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You’ve probably heard the old New York joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! It’s silly, yet it’s also good advice—advice you should keep in mind the next time you have a speech or a presentation to give.

I’m a professional speaker, and I’ll let you in on a secret: The pros always practice, even if it’s a speech they’ve given many times before. Familiarizing yourself with the rhythms of your speech is the best way to gain confidence and to keep from stumbling.

It’s not only important that you practice, but that you do so the right way. Let me offer a few quick tips.

How to Practice Your Presentation

  • Stand up and be mobile. You’re probably not going to be sitting still while you deliver your speech (at least I hope not)—so why would you practice that way? Allow yourself to be energized by the material. Find an open room where you can amble around a bit while you rehearse.
  • Speak up. You should practice your speech out loud—and yes, this really is something that needs to be said. A lot of folks think mentally reviewing your slides counts as practicing. It doesn’t! You need to hear the sound of your own voice.
  • Put the text away. You don’t want to be reading from your manuscript during your speech, although it’s fine to have bullet points on a notecard. Try to go through it a few times without having a text handy.
  • Go to the venue. This isn’t always possible, but if you can practice in the room where you’re going to be giving the presentation, that’s always a good idea. Again, familiarity brings comfort and confidence!
  • Practice with an audience. Again, not always possible—but if you have a spouse/friend/co-worker who can serve as a test audience and then provide you with feedback, that can be invaluable.
  • Get a coach. This isn’t a step everyone needs to take, but if you really want to take your presentation game to the next level, working with a coach can certainly be effective.