervous when all of us looked so nice and supportive.  I thought it was a great ice breaker!  She said she will look back at the photos later and remind herself to not be so nervous.  

  • Marcus Bigelow

    I have practiced out loud for the past 30 years in ministry.  Sometimes I feel self-conscious, but most often it helps me feel more comfortable with timing, and with actual phrasing that works or doesn’t work.  Thanks for the tips.

  • http://www.lifebeyondsport.com Stephanie

    Yes, practicing my speech is an integral part of my preparation, though I will admit that at first something in me resists even doing it. The practice helps me create the right wording and make adjustments when I don’t like how things sound. It also increases my confidence. 

    I believe one of the books you recommended on giving great presentations said to practice 7 times in order to be truly prepared. I usually practice about 5 times. Great point on using these practice runs to work on voice inflection as well as facial expressions. Thanks for another insightful post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Connie-Walsh-Brown/1224074283 Connie Walsh Brown

    Thank you for this practical list. The point on practicing facial expressions is particularly interesting.

    Next time I lead a class, I plan to adapt some of these points (such as practicing a strong ending).

  • http://twitter.com/cheetosrapper Dan Greegor

    What is that old adage? Practice makes perfect. I practice several times out loud before I speak and a plethora of times in my head. I agree that practicing out loud is a very important as I found that you get a better control on time. This allows for revision if a speech is too long or too short.

    Another advantage of speaking out loud is hearing yourself. I cannot recall how many times I’ve caught myself fumbling over words. This gives me a chance to make note of slowing going through a certain section or topic of my speech making sure to pronounce each word properly.

    Great post. I hope many use the information given therein.

  • http://www.dailyreflectionsforsingleparents.blogspot.com/ Scoti Springfield Domeij

    Attending DCW is high, high, high on my bucket list. When I
    saw it was in Vale, I got excited because I can drive there. Then I noticed
    it’s about a month away. I know you have your reasons for timing your plugs for
    conferences, but wish they were at least 3-4 months in advance to give the
    required notice to people I contract with and to save the buckaroos. That’s a
    big chunk of change for many people on such short notice, especially when committed
    to debt-free living and paying off credit cards each month.

     

    Recently joined Toastmasters with a friend to get my
    speaking chops back. When I speak, I time myself and practice out loud in front
    of a mirror until it feels natural and inflections and gestures flow naturally.
    Guys probably don’t worry about the differing heights or comfort of
    their high heels to match their outfit. I figure out what shoes I’m wearing and
    practice the talk wearing those shoes.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Scoti, I’m not sure what you are looking at, but DCW is five months away: October 17–20, 2011. I hope you can make it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lennon.noland Lennon Scott Noland

    This is great! I was hoping you’d post something on your experience there.

    This reminds me of a lesson I learned accidentally walking into the office of a high profile pastor in Dallas (I was in a student program at the church then). I opened the door to see him standing at a small pulpit facing his wall, in mid-sentence with his hand raised, making a point to an imaginary audience. That taught me that powerful communication is not just a gift.

    I appreciate your words–I’m gonna put them into action!

  • Jill Bratcher

    When I was in Toastmasters, I always practiced my speech standing and aloud several times. Living alone makes that easier (read, less embarrassing), but I also find the bathroom has great accoustics and a built-in self monitor (mirror) for checking the visual cues like gestures.

    Toastmasters is a wonderful program. I went through the initial ten speeches toward “Competent Toastmaster”, each of which focuses on a different aspect of speaking and includes a time limit. They assign someone to do your critique, and they always have a “Wizard of Ahhs” to check for um, you know, and other fillers. Meetings include table topics for extemporaneous speaking practice also. Organizing that chapter was probably the best thing that supervisor ever did for me and other employees at that company.

  • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

    Great tips Michael!  I do practice before speaking (at least most of the time).  And, I too have found that it makes a big difference.  Saying things out loud and practicing as if there are people in the room helps me to work out phrasing and thoughts – I have learned that what I write down or think in my head does not always translate as well in spoken word.

    I also appreciate your comment on practicing gestures and facial expressions.  It is so easy to forget about what you communicate through body language.

