How would you feel?
Dana walks to center stage. She pauses, takes a moment.
She looks out at the 5,000 delegates as they all peer back at her.
There is only one word to describe how Dana feels right now…
Dana smiles, makes her opening comment, and pauses for a split-second before continuing.
Two blocks away, on the 15th floor of a nondescript office tower, Peter stumbles on a power cord as he makes his way to the front of the room.
He’s prepared as he’ll ever be!
He straightens his tie and looks up the audience. 25 eager new managers stare back.
There is only one word to describe how Peter feels now…
Peter rushes his welcome message and it sounds garbled. The next two lines flow more smoothly, then…
What was next? The lines are gone.
All that practice and memorization for nothing!
Peter remembers the general context of what he has to say but can’t remember the words he practiced.
He stutters as he looked upwards. The ceiling is no help.
Oh no! He’s making a fool of himself!
Gradually, Peter’s face turns rose red.
It’s all over.
How would you feel?
Would you feel calm like Dana, or terrified like Peter?
If you’re like most people you’d probably fall more on Peter’s side.
Would it surprise you to know that Peter spent more time preparing his presentation than Dana?
Peter practiced for days before his presentation.
He memorized every word. Slaved over every syllable.
Hours and hours wasted as he now stands on stage beetroot-faced trying to remember what to say.
On the flip-side, Dana took about 30 minutes to prepare her presentation.
She thought about three things:
- What message she wanted to get across
- What main points she needed to talk about
- How to convey her information in the simplest way possible
Practice makes you imperfect
The more you chase something the more likely it is to get away.
The more you try to be perfect the more likely it is that you’ll make mistakes.
…And mistakes are okay. Everyone makes mistakes…
When you make a mistake as you’re striving for perfection, the mistakes start to snowball.
You forget what to say, you say the wrong thing, you get a couple of points confused, and all of a sudden you’re making more and more errors.
You’re headed for a train wreck of a presentation!
Practice is overrated
Don’t get me wrong, practice is good.
But over-practice is bad.
Trying to be perfect and practicing your lines like crazy is not the way to go. You’re putting way too much pressure on yourself.
Put too much pressure on yourself and you’ll make it more difficult to remember what to say when you’re on stage.
If you want to sound natural and be engaging, stop trying to be perfect.