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Rehearse well and prepare for tough questions

In the end it always comes down to how well you have prepared. I have never seen a speech get worse as a leader has practised. I have met only a very few gifted leaders who are able to speak brilliantly without some considerable amount of rehearsal. You are very unlikely to be one of those people. Invest time and effort in rehearsals. Never wing it.

Apart from anything else, rehearsing gives you confidence and helps you to look like you are a ‘natural’ who doesn’t need practice. People who don’t rehearse are the ones most likely to look wooden on stage or on camera. If you don’t look and sound passionate about your subject, why would you expect anyone to be persuaded by what you say? It is only with confidence that you can really display your passion, so don’t shirk on the rehearsals.

If possible, always videotape your rehearsal. Watch yourself with the sound turned off. This is the only way you will be able to see whether you look convincing and believable. These days, videoing yourself and then watching it privately is far easier than you might imagine. I’m amazed at how many leaders suggest that they don’t have a video camera to do the rehearsal. Don’t be ridiculous – you have a mobile phone with a video camera on it and you have earphones to use to listen to yourself while watching your rehearsal on the phone. Filming yourself is easy. Even if you do have friends or colleagues to advise you on your performance, you will improve simply by observing yourself.

I would not advise over rehearsing your speech or interview on the day itself, as this can make you a little stale. But do rehearse once, especially at the venue if possible. Many of us have to travel when giving presentations, so your hotel room is of course the ideal place to put in some practice. I don’t advise practising in front of a mirror, however. You need to watch yourself on video to get the best benefit. That’s the only way you will have the vaguest idea of how your audience might feel watching you.

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