Rehearse a presentation to achieve maximum impact

1. Identify how the presentation will ultimately be delivered, specifically the location and equipment.

Determine the location: conference room, auditorium, remotely via teleconference or video conference, or some combination. Find out where you will be when you are presenting, including whether you will be standing or sitting. Determine whether you will be speaking into a microphone and, if so, what kind of microphone (headset, lavalier mic, podium mic, handheld mic).

2. Replicate the final presentation environment to the closest extent possible.

Based on what you determined in the previous step, replicate as much of the environment as possible for your rehearsal, especially: The location: if you cannot rehearse in the exact location (e.g., the specific conference room), then find a location that is similar. Your positioning in the space. If you will be standing for the final presentation, then stand up during the rehearsal. If you will be holding a mic and speaking into it, then hold either a mic or an object of similar size and shape. This will help your brain and body get the “feel” of the presentation environment as part of the rehearsal process rather than adding the newness of the environment as a distraction and potential stressor for you during the final delivery.

3. Consider recording your rehearsal.

The recording does not need to be high quality, as you will be the only person who ever sees it. Simply propping up your smartphone and using its webcam can give you the audience’s perspective of your delivery, including any subconscious mannerisms or verbal tics that may be distracting.

4. Prepare to rehearse with a stopwatch and a notepad.

Use a stopwatch (the timer on your smartphone works fine) to record how long your presentation runs when rehearsing. Have a notepad and a pen or pencil available to jot down quick notes. Do not take notes digitally using the computer you are using to run through the presentation itself, as that should remain in presentation mode for the entirety of the rehearsal.

5. Rehearse out loud and without stopping.

Rehearse out loud at the same volume and tone that you expect to use for the final presentation. Start your stopwatch/timer when you start presenting, but then do not worry about how long the presentation runs. Rehearse at the natural pace of the content (you can then edit and rehearse again depending on how much over or under your allotted time you were). If you notice an error or opportunity for improvement on a slide as you present (and you will!), do not stop the presentation to adjust the content. Rather, pause only long enough to jot down a quick note on your notepad. You will review those notes immediately following the rehearsal, so they do not need to have much detail. Similarly, if you notice a rough transition as you are speaking, or if you hear yourself saying something awkward or unclear, simply make a quick note on your notepad. Stop the stopwatch/timer at the end of the presentation and make a note of how long it took for you to present the material.

6. Review your notes and the recording and make adjustments to the content.

Immediately following the rehearsal, review your notes and edit the presentation as needed: Fix any errors in your slides that you noted while you were rehearsing. If you recorded the rehearsal, review the video and make notes about what you see that could be improved. If you noted any rough transitions or awkward phrasing during your presentation, rehearse just those sections (out loud) until you are comfortable that they are clear and effective. If the duration of the presentation was much longer than your allotted time, then determine how you can scale back the content. Even after multiple rehearsals, most presenters find that their final presentation runs a bit more quickly than their rehearsals, but do not plan to “just speak quickly” to squeeze a presentation into a shorter timeframe. Do the hard work of cutting content.

7. Repeat the process.

Repeat the rehearsal following the same steps as outlined above until you are comfortable and confident!