A young man arrived in New York City, a place he had always wanted
to visit since he was a young boy. His ultimate dream was to see
Carnegie Hall. Since he had never been to New York, he didn't know
if he should walk, take a bus, or take a train. As he continued
down the street, the young man saw a taxi cab driver standing
alongside his vehicle. He walked over to him and asked, "What is
the best way to get to Carnegie Hall?" The taxi cab driver put down
the newspaper he was reading, looked him square in the eye, and
said, "Practice, practice, practice!" It's an old joke, I admit,
but funny and relevant still.
In order to become effective communicators we must be willing to
practice. Not just the words we say, but how we say them, how we
present ourselves, and how our voice sounds. Everyone has their own
way of accomplishing this task, whether by practicing in front of a
group of friends, their Toastmaster Club, or a mirror.
Another great way to practice presentation skills is by using a
video camera. This allows you to see yourself as others see you
when you are on stage. Once you have taped your presentation,
follow these steps:
- No Sound. Watch your presentation without any
sound. This helps you to concentrate on your facial expressions and
body language. Look for gestures that are not smooth. Look for bad
habits you didn't know you had. Do you look the way you thought you
would while speaking? Make note of anything you'd like to change.
- Just Listen. Next review the tape for sound only.
Turn your back to the television and just listen. Listen for vocal
variety. Listen for words you did not enunciate correctly. Listen
for your tone and pitch. Listen for speed. Were you speaking too
slow, too fast, or just right?
- All Together Now. Now rewind the tap and watch it
the way you would any video, paying attention to both image and
sound. Check to see if your gestures complement what you are saying
or if they fight against your speech. For example, did you frown
when you actually meant to make an exciting point? Make note of
You should do this exercise once every six months if you are an
infrequent presenter. But if you make presentations regularly,
taking the time to tape yourself every month or so will help polish
your skills and keep you moving forward.
Then the next time someone walks up to you after a presentation and
says, "Wow, that was great! How did you do that so well?" You can
look them in the eye and say "Practice, practice, practice!"
2007 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.