We’re almost done with our series on overcoming our fears when we’re speaking. Next week Melanie has a beautiful closer where she’ll share using scripture to calm our nerves.
This week I have to address my least favorite way to overcome speaker fear– practice. I’m just going to confess that I actually HATE practicing before I speak, but I can’t leave it out since it’s very effective. As Rob Eager says, “Practicing doesn’t make you sound canned. It makes you sound like a pro.”
In the past, I limited my practice to mental practice. My brain is very visual, so I would play my message through in my head as if I was watching a movie, practicing transitions as well a story-telling mentally. A secular title for this would be visualization, and it’s still a handy technique. Part of visualization is rehearsing your confidence as you speak and imagining your success. Certainly, this isn’t a bad exercise!
But I found that it wasn’t enough. When we physically practice our message, we gain confidence by working out the kinks. When I practice, I set up a music stand for my notes in front of a full length mirror in my bathroom and set the timer on my phone.
Here’s what practice addresses:
- Time constraints– One of the worst transgressions a speaker can make in front of an American audience is running over time. Practicing allows us to trim our message if needed so that we can stay within the time we’ve been given.
- Quirks– When my adrenaline is pumping at the beginning of a session, my hands need to be crazy. I practice in front of a mirror so that I can practice quieting my gestures. What’s your quirk? Too many “um”s? Smacking your lips in pauses (I do this too!)? Staying tied behind the podium? I find that I’m too “in the zone” when I actually speak to pay attention to these tics, but we can practice ahead of time to work on eliminating quirks.
- Nerves– Physically practicing puts all our learning styles to work– audio, visual and tactile. After practicing a time or two, we’ll feel confident about knowing our message, assured that we can stay within our time and sure that we’re not going to be swamped with audience-distracting quirks. All of those together means that our nerves will be more in check when we stand to speak.
Do you usually practice? Tell us where and when and how it helps you.