Speaking Wisdom From a Karate Master
Ever received a speaking lesson from an unexpected source? I did this morning when I heard the words, “Don’t practice missing!”
Those were the stern words the karate master said to his class. I was watching a group of kids testing for their next-level Karate belts. It was 9 am. That’s not a good time for teenagers and pre-teens to use their brains.
Come to think of it, there’s no good time for that group to employ brain cells. But, that’s the subject of another post….
How to Rehearse
When the master said “Don’t practice missing!” he was referring to the importance of physical contact when practicing martial arts. The kids were giving half-effort, not touching their partners.
Karate is a sport meant to be self-defense first. To effectively protect yourself, it’s necessary to create the muscle memory. This will prepare your body for high-tension moments.
The best way to do this is to rehearse with a partner. That person needs to grab you, lunge at you, or recreate a threatening situation. Nothing else can condition your muscles as well for those stressful moments.
The master’s sentiment is profound. He could’ve been talking to any group of performers – athletes, salespeople, or speakers. His words remind me of a speaking mantra: “Practice the way you’ll speak before the audience.”
Want to speak at a higher level?
Recreate – as much as possible – the conditions you’ll encounter when you give your talk.
How do you do that?
There is no best way to write, rehearse and improve a presentation. One method that works well for me is:
- Write out the first draft of your presentation
- Read through it 3 to 5 times to get comfortable with the flow
- Practice out loud by yourself to begin internalizing the message
- Audio record your practice
- Listen to audio for the flow and rhythm of the talk
- Video record yourself giving the presentation to a ‘live’ group who can give you feedback
- Watch the video for the flow and rhythm and audience reaction
- Make adjustments based on your feedback
- Repeat these steps.
To create maximum speaking impact, the key to this format is Steps C and F.
Present With MORE Energy Than You’ll Use in the Final Version.
Speakers tend to overestimate their delivery skills. Their emotions, facial expressions and body movement don’t convey the proper emotion.
For instance, I’ve heard many people say lines like “When I realized what he’d done to me, I was so mad.” When they said those words, they spoke in a laid-back tone. Their faces had blank expressions and their posture displayed nervousness.
Can you see the problem with this?
When you get angry, how does your voice sound?
Tight, and often loud, right?
How about your face? What does it look like?
Tight-lipped, flushed, and with your eyes wide open.
How about your body?
If you want the audience to believe you’re angry, show it and let them hear it!
A Better Way to Practice
There’s only one way you’ll be able to do this when you’re speaking in the spotlight. Over-exaggerate your voice, facial expressions and body movements.
If, for example, you’re angry, shout…LOUDLY…when you practice.
If you’re happy, smile as broadly as possible, to the point of feeling foolish.
If you’re demonstrating the tantrum of a two-year old, flail your arms wildly and stomp your feet like crazy.
Video Will Show You the Way
When you ‘over-rehearse’ voice, face, and body, you’re creating new muscle memory. When you’re in front of the audience, you’ll scale back to a range that doesn’t look over-the-top. If you doubt this, video record yourself with your current style of rehearsal. Then video record your over-acted version.
Chances are excellent that you’re not as over-the-top as you think. You will have stretched your comfort zone into a level that better conveys the emotions of your presentation.
Want to become memorable when speaking?
Want to create an experience that leaves a lasting impact on others?
“Don’t practice missing!”
The book ‘Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me: How to use storytelling to connect with the hearts and wallets of a hungry audience‘ by Greg Koorhan.
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