There is a world of difference between talking about and rehearsing. Actual rehearsal is essential.
I recently had the opportunity to work with some senior leaders on a group presentation they were about to make. After some fumbling through what was supposed to be “rehearsal” time, I finally hit the pause button.
“Let’s think for a moment about actors doing a rehearsal on stage,” I suggested. “Ideally, what happens?”
“They practice the show,” replied a participant. “They act things out and see how it goes.”
”And what’s been happening here, today, so far?” I asked.
“We’ve been talking about what we would, could, or might do.”
There is a world of difference between talking about and rehearsing. Actual rehearsal is essential. Let me share some best practices for really rehearsing a group presentation or a pitch:
Best Practice #1: Actually Practice!
Get the presentation up on its feet. Perform it. Act it out. Speak the words you plan to use. Talk to your imagined audience. Work out the practical kinks. At what points will you stand or sit? How will you handle transitions from one presenter to the other?
Best Practice #2: Be a Critic
Next, do some critical and “artistic” evaluation. How’s your choreography? Are you playing to your team members’ strengths while also allowing members to try out new things to develop their skills? What else could you try for greater impact?
Best Practice #3: Identify Your Passionate Purpose
We’re often so focused on the content of our slides, we forget we’re presenting this for a reason. What’s the underlying emotional content? Why do you care? Why will your audience care? What’s your Passionate Purpose? Do you want to make your audience think about a problem that must be addressed? Do you want to entice them to a new way of seeing? Do you want to inspire them or “rally the troops” to action? How can your voice, facial expression, physical movement, and body language combine to reinforce your Passionate Purpose and present it in the most compelling way?
Best Practice #4: Put Yourself in Your Audience’s Shoes
Always use part of your rehearsal process to look at things from your audience’s point of view.
This exercise can help:
- Imagine you are members of the team about to receive the pitch or presentation. You’re standing around talking about the event that’s soon to begin. Share your hoped-for-outcomes, what you’re looking forward to, what you’re dreading, and what will make this presentation a huge success for you. Now integrate the perspective you gained from standing in the shoes of your recipients into the presentation itself.
- After you run the presentation, imagine once again that you are the team that received it. Talk amongst yourselves about the ways in which this presentation addressed your concerns, drew you in, got you excited. What did “the presenters” do well, specifically? Give appreciation for all the ways various team members knocked it out of the park. But also express, honestly, any ways that the presentation did not live up to your hopes. Incorporate the feedback and run it again.
Best Practice #5: Distill It to an “Elevator Pitch”
Just for a moment, forget the 44 slides, the charts, the graphs, the bullet points. Ask yourself, “What if I ran into the key decision maker in an elevator and had to make my presentation, without any slide support, in about fifteen seconds? What would I say?” Boil it down so you have absolute clarity on what’s most important. Now use that clarity as the backbone of your presentation.
Give these best practices a try and see if you experience a dramatic improvement in the quality and impact of your group presentations. Then help us continue the conversation. What else have you discovered that supercharges your rehearsal process? We’re all ears.