Practice, Practice, Practice…It’s no joke

orchestra2-026A famous violinist was leaving the stage door of Carnegie Hall after a particularly bad day of rehearsal.  Noticing the musician and his violin case, two tourists looking for the entrance approached him and asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”  Without skipping a beat, the violinist replied, “Practice!”

Perhaps you recognize this clichéd vaudeville joke.  However, clichés carry a kernel of truth that may be wise to remember.

My background as a Broadway performing artist taught me early on that practice was the key to success.  Whether I improved my vocal range by singing scales, watched dancers at the barre perfect a triple pirouette, or listened to musicians refine a beautiful strain of music, everyone improved because they practiced their skills.

The same holds true in business.  Impactful presentations and successful meetings happen when you spend the time honing your communication skills.

Preparing for a big presentation?

Don’t rely on the slides to do the work for you.  Once you’ve created your deck, take the time to practice delivering each slide aloud.  Present the information to a colleague or two.  Have them watch you for skills like eye contact, good posture and natural gestures.  Does it sound like a conversation or are you simply reading the slides? If there isn’t a live person available, substitute your audience with a photo of a face, an inanimate object and a spot on the wall.  Speak to anything but the slide; this will help you simulate a live interaction with your audience.

Planning an important meeting?

Successful meetings happen when you’re prepared, and you’re not prepared until you practice.  Once you’ve organized your thoughts and written down your talking points, find a colleague and practice running through the flow of the meeting.  Role-play with them; they can listen as the client, throw a few questions your way, and tell you if your ideas resonate.  Once again, have them give you feedback on your eye contact, posture and gestures.  Were you having a collaborative exchange or were you dumping data?

Exec-Comm teaches people how to identify effective communication skills and hone them to appear confident, polished and natural in any business setting.  As with any new skill, learning doesn’t always come easy.  Along the way, you may feel self-conscious, clunky or awkward. But as you practice, you will gradually build a masterful repertoire of skills!

How do you practice your talents?

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