One of the secrets of good public speaking is to know your material very, very well. You may not think it a secret but you would be surprised how many people approach the lectern, the stage, or the boardroom table and do not know their script. And, the only way that can happen is if you practice it out loud over several days or maybe even a few weeks in advance. How much practice you need is entirely dependent on how quickly you learn.

If your idea of practice involves reading your script over in your mind, then you are mistaken. The written word and the spoken word are two entirely different animals. For the purpose of the presentation, you must go over it and over it out loud so that you are:

1. familiar with the opening, the development, and the closing; and,
2. comfortable with the flow of your words.

The best way to do this is by means of blocking. Your opening is a block in itself as well as your closing. Your development, however, will be made up of at least two blocks and is dependent on the number of subtopics you have.

While not an advocate of memorization, I do recommend that you memorize the first 3 or 4 lines of your opening. This is when judgment of you is being made and getting through your beginning without error is a tremendous confidence booster.

Following those memorized lines, however, you need to break your material down and practice each block on its own. Go over it and over it until you are comfortable with it and then move on to the next. Remember, too, that because you will be speaking around notes or overhead slides with your presentation, it will sound slightly different each time you say it.

Learning your presentation is much like learning music for instrumentalists or singers. They will practice the piece in blocks as well. If there is a difficult area, they will go over and over it until they get it. They will not, however, practice the entire piece from beginning to end when trying to fix a particular problem spot.

If you can begin to think of your presentation in this manner of blocking, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to learn your material. Without a doubt, one of the most common reasons for failure in public speaking is not knowing your material. Just as you would have to practice an instrument or a sport on a daily basis to become proficient, the same holds true with the presentation. Do not sell you or your audience short. Learn your material inside and out.

Author's Bio: 

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate, and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on voice and presentation skills, visit Voice Dynamic for her 4-minute presentation, The 5 Characteristics of Dynamic Public Speakers.

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