  • Maureen

    Thank you for sharing what you learned! I’ve practiced aloud, on my feet, ever since I first begin publicly speaking back in Bible college. I also always time my practice speeches. But your reminder to watch my non-verbal communication and my inflection and dynamics were well-taken. I also have felt that my endings haven’t been as solid as I’d like, so that was a great reminder to work on that before my next speaking opportunity. Thanks!

  • Carrie

    I have routinely practiced out loud to ensure what I want to say makes sense when said.  I will change words or the structure of my outline when I find I unable to make a smooth transition between points.  My three children have heard many a speech about budgeting and accounting standards.

  • Adelle Gabrielson

    I actually have been doing this all along – so glad it’s so effective! I pace around my bedroom and practice in front of the mirror. 

  • Michael Vaughn

    Michael, thank you for sharing this suggestion and offering an approach to put it into practice.  I’ve been in ministry for over 20 years and never practiced my sermons out loud.  After reading your post, I’ve committed to myself, and the Lord, to do exactly that from now on.  Thanks again!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good for you, Michael. Let us know if it makes a difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marina.berryman Marina Berryman

    Thanks for posting this today – I’m teaching on Fear & Anxiety tomorrow to a group of 70 women. This is my 6th time to teach in the past 6 months. Each time has gotten better, but I still have moments of panic when I’m lost in my notes. Last week was my best week yet due to the fact that I practiced out loud for several hours the day before teaching. I noticed several things that I worked hard to correct: 1)  I did go much longer when practicing “live” – didn’t realize how many ad-lib comments came pouring out of my mouth when I was nervous; 2) my conclusion was weak – it’s almost like I ran out of time & interest in the topic at the end; 3) several times, the “perfect” words to express what I was trying to say, were only “perfect” on paper – they were words that turned into tongue twisters when spoken out loud. This was probably the best realization for me – “write it to speak it!” I would love to attend DCW – not sure when it will happen, but in the meantime, I’m gleaning all I can from books, podcasts, and blogs!

  • http://twitter.com/raspberrygirl12 Roanna

    I took Public Speaking this past semester,  and I found your blog post very interesting! Practicing out loud was one thing that I did before giving my speeches in class and it helped a ton.  I shared this post with my Public Speaking teacher, as I thought it would interest him.

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    I started doing this after DCW, too. It’s a great, simple tool for improving and being more intentional in speaking.

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic stuff Michael! Here are a couple of things I do that you might want to use. http://wp.me/p13qUZ-xV and http://wp.me/p13qUZ-zt

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chris. Excellent stuff. I have also just subscribed to your blog. I can’t believe you weren’t on my list before!

  • Tedewoldt

    Thanks for this post- it comes at a great time as I’m working on a speech for next week and my final presentation in school the following weekend. I usually record my speeches on my iPhone, but hadn’t thought about the effect that standing and gesturing may have!

  • Emily

    I took DCW two years ago, and I’m still working on the premise that you only have one main idea per speech. I used to try to do three or four and weave the supporting points back and forth. Now I’m a lot clearer, and I see my audience (even if it’s an audience of one) responds better, too. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That was one of the most challenging aspects of DCW for me, but I think it absolutely spot-on. It has really helped me speak more clearly. I think it also helps the audience retain more.

  • http://twitter.com/WayneJoubert Wayne Joubert

    Had to present a “60 Tech Tips in 60 Minutes” about a week ago. Going through the presentation in the hotel room once the evening before and again about two hours before the 9:00 a.m. presentation really helped.  I struggle with the deer in the headlight look whenever my brain is in overdrive, and try to counter this whenever I present by looking at folks in the audience and smiling a lot more as I speak. I was able to remind myself of this several times during the presentation, but still need a whole lot of work in this area.

    Thanks for this…and all of your blog posts, Michael…I’m enjoying my ecosystem notebook…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing this! What brilliant advice. I too try to practice what I need to say privately. Have you ever tried rubber ducking? This link is kinda old, but the article is fascinating. (And funny.) I think you may find it useful. http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2005/01/rubberducking_a.html
    I really enjoy reading your blog! Have a great day.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve often wondered if taking acting lessons would improve my speaking skills – especially when it comes to facial expressions & gestures.  It’s been a while since I’ve spoken in front of a group as a guest speaker. This post makes me want to get back into the game. 

    • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

      Some of the best speakers I’ve ever heard have recommended taking acting classes to improve with speaking. I actually took an acting class in college. I can see how it WOULD help. Definitely helped to get me out of my shell at the time. I can see how using acting techniques and strategies will make someone more animated. Oooo… now that I think of it…. and someone in particular who loves theatre… I can also see how it can be over-done.

      • Anonymous

        What kind of acting class did you take?  Or does it even matter?  I want to look into it. 

        • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

          I just took a beginner’s acting class as an elective in college. We were lucky. Had a great teacher. He had been in movies and on soap operas, etc. It was at a local university in my town. 

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      I know Brandilyn Collins’ book, “Getting Into Character,” carries the premise that acting techniques can help guide our writing practices–especially developing unique characters. I’ve never considered acting class to help develop public speaking skills. That’s something worth considering.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have heard from a couple of speakers that acting and even comedy classes were hugely helpful.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Laurinda, I can see acting classes helping for a couple of reasons.

      1. It helps you get comfortable in front of others
      2. Helps you focus on tone and inflection
      3. Could help increase your memorization and improv skills

  • Pingback: How to help students improve speaking skills | Epicenter Languages

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Sunday I preached at a friend’s church (as opposed to a Friends church), the first time I’ve done any public speaking in months. That morning, I rose early, dressed, and headed out to the garage. That way I could practice out loud without disturbing my wife or being self-conscious as I worked through fine tuning the message. I hadn’t used the garage before but I found it works well for the very purpose you describe in your article.

  • http://twitter.com/KellyCombs Kelly Combs

    I already do this!  YAY!  It helped me because I noticed that my speeches run short when I give them live versus practice, which clued me in to the fact that I talk too fast when I am nervous.  Now I intentionally speak slower, and to the listening audience it is perfect.

    I also found this helps because some phrases I can say perfectly “in my mind,” but when speaking out loud I stumble.  Once I stumble on the same phrase a couple of time, I realize I need to change it to something less tongue-twisting.

    I am going to a speakers conference for women in July this year, and am excited to get peer reviews and a true critique.

    Great post, as usual.

  • Amy

    Thank you for writing this article.  I found it very helpful.  My daughter has been speaking for the Arthritis Foundation since she was 12 years old (3 years now).  She has given speeches and made commercials for the Arthritis Foundation.   
    When I first started working with her to get her ready to stand up infront of a couple hundred people and tell her story she would practice, practice, practice.  We would work on  in-fluctuating  in her voice and pausing.  
    She always receives complements on how poised and natural she is infront of a camera or standing up giving a speech.  
    We’ve video taped all her stuff and have it on a blog so someday she can look back and see what she has done.  :)
    God Bless,
    ~Amy 
    P.S. I plan to save this article to refer back to it. :)

  • Dan

    I am just starting out and I set up a flip. Man I realized I blinked to much. Video is revealing. the one thing that is helpful though is to have a real person on the other side of the camera. It prevents you from loosing touch with e fact you are talking to real people.

  • http://www.patriciaraybon.com Patricia Raybon

    Giving a speech? I pray for passion–for my topic and my audience.  Then I ask God to show me the Big Idea. Helps me isolate my three or four key talk points. Finally, I go for transparency, using relatable stories and anecdotes to warm up each main point — studying so I know everything cold. (Or as cold as possible. Frees me up from notes.) Finally, I love the TULIP approach, aiming for a talk that’s: Theraputic. Unconventional. Lucid. Inspirational. Passionate. I’m not a public speaker by nature, that is. But this approach helps me focus on the audience and on what God is trying to say to them. Then, yay, it’s not about me. Helps a lot!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Passion is huge. In fact, it will overcome a lot of other weaknesses!

  • Ken Davis

    Michael, Thank you for your inspiring blog.  Yes, in inspired and motivated me.  I never want to stop learning.  Sometimes it is easy for me to lean on the “Gift of Gab,” which usually means I get by, but the audience doesn’t get my best.  EVERY audience deserves our best.  You have reminded me to practice what I preach.  Amazing blog.  Thank you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Ken. I am forever indebted to you for what I learned at DCW. You are an amazing speaker, teacher, mentor, and friend.

