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Video yourself to encourage muscle memory

I often smile to myself when my client says they have rehearsed the presentation or speech in their minds. That may have helped them to get more familiar with the words, but it won’t have helped them to tune their bodies and voices to the presentation. And if they don’t do that, then the words won’t matter. Your body needs muscle memory that comes with rehearsal so that you are not having to multi-task and to think about all those body things while also concentrating on the flow.

Some of the funniest and most productive rehearsals I have held with clients have come when I forced them to keep silent while rehearsing a speech. I ask them to speak the words only in their minds while rehearsing their facial expressions and hand gestures. Although hilarious at first, they soon get the point when they see their performance on screen. You convey a huge amount with your face and hands, and expressiveness is crucial to being convincing and inspiring. Yes, it is true that this in effect is rehearsing your emotions, but it is your passion and strength of emotion that people will remember. Your own enthusiasm and passion for what you do is what will make it appealing to others. Being cool and detached does not sell them on you.

Rehearsing on video, whether it is for a presentation, a speech or a media interview, is probably the single most important piece of advice in this chapter. If you do nothing else for your next appearance, try this. When you are comfortable with how you look and sound, you will know that you can wow the audience and that will show in your performance.

I do not trust computers. I have been let down so many times that I always, always, always check that presentations are up and running the way I anticipate they will. This is one of the most important parts of your rehearsing on the day – checking exactly how you will manage slide transitions, your own presence on the stage and how you will walk about and command the stage, and whether or not your lapel mike is functioning properly. Rehearsing well allows you to overcome these glitches when they do occur, as you will still be able to speak even if the technology fails.

On one occasion recently, I was talking to more than 300 people, with five giant screens around the hall. Half of each screen was a close-up of my face while I was talking and the other half was given over to my slides. Midway through my presentation, the slides went blank. I paused for the technicians to try and fix the problem but soon realized that it might take some time, so I pressed on with my talk. After about five minutes, my slides resumed and the technicians managed to get the slides to the same point that I had progressed to. The rest of the presentation went smoothly. Afterwards, talking to some members of the audience, I asked whether the problem with my slides had distracted them at all. Almost uniformly, they said they had not noticed that my slides had disappeared. They were so busy concentrating on my face that they weren’t paying any attention at all to my lovingly prepared graphics. Since then, I have made my presentations very light on slides, if I use any at all.

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