Most of us understand that practice matters in sports, arts, and business. So what is it that prevents us from doing the practice we know will up the level of our performance?
“Winging it” is not an option.
Actors, musicians, dancers, singers – even improv actors rehearse. The USA Women’s Soccer team certainly practiced before winning the World Cup. Successful business professionals hold preparation as a top priority. They understand that if we want to kick a Carli Lloyd 54 yard goal, we have to be prepped and ready. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the moment of the actual show or meeting, yet practice has us ready, honed, and tuned-in to the situation and our fellow players.
If we know this, then why do we avoid it? Time constraints? Increase in performance expectations? Do we make it too intense or the expectations too high?
Promise #1: You will end up saving time.
Promise #2: You will have an increase in output and get more done.
Even a few moments of prep will pay off.
- Get your mind in the success mode – (negativity or “realistic” mindsets eat away at our success).
- Know your success, see it, and live into it.
- Weed your mind garden of little phrases of defeat and doubt – some that perhaps are disguised as humility.
- Walk through your scenario and info in your head.
- DO NOT give away that rehearsal time – don’t let it get eaten up by other priorities
- Build rehearsal time into your overall planning.
- Snag little bits of time during your commute, while walking the dog, while showering. Bits and pieces are useful.
- Ask a trusted friend to let you practice and give you feedback
- Have a pre-presentation and/or pre-meeting ritual. Michael Phelps ran through the same routine before every race. Getting in a routine can help signal your mind and body that “yes, now we go.”
- Physically repeat, repeat, repeat. Then mentally and physically connect the dots between sections. For example, when I enter the room, I do this. When I start the meeting, I do this. When I approach the stage or lectern, I do this.
- Rehearse in the shoes and/or clothes that you will wear during your “performance”. Your shoes inform your balance and grounding, and your clothes represent who you are.
- Beginning and endings are very important. Know how you are starting and finishing – know the in and out.
- Record your content. Play and listen to it, then play and repeat it out loud. It doesn’t have to be repeated back word for word (unless you are an actor with a formal script). Focus on thought-to-thought, idea-to-idea.
- Learn your content in segments. Connect the segments.
- Work the sections — not just the whole piece over and over.
- Cover the segment with a piece of paper, and then scoot the paper down when you get it right. Repeat.
- If you have a lot of content to deliver, write each segment – by hand – on index cards. The physical process of writing the words helps the memorization process.
- If you are a visual person, color-coding helps – i.e. each section or segment of content is a different color. You can use highlighters or different color index cards or paper.
- If you are musical or auditory, think of each section as a different instrument or song theme.
- Work the hardest sections until they flow with your authentic voice and breath.
- Work through using only vowels and then add the consonants. This exercise helps you keep the breath connected and recognize the emotional content vs the intellectual content.
- Run through your content out loud with anyone who is willing to listen. Run it again. And again. Speaking out loud is key.
- Practice it out loud even if you are alone. Again, out loud is key. Things are different in your head than out loud.
- Run through your content while taking a walk, folding laundry, doing something physical. The physical activity helps the content get in your body. The more it is in your body, the more it becomes second nature.
Step it up: the rehearsal of champions.
Do you have the stomach for it?
- Audio Record yourself — sound only. This can be quite different from video recording. Listen back for clarity of message and for the musicality of your voice. Do you have vocal variety that is connected to the message? Does it enhance the meaning for the listener? (Vocal variety for vocal variety’s sake is more hypnotic than helpful.)
- Video record yourself and
- Watch with the audio off (and your harsh self-judgment off as well!) Notice your body, feet, arms, hands, head, and facial movements. Are they varied or are they repetitive? Is your pacing or other movement more about your own comfort than the audience’s understanding?
- Watch the video with audio on and see how you connected your message to your verbal and non-verbal communication.
It is said that the game is won before the players hit the field – presentations are the same way. As with performing, your preparation determines your outcome. Make the time.
Your success is in your hands.