I’ve been traveling a lot over the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I returned from the No More Homeless Animals Conference that is put on by Best Friends Animal Society. I was invited to present a workshop based on my book Funds to the Rescue: 101 Fundraising Ideas for Humane and Animal Rescue Groups.
Savvy book authors know that speaking is a great way to spread the word about your book, so I was thrilled at the opportunity. However, I’m basically an introvert with minimal speaking experience, so presenting a 1.5-hour workshop in front of 250 people was daunting to say the least. Fortunately, I know many people who successfully do presentations and I picked their brains for advice. Everyone said I needed to practice, practice, practice!
The weekend before the conference, I had to fly out east to visit family. I wondered how on earth I could get in practice time while dealing with hours of air travel. I posed the question to my colleagues in a marketing group and they had some wonderful suggestions. My presentation was a success and they encouraged me to share a few of their ideas and what I learned along the way, so here are 5 ways you can practice a presentation when you "can’t" practice.
1. Practice while you are on the plane. Planes are so loud, and so many people wear earphones that if you speak quietly, no one will notice. I confess that I did not take advantage of this idea. (I was busy worrying about catching some evil germ from all the coughing people on the plane!)
2. Practice while walking or riding. While I was on the east coast, my sister and I went for a walk. I brought my handy-dandy printout and did the entire presentation for her while we walked along a jogging trail near my mother’s house. We were under a time constraint, so I did it quickly, but we did make it through the whole thing. My mother also got to hear the presentation while we were on a long drive. If I’d had longer layovers, I could have practiced in the airport as well. It was pointed out to me that so many people use cell phones that nobody thinks you’re a loon if you wander around talking to yourself anymore! After I got to Las Vegas for the conference, I also practiced while loitering around my hotel room.
3. Practice in your imagination. Visualization is a powerful tool. Going over the presentation in your mind, and imagining what you look like as you do it, is a great way to practice. Everyone from musicians to athletes use visualization to improve their performance. I definitely did that. (For a while, I was dreaming about my fundraising presentation while sleeping!)
4. Read your script over and over. I’m one of those people who need to have a script completely written out beforehand. Some people can wing it or use an outline, but I’m a "word person" so I need to write everything out first. If you do this, simply reading the script repeatedly can help. When you read, don’t speed read; make sure you mentally "speak" every word.
5. Videotape yourself. My husband and my dogs got to experience my presentation in the comfort of our living room. The night before I left for Vegas, I asked my husband to sit through it again and videotape me. Although I didn’t have time to watch the entire video before I left, I was able to see enough to find out what I really look like and check for weird mannerisms before I was live on stage.
The end result of all this practice was that throughout the three days of the conference, I had many people tell me how much they liked my presentation. One person even asked if I do public speaking at conferences all over the country. I confessed that it was my first time speaking in front of more than a few people. (She suggested that maybe I have a new career opportunity…wow!)
If an introvert like me can successfully speak in front of 250 people, so can you. The secret is practice!
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