Do you know how Steve Jobs sounded so confident when he gave his famous Apple keynotes? The answer is pretty obvious: he was a huge, huge cocaine fiend.
For the rest of us, there’s practicing. Did you know that practice makes perfect? Because it doesn’t. That was a filthy lie. But it does help out a ton.
How to practice
Again, everyone’s different, but here’s how I do it:
First, I get the whole slide deck in a “finished” state. “Finished” instead of finished because it’s amazing how much you’ll change after you’ve gone through your talk aloud once or twice. It becomes pretty obvious what works and what doesn’t work.
Once I’m ready, I go through the talk two or three times, all the way through. Primarily I’m looking for 1) how it feels altogether, and 2) how long it takes to get through the whole thing. Because of the latter, it’s important to say words out loud while practicing. You speak in your mind way too quickly, and you need to teach yourself the muscle memory of how your talk fits together in your mouth.
That was a strange last sentence but we’ll go with it.
Two or three times isn’t a lot of go-throughs- if you’re a beginner and you’re nervous about it, I’d definitely do more like five or seven. Part of what helps me, though, is that I’m constantly talking to myself about the talk over the week or so that I’m building it. By the time I’m up on stage, I’ve probably at least thought about every slide a dozen times. By thinking about it that much, it lets me be a little looser on stage and ad-lib more parts.
When to practice
Like everything with public speaking, you should give yourself as much time to practice as you can. But like everything with public speaking, you’re going to wait until the night before, aren’t you. You are such a jerk.
Really, though, try not to push it back too much. Sometimes you do run into times where you want to redo entire parts of the deck after hearing it out loud and realizing you sound stupid. That’s okay.
People say you should record yourself talking, and they’re a hundred percent correct. You wouldn’t believe how stupid you sound when you’re listening to yourself later. All the umms and ahhs and likes sneak in that you never noticed previously.
If you haven’t given a talk before, definitely try recording yourself before you give it for real. It’ll be the best thing you do — I guarantee it.