"It takes me about 3 weeks to write a decent impromptu speech"
It also won’t look natural, as you will be stressed. You’ll be prone to ums, errs and verbal stumbles as you struggle to dredge up the important points you need to make from the depths of your increasingly panic-stricken mind.
Many people I work with say they don't want to lose the spontaneity of their presentations by over-rehearsing them. I sometimes wonder if this is just an excuse or whether they really believe it. The great Mark Twain certainly understood that impromptu and ‘natural’ speeches and presentations need preparation and practice – and plenty of it.
People sometimes need a bit of convincing when I tell them that the key to delivering natural and apparently unrehearsed presentations is to rehearse them; over and over.
‘If I over-rehearse it just won’t seem natural,’ they tell me. They’re almost right in one respect: standing up in front of your presentation slides and saying the first thing that enters your head certainly won’t look like you’ve rehearsed.
Actors and performers are always striving to make their performances look natural. And boy do they rehearse. Weeks or months of rehearsal allow them to put on flawless and natural performances time after time after time. The natural presentation style is built on confidence and knowing the material, and how they want to deliver it, inside out.
In a presentation, when you have that level of familiarity and confidence you are much more able to deviate from your prepared speech. You can respond to audience feedback and questions, confident that you can get back on track.
Quality and Quantity
BUT, it’s the quality of the practice that counts, not just the quantity.
A bit like theatre rehearsal, your presentation rehearsal has to have clear goals and objectives that are realistic and achievable. There needs to be clear, concise and constructive feedback. And you need reflection time to clarify in your mind what you need to change for the next run-through.
A change of scene and sensible breaks between sessions will help. This means you need to start rehearsing important presentations well in advance! A smattering of good humour and perhaps a laugh or two all help to keep the tempo up-beat and helps keep you moving forward.
As a coach I need to be able to tell when people can’t take any more; as the process from their side is very exhausting and difficult if they are doing it with the right level of intensity and focus. The pace and intensity need to be controlled so that you gradually build confidence.
Productive practice isn’t easy. But if it was, and if everyone found presenting easy, they wouldn’t need me!
Hugh Graham, The Bid Coach
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I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.