2 Cures for your bad Practice

2 Cures for your bad Practice

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.

As a card carrying member of the Lazy Human Being Club, I smirk when I hear that old saw. When it comes to presentations, I don’t want to have sleepless nights on the eve of the big show. I don’t want to pace up and down, sweating and mumbling, trying to commit all my best lines to memory. This may shock members of Toastmasters and disciples of Dale Carnegie, but practice – at least that kind of practice, doesn’t work for me. It may not be the kind of practice that you need either.

This statement would get me thrown out (or at least gather dirty looks) of my other club – the People Can Do Anything if They Just Work at it Club. But they really aren’t in contrast. I want to believe Malcolm* when he tells me that it would only take me 10,000 hours of practice to get into the champions tour. I just don’t have that kind of time.

So how does a lazy man (or woman, my clubs don’t discriminate based on gender) get to be great at presenting without spending Gladwell’s 10,000 hours? Deliberate Practice.

If you want to be a better presenter, there are two things every-one has to do. The first is the same for everyone, the second varies, depending on what type of presenter you are.

1. Work at the edge of your comfort zone.

It’s no good sitting comfortably in the middle of your comfort zone, doing the same thing you’ve always done, following the same rules, and working the same way, following the same templates and guidelines, just because it feels safe. You have to work right at the edge of your comfort zone, where you take risks and try things differently. It’s where you will perform at your best as a healthy dose of nerves kick in, and where you will learn the most.

2. Different types of presenters need different types of practice.

Depending on the type of presenter you are, you need to practice differently.  There are 6 different types of presenter. Each needs to prepare, practice, and present differently. Some just need to take a hands on approach to building a deck, some need to have lots of little practice conversations, and some actually do need to pace up and down with a script. Which one are you?

Unfortunately I am late for a meeting at the Lazy Human Being Club. I’m not sure what the topic is, because no-one bothered to write or send out an agenda. I hope it’s on the topic of procrastination, and why it gets in the way of writing and finishing blog posts. I promise, I am working on a post on the different types of presenters. Look for it soon.

Gavin_Animated-GifGavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at makeapowerfulpoint.com. You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.

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  1. ameliascognamiglio | February 27, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Thank you for making me feel better about the nerves I get before a presentation! I will remember this before my next one in a couple of weeks.

  2. Siobhan Jacobs | February 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Another inspiring read. thanks gavin

  3. David Kanigan | February 29, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Great graphic visual Gavin.

  4. Steve Cherches (@stevecherches) | July 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Great post, Gavin. I agree. Practice can take many different forms. I actually don’t like to formally “practice” my presentations. I like to have conversations with people about my topic and general idea of what I’m going to say. That way I’m focused on the “ideas” instead of the “speech” (I really don’t love that word), and so the “presentation” becomes a “conversation.”

    And when I coach speakers, I take a very similar approach. That said, I also know someone who practices his presentation in front of his dog. :-) Everyone’s got their own preferences. Woof.

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