  • http://twitter.com/Robeeta Robin McMullen

    When I took speech in college, I always practiced all of my speeches in front on my mirror in my room.  I practiced my inflections, gestures, and facial expressions.  It really helped me to know the timing of things, when to pause, and what sounded good or bad.  Like anything you practice, it helped me feel very confident before speaking.  Most of all, practicing out loud actually helped me to memorize my speech.  I found when I was giving my speech, I would rarely stray from what I practiced.  
      Any advice on cotton mouth though?!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I always have a bottle of water handy. Other than that, I don’t know. Usually, nervousness manifests itself in me via cold hands.

  • http://www.patriciaraybon.com Patricia Raybon

    Giving a speech? First I pray for passion—for my topic and my audience. Then I look for the Big Idea, searching scripture and asking God to show me the one thing that matters most. This helps me isolate three or four solid talk points to emphasize. Finally, I go for transparency. Relatable stories and anecdotes warm up every speech, making the Big Idea memorable. These steps free me up from my notes and nerves, giving me confidence and clarity.

    I’m not a public speaker by nature, that is. But I’m sold on this approach, my version of an old-school TULIP speech: Therapeutic. Unconventional. Lucid. Inspirational. Passionate.  This helps me focus on the audience and on what God wants to say to them. Then, yay, it’s not about me. Helps every time!

  • Paula Clare

    Hi Michael,
    Great tips, as always!

    In my undergrad years, I took an acting class in college to beef up my confidence in speaking before an audience. While many “theatrics” aren’t appropriate for a speech or sermon, there ARE many helpful practices actors use that are very helpful in the public forum: projection, pacing, blocking, and making your gestures “larger” so the folks at the back of he theatre can see what you’re doing. These practices have become second nature…so much so that my speeches/sermons/talks  tend to come across far less mechanical and far more authentic and sincere. If your community offers a theatrical acting class, take it! You might be amazed how wonderfully it enhances your communication!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I may just have to do that! Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    The last time I spoke in public was as a girl scout leader to parents and their kids. Now, as a writer I have to prepare to speak in public on topics I’m not feeling like an expert on, yet. It’s apparently not just about having the confidence to speak to an audienc , but also practicing the skills you learned in Vail. Thanks for posting these tips. I realize I’d better get myself to a conference like that before I get up to a podium!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      It’s definitely worth the investment. It will pay dividends over the years to come, I am convinced.

  • Anonymous

    One of the things that I did to help with my speaking was to join Toastmasters.  It has been instrumental with giving me chances to practices speeches and get comfortable with myself.  Depending on the speech, I speak from an outline and generally have found that if I bold the type and increase the font a few sizes that it is easier to read and I do not have to look down as much since I can catch it in my peripheral vision.  I also practice, but I try to find out what size the room is and how it is set up and look for a venue that I have access to that would allow me to practice it in as close to the actual room as possible.  I also try to  figure out if I am speaking with our without a mic and then  I try to practice it out loud in the same manner, your speaking voice (at least to me) sounds different with a mic than without it.  I have an app on my phone to time my speech and I try to do the speech leaving a little less time that allotted (depending on the speech).  It helps in case there are laughs or the need for pausing for a specific reason to be just a little less.  I try to respect the time of the audience and end as closely as possible to the actual time.  I also practice in front of the mirror so that I can see what my gestures and facial expressions look like.  I will also make notations and highlights in the manuscript (even though I will not be using it for the speech) to pauses, inflection and vocal changes to help in the practice.  The act of seeing something and doing it at the same time helps me to make it permanent.  But most of all it is all about practice, practice, practice, practice and then some more practice.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing your process. I find this kind of thing fascinating!

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  • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

    Thanks, Mike, This post came at a perfect time for me.

    My new goal is to do enough speaking in the next 12 months to make it make sense both financially and in terms of necessity for me to go to DCS in 2012!

    I don’t know how I’m going to do that, but I’m going to try!

  • Brookbr

    Great article! I am soon to be a new book author in July of this year and knowing that speaking engagements are going to be an important part of communicating my message I am soaking up pointers like this article points out.

