How to Rehearse Your Speech (behind the scenes with me)

 Recently I have received many questions from speakers regarding rehearsal. They say, “Craig, how do you rehearse? It seems like you really feed off the audience but you must rehearse, right?”

The answer is yes. I rehearse. In fact, the main reason why I rehearse is so I can feed off my audience while still staying on track with my message.

So instead of just explaining what I do to rehearse, I came up with another idea. I figured, “Why don’t I simply invite you to a behind-the-scenes peak at my rehearsal?”

So here’s what I did. Recently I had an upcoming speech scheduled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and I decided to record my rehearsal. Instead of sharing the entire rehearsal with you, you’ll hear two quick 90-second segments. So here’s the layout of this post:

  1. First you’ll hear a quick 90-second rehearsal of a piece of one of my stories
  2. Then you’ll hear that same 90-second clip of me live in South Dakota doing that same part of the story
  3. Then you’ll hear another 90-second rehearsal clip of another piece of that same story
  4. Finally you’ll hear another 90-second clip of me live in South Dakota doing that same part of the story

When you listen to the clips, you’ll undoubtedly hear some differences. However, the message will be the same and the differences you hear will be me reacting, responding, and feeding off of my audience. Click the play buttons below to hear the clips. Afterwards you’ll see 5 Guidelines you should consider following when it comes to rehearsing your speech for remarkable results.

Rehearsal:  [audio:|titles=Rehearsal ]

Live performance: [audio:|titles=Live Performance]

Now I am fast-forwarding to another part of this story. Again, below you’ll find audio of the rehearsal and then audio of the live performance of the same part of the speech.

Rehearsal:  [audio:|titles=Rehearsal 2]

Live performance: [audio:|titles=Live Performance 2]

5 Guidelines for Rehearsing to get Remarkable Results with Your Speech

Important note: Everyone has a different way of rehearsing. These are just my ways  and opinions so please don’t feel you have to follow them to a tee. They’re simply what work for me time and time again and what I believe can work for you too.   

1. Do not look into a mirror. Why? Because your speech is not about you. You wouldn’t look into a mirror when you’re actually speaking to your audience, would you? Then you shouldn’t do it during rehearsal. Rehearsal should mimic the actual performance, so make it as similar as possible. If you want to see what you look like, then record yourself on video (perhaps with a flip video camera) and watch it once you finish.

2. Imagine your audience is in front of you. It’s not enough to just practice knowing your words. It’s important to really see your audience. What are they doing? How are they reacting? How are you responding to their reactions? Who are you looking at and when? Where are you moving and when? This is what I call speaking your way into speaking. Believe it or not, some speakers think rehearsal is sitting down, reading, and memorizing their speech! My belief is that you should not sit down and memorize; you should stand up and internalize. You do that by rehearsing as if your audience is really there.

3. Do at least one mental rehearsal. This, more than any other practice, has been the most effective and meaningful to me. Here’s what I do. I close my eyes and go through the entire presentation in my mind. I see my audience and feel them around me. I mouth the words and make it as realistic as possible. This process is so powerful for one major reason: Once you arrive on stage, you’ll feel like you’re at home. Why? Because you’ve been there before.

4. Don’t look for perfection; look for connection. If you stumble over words or do something that’s not 100% correct, don’t worry about it. It’s not about perfection, it’s about connection. Just keep moving on. Chances are you’re the only one who will notice anyway. This Guideline goes for rehearsal and for the real speech.

5. Exaggerate the things you need to work on. For example, if you don’t pause long enough after making important statements or asking questions, then really exaggerate an extra long pause in rehearsal. Or if you constantly speak at the same energy level (or pace or volume, etc.), exaggerate your contrasts during rehearsal. If you exaggerate it in rehearsal, even though the adrenaline of the live performance will tend to make you revert to your old ways, you’ll be sufficiently stretched enough to fix the flaw. Eventually this new habit will become second nature.


Final thoughts on Rehearsing for Remarkable Results:

I have no doubt you heard some differences between my rehearsal sessions and my live speech. They probably included a different energy, pace, and even slightly different content. This is because nothing can replace the live speech. And although your live speech can and should be somewhat different than what you’ve rehearsed (because of feeding off the audience), you should try as hard as you can to rehearse with your audience in sight and in mind. That means, during rehearsal, pretend you really are with your audience. That way, once they do finally show up, they won’t have to pretend they really are with you.

Craig Valentine

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