You’ve heard me preach to “practice, practice, practice” your presentation, so logically, you may ask, “Where should I practice my presentation?”
Does anywhere and everywhere answer your question? The key is to practice your presentation as many times as it takes to be comfortable with the material so you don’t need to read your notes, allowing you to engage your audience and enjoy your presentation. You need to talk out loud because just going through the presentation in your head doesn’t help you remember your wording and you think faster than you speak, so your timing is off if you silently go through the presentation. Secondly, you need a place with some privacy so you’re not self-conscious about interrupting others, therefore a plane, subway, or coffee shop will not suffice.
During your practice, you need to talk out loud because just going through the presentation in your head doesn’t help you remember your wording and you think faster than you speak, so your timing is off if you silently go through the presentation. Secondly, you need a place with some privacy so you’re not self-conscious about interrupting others, therefore a plane, subway, or coffee shop will not suffice.
I also suggest standing while you practice your presentation so you can fully practice your gestures and you can work on not pacing. If you’re doing a sitting presentation, then sit while you practice your presentation, but remember to have good sitting mechanics (physical techniques) such as sitting on the edge of your seat and still projecting your voice. (Read more about sitting presentations.)
Places I, Clients, or Colleagues have Practiced Presentations
- Office – Shut your office door. Stand up and push your chair back so you can walk through your presentation. You can use your computer as the screen for your PowerPoint. If you have a presentation remote, practice with it to get comfortable with it.
- Boss/Co-Worker’s Office – If you don’t have an office to yourself because you work in an open environment, ask your boss or a colleague if they will be out of the office anytime soon and if you can borrow their office to practice your presentation. I don’t know anyone that would say no to this request, especially if you’re doing a bid presentation or thought leadership presentation to potential clients.
- Conference Room – Book your company’s conference room and practice your presentation using the Smartboard or projector already in the room. This is probably the closest experience most professionals can get to the actual room they’ll be speaking in.
- Training Room – Some companies have a training room or theater that mimic a presentation venue, but this option is not common unless you work at a huge company or maybe a university that has a theater.
- Office or Home Kitchen – If you don’t have a private office or conference room to practice your presentation, then take over the kitchen. Most kitchens give you enough room to stand without allowing you to pace side to side. Also, sometimes you just need to get away from your desk and out of your office, so the kitchen is a convenient nearby option.
- Rent a Conference Room – If you work at home or in a small office, you may be able to rent a conference room at a local business incubator, executive suites or nearby office. I’ve rented conference rooms for one-on-one coaching and small group training for anywhere from $10 an hour to $40 a day. Sometimes you can ask a neighbor in your office building to use their conference room.
- Living Room – Many people can access their presentations via their TVs at home or share the screen from their tablets with the TV, so your living room can be another good option to practice with your visual aid.
- Bath Tub – I like to practice my presentations in the bath tub. I’ll print out my outline and talk through each section while relaxing in the tub. That may be TMI (Too Much Information), but the bath tub can be a good place to practice your presentation and a location I think most people do not consider.
- Car – Many professionals spend a lot of time commuting to and from work, or if you’re a road warrior that uses your car as your office, you may need to practice in your car. Don’t get fancy and try to click through your PowerPoint while driving; that is distracting and not safe. If you’re between meetings and have 15+ minutes to kill, pull out your presentation and talk through it. Also, you can talk through your presentation by talking to yourself.
- Hotel Room – Many speakers do thought leadership presentations at regional or national conferences, so practicing your presentation in your hotel room the night before your presentation is a good time and place to walk through things one last time. Don’t wait until the night before to start practicing your presentation though because it is too late to make major changes and get comfortable with those changes when you’re less than a day out.
- On Stage at Event – Most of the time, the stage is literally set hours or days before your presentation. Ask your event organizer if you can practice your presentation, even if you just get 10 minutes to walk the stage and get a feel for the room. This presentation practice may also give you a chance to test out your A/V (audio/visual) so you don’t have to worry about any potential problems during your actual presentation. If you’re not the opening speaker, some times you can access the main stage while conference attendees are at other sessions in different rooms.
- Another Room at the Event – Some times the main stage isn’t available at a conference because they use it for breakout sessions, but your event organizer may allow you to practice your presentation in another room. Whatever you can get, take advantage of it, and it never hurts to ask.
Don’t worry if your practice feels a little flat; that is a common feeling and concern because you’re too calm during practice and that anxiety you get just before your presentation will help give your presentation excitement and energy.
A big tip I always recommend when practicing your presentation is to have an audience. Grab some friends, colleagues, or neighbors and practice your presentation in front of them. Having a small audience will help you practice your techniques like eye contact. Additionally, your practice audience can give you poignant feedback with time to make updates to your presentation. I especially want you to ask people that do not have your level of expertise to ensure your message is simple enough for your audience to understand you. For example, if you’re an engineer, grab your accountant or someone from the admin staff instead of another engineer because your engineer colleague will understand your message no matter how complex your message is, which isn’t helpful to your actual audience.
If you’re doing a webinar, practice that too. Please practice your webinar presentation, your audience will thank you because the only thing worse than watching a presenter read their slides is to sit on a webinar where the speaker reads the screen to you.
- Download 6 Amazing Ways to Overcome Presentation Fear, a free guide.
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How Speak Simple Can Help You
Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.