  • Anonymous

    Any time I talked I would practice it out loud three or four times. Always helped

  • Joe Lalonde

    Great to hear you gained such great insight from the conference. I think two of the great points you mentioned was: Practice pauses, inflections, and vocal dynamics and work on your facial expressions and gestures.

    As for do I practice before I speak. I normally do not. When I speak, it’s normally giving a lesson to our youth group. Lately we’ve been doing small groups and it’s involved a lot of discussions. I find it hard to prepare for something like that.

  • Amy Hart

    I am a master trainer for a standardized international suicide intervention training . We were trained from the beginning to practice as if your presenting. It makes all the difference. I may do the same training many times but I can tell a definite difference in quality when I practice as if I’m presenting. It’s more important than we think. 

  • Diana Flegal

     I have employed the ‘read it out loud’ technique with my authors. If they read their manuscripts out loud, many of the sentence structure mistakes pop right out to them and the typos jump off the page. It isn’t a far stretch to see where you are going with this practice for speaking.
    Practice really does make perfect or almost :-)
    Appreciate your blogs Michael. Grateful you are keeping them coming.  

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Diana. I like reading my own work out loud, too. Even though typos still sneak through, I catch most of them.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dennis.l.preston Dennis Preston

    As an introvert who loves to speak, practicing in front of a mirror has really helped me. It reminds me to engage the audience, rather than just deliver content. Also, watching & listening to other great speakers is very helpful, although in looking at their style and delivery, it’s easy to miss their content. Thanks Michael for another good post!

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I reread your post and absorbed a little more information. 7. Nail your closing. Boy, did I learn that lesson years ago. My first year living in Russia, I preached at an American gathering in our city. I hadn’t preached in almost a year when I stood up that day. I gave the message, one I’d thought through and prepared up to a point–that point being the conclusion. I had none. I simply stopped, looked out into the crowd, and…bowed. So what do you do when a guy bows after a sermon? In this instance, people remained silent for about two seconds then started clapping. My wife got plenty of mileage out of that inauspicious moment in my life. We both had a good laugh later.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great story. Thanks for telling it on yourself. ;-)

  • Rsr777

    Great information…I would love to know more about your first point….on the Methodology of a Solid Outline.  This is the area I struggle with the most.  

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is the biggest reason to come to DCW. They spend a significant amount of time on this aspect of preparation. They then give you the opportunity to practice. If I got nothing else out of the workshop, this would have been worth it.

  • Sharon Lippincott

    DCW sounds totally awesome. For those who may not have the resources to attend those sessions, Toastmasters offers similar benefits. Some clubs meet weekly, others bi-weekly, but by grabbing every chance to speak and giving it your all, you can make remarkable progress in a few months. For those who can afford DCW, Toastmasters will keep you in fighting trim, and allow you to pay back some of what you’ve learned. The world can’t have too many great communicators.

    BTW, Toastmasters will help you communicate better at work, become a more effective leader, and benefits will spill over into your writing. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It changed my life!

  • http://twitter.com/plantedinchrist Brandon Weldy

    These were steps that I had learned in a preaching class in college. We went through how to make an outline and I would always print it up small enough so that I could put it in the pages of the passage I was using. This way I didn’t need a podium and my audience never saw my notes, only my Bible. I really liked that idea.
    I have noticed that when I practice my speech (or sermon) before I actually give it, the speech ALWAYS goes better. I usually practice it in an empty room, or outside, picturing the listeners out in front of me. I have also practiced in front of a mirror so that I can get my facial expressions down. When I don’t put much time into writing preparation my speech goes poorly, but it also goes poorly if I do not take the time to practice it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Novell/100001963038102 Scott Novell

    take and record an audio oath on your iphone or ipod and then share audio oath on facebook.  Get the app at http://www.take-an-oath.com

  • http://www.daveanthold.com Dave Anthold

    When I speak, I usually speak from an outline.  When I know the material really well, I find that my notes or outline float into the background and I rarely use them.  I don’t practice as much as I should.  I do a couple of things during my prep.  First, I write out my thoughts in a conversation or manuscript form.  Second, I storyboard my slides before creating the presentation and then build the presentation from that storyboard.  Lastly, I rehearse the presentation over and over in my head before I give it.  Sometimes I will practice out loud, but not often.  This is one area that I need do more of.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      As someone said yesterday, the difference between practicing in your head vs. practicing out loud is the difference between thinking about going to the gym and actually going. ;-)

      • http://www.daveanthold.com Dave Anthold

        What I love about learning is you realize areas where you can grow, this is one such area.

