“I have meetings all morning that may run long. I may not be able to make our practice session today.” When my co-facilitator said these words to me earlier this week, not only did my heart sink, but I began to panic.
We’re scheduled to deliver a 60-minute presentation in front of a national audience next week and this was the only slot remaining for us to rehearse our presentation and get feedback prior to next week’s conference. Fortunately for us, her meetings did not run long and we were able to rehearse.
And our performance was not good.
Would it have been “good enough” in front of our audience next week? Probably. Would attendees have walked away thinking: I learned something? Probably. Would we have achieved our full potential? Would we have given our audience the presentation they deserved for choosing to invest an hour of their time with us? No and no.
The handful of co-workers we had roped in to watching our rehearsal gave us a lot of feedback. Some if it was downright brutal. But the rehearsal we had and the feedback we received has led to a number of minor changes throughout the presentation – we’ve re-ordered some content, dropped some content, de-emphasized some content, added more focus to other areas – will have an enormous impact on our learners’ experience.
I’ve been presenting in front of groups for fifteen years. I’ve given some great presentations. I’ve given some stinkers. And it still amazes me how much of an impact a practice session will have on the final presentation. The stinkers I’ve given, the stinkers I’ve sat through as others give, often are presentations that have not been rehearsed in advance. The ones where someone says: “I know this topic very well, I have an outline, I have some slides for this… I can just wing it on the day of the presentation.”
Every afternoon at 4:15pm, Jon Stewart rehearses his script for The Daily Show before taping it in front of a live audience later in the evening. The president rehearses his State of the Union address before getting in front of Congress (and live television) to deliver it. If these very busy people can find the time to rehearse their presentations, perhaps we presenters can find a little time in our schedule to make sure we’ve practiced before we get in front of our learners.
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