Now that my Presentation deck is complete (read more here) I’ve spent the past three weeks practicing and my practice has morphed over time. To give you a sense of what I mean. My approach below in somewhat chronological order:
3 Weeks Out -
Learn Your Word Count
When sketching my content, I had a sense of what I wanted to say for a few key slides, but for others I had to start from scratch. The first thing I did was to figure out my word count which for a 5-minute speech is somewhere between 625-725 words depending on how fast you speak, I’m on the slow slide. Then I took Seth Godin’s advice, if you must prepare a 5-minute speech opt for a four-minute speech instead because less is always more. My total word count is below 600 words.
Similar to my advice in Part 1, I found that writing out my words in a Word Doc rather than the notes section in PowerPoint really helped me to shape the structure of the talk. Each mini paragraph represents a slide and about 15 seconds of speaking.
I probably edited my script easily 20-25 times, so I worked a little bit on it each day for about a week. Once I had most of the script written out I started to practice reading off my script and timing myself on my cellphone. I did this alone as I’m not yet ready to unveil.
2 Weeks Out -
The perfectionist in me could continue to edit the script, but I had to step away from my laptop to give myself enough time to start practicing in full. I spent a few days practicing the entire speech in full by reading off the script. I probably did a total of 30 run-throughs. I practiced with the slides advancing every 15 seconds and timing on my cellphone so I could get a feel for when to pause and when I had too many words per slide. Still alone, still not ready to unveil and getting more and more nervous about the fact that sooner or later I’m going to have to practice this in front of people.
1 Week Out -
Gain an Audience
It’s time to take the training wheels off and actually practice in front of someone so in this case it is best to practice in front of someone you trust, I opted for my spouse and 5lb Yorkshire Terrier Lenny. At this point, I’m still reading off my script, but I’ve practiced enough where I have memorized some of the slides on my own. I’m noticing that I’ve practiced full through so many times that the first 5 slides are much easier for me then the back half. I now need to focus more from the middle of the speech to the end.
4 Days Out (At Least)
This is the most difficult part of practice. The first time I practiced without the slides or my script in front of me I completely choked – it did not matter that I had practiced for weeks at this point, I literally could not remember anything; I completely froze. Good thing I still have a few days before the big event. I put the heels that I plan on wearing on and put my script away. My spouse could view my slides, but I couldn’t so I literally went at the blind, as the slides advanced I would get a quick queue. This is the best way to practice. I often forgot what slide comes next and had to make stuff up. At times, I literally let 15 seconds slip by until the next slide appeared so I could regain my composure. Having my dog Lenny there was also helpful she started playing with a chew toy that made a lot of noise, but I had to just keep moving. The room will have 300 people with a ton of noise so I need to be ready.
I’ll post Part 3 as a follow that will detail how it went in the hopes that I didn’t bumble anything.