Development workshops and presentations are great events where you can learn a lot while also sharing your experience with others. A good presentation is memorable and it can change people’s lives. However, since no one is born a great speaker or presenter, the question is “Should you rehearse your presentation?”.

The answer is YES.

You should rehearse several times before you give your presentation or lead a workshop. Doing so will ensure you keep your audience engaged and focused on your topic.

Read on to find out why rehearsing is so important. Learn about the best practices for preparing for a development workshop or presentation.

Why rehearsing your presentation is so important

Some people are just bad public speakers. So, giving yourself the necessary time and resources to prepare beforehand is critical before you lead a development workshop or presentation. Ironically, those people among us that believe we are all good public speakers are where the problem lies.

If you feel that you are not good at public speaking, find out whether the fear of public speaking is holding you back.

If you are not confident or experienced in presenting, you should spend more time preparing and rehearsing. This will lead to a better presentation and will give the audience a good impression. Confident presenters, on the other hand, usually tend to slack off when it comes to preparing and rehearsing. This often leads to a lackluster presentation.

You may tell yourself “I present better when I think on my feet”. But rest assured, this will not be the case. Preparing and rehearsing properly before a presentation gives you the best chance for success.

What to expect when you rehearse your presentation

Rehearsing your presentation will ensure that:

  • You will speak within the allotted time.
  • Your speech matches your slides and presentation materials.
  • You won’t be awkward or appear “small” when faced with a large crowd.
  • You are prepared in case something goes wrong like your slides stop working or your computer crashes.
  • You are memorable, witty, and interesting.
  • You come across as enthusiastic, passionate, and energized.
  • You know what to do with your hands.

That last one sounds amusing, but it demonstrates how much work goes into presenting. You are putting yourself out there for people to watch and engage with. Everything you do or say will have an impact on the audience. The last thing you want is to be forgotten after a poor performance. You also risk tarnishing your reputation and not being invited to speak again.

How you should rehearse your presentation

Rehearsing for a presentation takes time. You should break down the preparation process over days and weeks.

So, let’s go over a few key steps you can take before a presentation, as well as some great tips to try out to make your presentation effective and memorable. We will also discuss some things you will want to avoid and dispel a few misconceptions about rehearsing for a presentation.

Time your presentation

The first thing you should think about is timing. Nothing is worse than having a great topic and you rush or dragging through the presentation with your slides scattered all over the place. Your audience will lose interest very quickly.

Time yourself first as you deliver your presentation. Do not read or repeat it from memory. This will not give you an accurate estimate of how long your presentation will be, it leaves you no room to answer spontaneous questions that may appear during the presentation, and it keeps you from freely walking around on stage.

Finally, estimate the time between slides or topics because certain slides may be placed too close to one another, causing you to click through one section quickly and stay stagnant in another. Use your time effectively and split your time semi-evenly among slides and topics to give your presentation a nice flow and hierarchical importance.

Backup your presentation materials

Backing up your materials is an essential part of preparing for your presentation. A corrupted file will bring your presentation to a halt. So, store your slides in your email, a flash drive, or a third-party storage software like Dropbox, that you can easily access.

Record yourself on video

If you only remember one thing from this post, it’s this: record yourself!

Rehearse your presentation by recording it
Record your presentation on video

Don’t just record your presentation in audio. A presentation is visual. Your stance, hand movements, and eye contact are just as important. Try this:

  • Place a camera in a medium-sized room and pose as an audience member in a room that is otherwise filled.
  • Give your presentation as you would on the day of your presentation, including the introduction, citing references, and asking questions (the Question & Answer session).
  • Watch the recording several times and take note of your voice, eye contact, hand movements, and how well you use your time.
  • You want to identify what is hilarious and what should be removed, what is engaging, and what should be changed.

Repeat this process several times until you are satisfied with two or three revisions to your presentation.

Skip the mirror when rehearsing

One common misconception about presentations is that you should practice and rehearse your presentation in front of a mirror. This is a bad idea for several reasons:

  • You are not presenting to yourself. You are presenting to an audience and thinking that a mirror is an audience is not a good way to start.
  • Presenting to a mirror does not give you an accurate estimate of your presentation time since you will likely be distracted by your appearance or your poor hair day.
  • You are not free to walk around in front of a mirror, which is necessary if you want to walk around and engage with the audience.

Keep these three points in mind as you rehearse your presentation, and you will wake up on presentation day feeling calm, confident, and prepared.

Should you rehearse on the day of your presentation?

After the initial step of rehearsing, you should feel confident in your ability to deliver an outstanding presentation and impress your audience. One more thing… the hours before a presentation. Most presenters either waste this time or spend it stressed out. Let’s take a look at what you should and shouldn’t do on the day of your presentation.

Contrary to popular belief, practice does not always make perfect on the day of your presentation. You should have taken the days before to rehearse your presentation, and now is not the time to trip yourself up or worry over minor details. Don’t go over the presentation or the sequence of topics mentally. All you are doing is messing up with the inherently well-prepared presentation that is ready to go in your head. Relax and calm down, people are there to see a calm and collected you, so be the best you can be.

To keep your mind off things, get a small snack, some tea, or coffee, and double-check that everything is where it needs to be. Ensure that all your slides are in their proper place and that your backups are secure. Arrive and get on stage a few hours early to get a feel of the room and atmosphere. This should give you a good idea of how to project your voice and where to move around on stage. And don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the audiovisual equipment.

To sum up

You don’t have to worry about presentations, and you shouldn’t leave everything till the last minute. If you prepare properly and rehearse your presentation in a timely and orderly manner, you will deliver an effective and engaging presentation that will display your confidence, knowledge, and experience.

Further reading

  • Morgan, N. “How to Become an Authentic Speaker.” Harvard Business Review, Nov 2008.
  • Stuart, A. E. “Engaging the Audience: Developing Presentation Skills in Science Students.” Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 2013, Oct 16, pp. A410.
  • Zelezhy, G. Say It With Presentations, MacGraw Hill, 2006