  • http://twitter.com/ChadEBillington Chad Billington

    There’s an app for that…
    Michael, when I heard you talking about using your iPhone to time your talk (and turning off screen savers, etc), it made me think of an app a friend of mine referred me to called Talk Timer. You set a time for it to countdown, and it simply displays how many minutes you have left in your talk. As you approach the end of the talk, the numbers get bigger, and when you go overtime you get a red number with a – sign. 

    It is very unobtrusive and not distracting, free and functional. Check it out (feel free to share it in another post if you think it could help others). FYI, I’m in no way involved with the development of the app, it is just one I find helpful.

    Here’s a link:
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/talk-timer-countdown-clock/id311013695?mt=8

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for that tip. I am downloading it onto my iPhone now!

  • Anonymous

    Great thoughts, what I find difficult as a communicator is switching hats between audiences and platforms (video & live).  As a communicator what do you do fundamentally to make those switches? What are you doing to make sure your closings are insightful and end with a bang?

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  • Stephanie Sikorski

    I have a BIG presentation to make to a small group of people on Saturday. Today I did my notes….and now tomorrow I’ll practice out loud! Thanks for the timely suggestion!

  • Christina

    I have been going to Toastmasters and it has really helped my public speaking. Definitly rehearsal is the key. They also record your speech which is so helpful to see if you are conveying the message physicaly with facial and hand gestures. I need all the practise I can get as my husband and I will be conducting seminars in the next 2 months. It will be exciting but scary!!!

     

  • http://www.UnwillingToSettle.com Greg Gilbert

    Great information. I agree, there is no subsitute for practice. Since as “Mr. HR With A Guitar” music is a part of my presentation I must get comfortable. Especially when I transition back and forth from “with guitar” to “without”. I must make this as quick and as least distracting as possible. I am also looking for the best headset for what I do. I am much too mobile to be stuck behind a podium or mike stand. My rule of thumb is when I’ve practiced and think I really have it down, do it once more.

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  • Anonymous

    Very timely advice… Thanks for sharing your experience Michael, and those powerful takeaways!

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    A lot about preparation here. Practice your talk before-hand seems to be a common theme. I can definitely vouch for that. Practicing creates clarity. I remember two talks in particular. One was the best I’ve ever done. Felt it. Feedback was awesome.

    Then there was the most horrific experience I can remember in front of people. The event was 2 days. My talk was the first day. I spent the rest of the time NOT in the event where those people were. Looking back now it’s kinda funny (although I do have the occasional flashback).

    But the difference in the two was complete clarity from planning and preparation. Plus the fact I didn’t know my audience. What works for one group may not work for another. Maybe that’s another part of the preparation.

    There’s  a LOT more chance of success with clarity and preparation for sure. I won’t go the other way again. (~~shivers from a flashback~~)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have had those experiences, too. They do train you in a way—like not touching a hot stove!

  • Alan Kay

    Great briefing on speaking. I have three things to add:
    1. Always ensure your content aligns with your audience’s needs. Every audience is different and if you have taken the trouble to make sure your content will work well for them, you’ll be wondering about one less thing when you are practicing.
    2. Always get them to answer some questions within your speech and allow them time to respond (briefly). By engaging them in the insights you are brining to them you’ll know what they are thinking about while you speak.  Again, when practicing, you won’t have to worry if they ‘get’ what you are saying. Plus, you won’t have to worry if there will be good questions in the Q&A.
    3. Have a stock list of very short stories that dramatize your key theme / insight. Tell one of them at the end of your speech. Practice a few of them before hand. At the session, pick the one that best fits the audience and close on a high note. 
    Alan.

