Why Is Rehearsing a Speech Important?
Your boss calls you into his office one fine day and informs you that you … yes, you! … are delivering a speech to the entire company about a new policy change. Yikes! You've never done this before. So many things run through your mind.
Don't get ahead of yourself. First things first. Of course, start by gathering the facts. Draft your speech and proofread it carefully.
Simple enough, right? Wrong! This is just one part of giving an amazing speech. The next thing to consider is delivery. If you choose to read your speech right from the pages it was written on, you probably will do fine.
However, that may bore your audience terribly. To make it interesting, you may want to be a bit more animated and conversational. For that, rehearsal is necessary. This means practicing your speech either alone or to a mock audience. And by the way, the plant on your desk qualifies as an audience.
You may be thinking, 'I really don't need to practice my speech. I pretty much know everything about this policy change.' Not so fast, cowboy! Knowing the information is good. But practice makes perfect, and here's why:
- You can practice your public speaking skills to determine what works best.
- You can practice more difficult parts of your speech to ease the delivery.
- You can use the feedback from your mock audience to make improvements.
Keep in mind anything can go wrong in front of a live audience. Nerves, audience reaction to your statements, lighting, room temperature - virtually anything can change your overall mood and lower your confidence.
Speech rehearsal is all about practice. As you rehearse your speech, think about a few things:
- Does my opening line fit into the speech?
- Am I making logical transitions?
- Are my pauses in the right place?
- Do my visuals make sense?
- Is my conclusion strong?
So how do you make sure you covered all of that? First, decide on your delivery method. Let's see how this is done.
What's Speech Rehearsal All About?
Start with a pre-rehearsal of your speech. This is where you decide the method of delivery for your speech. You see, before you can even begin to practice, you must determine the best way to deliver, or present, your speech. Here are a few methods to choose from:
You may choose a manuscript delivery that involves reading the speech as it is written. Another way you can go is the extemporaneous method. This means using note cards as a guide, but keeping the speech more conversational. Memorizing, or remembering the entire speech, is yet one more option.
Whichever delivery option you choose, you will still need to practice. The process of rehearsing a speech is really quite simple. In fact, it flows more like a set of tips. So let's explore the process of rehearsing a speech.
Step 1: Read Your Speech Aloud
The first step is read your speech aloud. This can be done by reading your speech to a few friends or to yourself. Even if you choose the manuscript method, you will still need to read the speech aloud to determine whether every word flows, makes sense and follows the main point.
Step 2: Watch Yourself
Next step, watch yourself either in front of a mirror or on video. These days, it is pretty simple to film anything with a smartphone. Replay the video a few times. Look and listen for things you do that may distract your audience, like:
- Twirling your hair
- Speaking way too fast
- Holding your cheat sheet too close to your face
- Using 'umm,' 'urr,' 'duh' at pauses
- Not pausing at all
- No eye contact
- Talking too low or mumbling
Step 3: Fix What Went Wrong
Once you previewed yourself, take the third step to fix the things you did wrong. You can do this in a few ways:
- Adjust speech rate
- Hone in on diction
- Check your breathing
- Assess vocal tone
- Monitor body language
Speech rate is the pace of your speech. Listen for the speed in which you are talking. Too fast and you may lose the audience. Too slow and they may fall asleep. With enough practice, you will find the right speed.
The audience should understand you. This is where diction comes in. It is the style of enunciation you choose. Speak with a clear, sharp tongue. Speaking of that, also avoid tongue twisters. This is no time to recite 'Sally sells seashells by the seashore.'
Oh, and don't forget to breathe during your speech. And by breathe, I mean take time to pause. Nothing distracts the audience more than when a speaker faints on stage.
Vocal tones refers to the variety of tones used in your speaking. There should be a fluctuation of your voice. Use an energetic voice when you want your audience to get excited. A somber voice works when you want them to reflect.
Step 4: Watch Your Body Language
Since a speech is one part content and one part you, it is important to think about the movement of your body on stage. Watch out for:
- Too many hand movements, which may be distracting
- Not making eye contact, which may suggest that you're not credible
- Fiddling around, which may demonstrate a lack of confidence in your facts
Practice speaking with your hands in your pockets or at your side. Get used to minimal movement and then work more movement into the speech as you become more comfortable with the material.
Step 5: Take Notes
Step five is make notes. This means after running through your speech, you watch the video or reflect on what you saw in the mirror and fix the mistakes. Write down the things that were most difficult to overcome. Pay attention to the notes you took. This will help when the big day arrives. Reflect on the notes prior to walking on stage.
For example, if you noticed that you tend to rush through information you are most comfortable with, read the notes you took on how to avoid it. Keep it in mind when that part of your speech comes.
Step 6: Funny Stuff
Some speakers like to have a few funny lines tucked in their back pocket, just in case. So, step six is inject humor in small doses, if necessary. Have a joke or two prepared just in case … well, in case you mess up on stage. Be careful with humor. What is funny to you may not get the crowd laughing. Know your audience beforehand.
Step 7: The Big Dress Rehearsal
Finally, step seven - the dress rehearsal. This is the part where you actually dress up as if it was the big event and perform your finalized, polished speech before a small audience, on video or in front of the mirror. Just remember, it is normal to get nervous or to make a few minor mistakes. But proper planning and rehearsing should minimize this and give you the confidence to deliver your best possible speech!
To tie it all together, rehearsing is a necessary part of any speech. You can practice your speech either alone or to a mock audience. Begin with a pre-rehearsal. This is where you decide the method of delivery for your speech.
There are a few methods to choose from:
- A manuscript delivery involves reading the speech as it is written.
- The extemporaneous method means using note cards as a guide but keeping the speech more conversational.
- Memorizing is committing the speech to memory.
Next, use the rehearsal process. It is seven steps:
- Read your speech aloud
- Watch yourself on video or in a mirror
- Monitor things like tone, diction and body language
- Fix the mistakes
- Make notes of the most common and challenging mistakes
- Slip a few jokes in your back pocket, just in case
- Perform a dress rehearsal
Once you master the process and apply it, you will feel more confident. The outcome will be a perfectly delivered speech your audience will love and appreciate.
After you've completed this lesson, you should have the ability to:
- Explain why rehearsing your speech is important
- List some things to keep in mind as you rehearse a speech
- Describe three methods of delivering your speech
- Summarize the seven steps of the rehearsal process