Should I Practice My Presentation? (And Just How Much?)

They say practice makes perfect. So just how much should you practice?I read that Steve Jobs rehearsed and agonised for days and even weeks in the lead up to his most notable presentations. Carmine Gallo, author of “Talk Like Ted”, recounts an interview with Dr Jill Bolte-Taylor who said that she rehearsed in excess of 200 times before standing up to deliver her popular Ted Talk “My Stroke of Insight”.As it turns out, it takes quite a lot of effort to make something look effortless. While the amount of practice might look different from person to person, one thing is consistent amongst us all.  The quality of delivery is always linked to the depth of preparation. And while I don’t hold to the belief that ‘practice makes perfect’ I hold strongly to the idea that ‘practice makes progress’.  So how long do I practice?I practice for as long as it takes to dig through three key layers. 

Layer #1 – Finding Clarity 

At the foundational level, my practice is about finding clarity. I want to know what I’m going to say and how I will say it. When practicing, I take all the time I need to go through my presentation until I am able to move seamlessly through the key elements. I’m thinking through my process and finding my transitional statements. Like changing gears in a car, it usually starts a bit clunky before eventually finding my rhythm and ease. I practice out loud, not just in my head, until I can deliver the presentation without relying on my notes or slides.The question I’m asking myself here is “Does this flow?”

Layer #2 – Finding Connection 

As I spend more time and take my preparation deeper I’m looking for more than flow. I’m looking for something deeper to connect with. I want to feel something. I want to understand why this matters to me. I’m thinking about the people in the room that will be listening and why this matters to them. I’m looking for the key elements that I connect with. The ones that inspire me and cause me to get passionate about the idea. I’m not just looking to deliver something that has structure, I want to deliver something that has my investment.The question I’m asking myself here is “How does this feel?”

Layer #3 – Finding Conviction

There’s a shift that takes place when I commit to putting in the effort and take the time to dig deep. It’s a shift from ‘I know this’ to ‘I believe this’. It’s the powerful combination of head and heart. At the start I’m speaking because I have to, but when I finish, I’m speaking because I need to. I can’t stay silent for a moment longer because this idea burns on the inside of me. This level of practice is about taking the time to build conviction in what I have to share The question I’m asking myself here is “Have I found the fire?”

As I practice and prepare:

  • I want to practice until I get the clarity. I want it to flow.
  • I want to practice until I get the connection. I want to feel it. 
  • But deep down I want to practice until I get the conviction. I want it to burn like a fireinside of me because I deeply believe this.

So how long should you practice? What’s the magic number?I think that all depends on how deep you want to go.