  • Melissa – Mel’s World

    In the 10 years that I have been in ministry I have to be honest and say that I have never practiced a speech/lecture/teaching/class out loud. That sounds horrible to say out loud…doesn’t it? As I get more focused on the ministry of speaking and writing I can clearly see that He is stretching me on this…big time! I’ve gone through training with CLASS (Florence Littauer’s team) a couple of times and know that this is something that I will be making a change (for the better I hope) this year. Thank you for sharing your 7-points with us…I can see myself already using and applying a few of them, but there are a few that I really need to do so I can improve and be all He created me to be. Your insights are extremely helpful…thanks! :)

  • http://www.christopherneiger.com/blog Chris Neiger

    One of my professors in grad school told us to talk out loud while we’re driving, describing everything we see. It helped us think on our feet and also get over the fear of constantly being the only one talking. Seemed kind of odd, but I do it every now again just to practice!

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Ha!  I laughed when I read this, because I do exactly the same thing!  I practice my sermons out loud in front of the big mirror in our living room, after the kids go to bed.  I walk around, gesture, the whole works.  I even recorded one of them one time to see just how I looked in practice versus the real thing.  I laughed so hard!

  • http://www.advisoar.com Kelly McDermott

    Perfect practice makes perfect.  When preparation meets opportunity, success seems to follow.  70-80% of communication is non-verbal and I have found practicing the non-verbals is a big differentiator between the pros and amateurs.  Kelly Managing Partner AdviSoar

  • Anonymous

    I always practice out loud. That was one of the key tips of making it through my public speaking class at the University of Florida. It’s amazing how much your speech changes when you practice and speak out loud. I stand in my bathroom in front of my mirror.

  • Richard

    When I began as a preacher I practised by speaking out loud  in front of a mirror that way I could not only hear but  also observe how I communicated. It helped a lot. 

  • http://twitter.com/dmclives David McIntyre

    This is great advice! As actors we have to do this before we get on the stage. You have to practice your lines out loud, you have to think about the delivery, you have to get in the mirror and deliver your lines looking at and working on your facial expressions. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. I have been able to apply these principles to public speaking. You just have to be on guard to not let these disciplines slip once you begin to see the imnprovement.

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  • Anonymous

    One of the first things I learned in my preaching practicum at Fuller. It helped immensely. Like you said, it increases your confidence and helps you internalize the material. If I have time,  I also videotape myself to look for body language/verbal fillers that can be corrected before I preach. I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in doing so.

  • http://simplemom.net Tsh @ SimpleMom.net

    I’m keynoting at Relevant next week. I was internally telling myself I didn’t need to practice out loud… until I read this post. I thought I might find speaking encouragement by searching “speaking” on your blog, Michael. Darnit! Now I have to practice out loud. :)

    Thanks for the $.02 here.

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  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    One thing I have failed to do consistently is to practice OUTLOUD – it is almost like (as you said) I think someone might be listening to me! 

    I did tape my last presentation and there were facial and hand gestures that I had no clue I was using – so……I DO need to practice outloud – on my feet and watch those arms and hands!

    I do have the SCORRE DVD’s and have begun to watch those. And I read his book which was very helpful. 

    Have you ever taped your PRACTICE?  

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The big advantage of attending SCORRE as compared to just watching the video, is that you are put in a small group with a trained coach. You have to give three short speeches. Each one is video-taped and critiqued. BUT, you are also told what you are doing right. This is enormously helpful. In fact, NOTHING has helped me more than this. I feel like I grew by leaps and bounds.

      • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

        Tim Enochs told me the same thing – So……SCORRE needs to be included in my Business Plan for 2012!  Thanks for being you – love what you write – love who you are. 

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, Louise. It was fun being with Tim at this conference.

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  • Elizabeth Bachman

    I practice my speeches when out on my morning walk. This helps me quite a bit.

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  • Mark

    I find practising in an empty very difficult. There is a lot that can be gauged from an audience reaction, which is why I prefer to find a “test” audience to practice on. This is what I teach my students at the http://www.publicspeakingskillsuniversity.com as the only way you can appreciate if your speech/presentation is effective is by getting feedback from someone independent of your speech.

  • http://www.dailychristianhelp.com/ Evan Doyle

    This question may have been answered already, but any memorization tips? I do like to write out what I want to say and am careful to not come across as “wooden” or dependent upon my notes but would like to feel more confident by internalizing my notes. Thanks for advice.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m afraid not, other than to refer you to SCORRE™, our conference for people who want to be more dynamic communicators. We teach you a method that takes minimal memory work. It really begins by having the right structure.