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Presentation Lessons From The GOP Response To The State Of The Union

Did you watch the State of the Union address and the Republican response the other night?

I watched for two reasons: 1) to hear what each side had to say, and 2) to observe the presentation skills of President Obama and Senator Rubio.  Because I do a fair bit of presentation skills training I’m always interested in watching politicians and how they handle themselves on the podium.

Regardless of your political orientation, I think you’ll agree that President Obama is an accomplished speaker and did a great job delivering his talk.

Senator Rubio, on the other hand, struggled through his talk.  He seemed to be extremely nervous – as well he should be.  This was an opportunity that could lead to further political opportunities.  If you recall, Paul Ryan did the GOP response in 2012, and he ended up as the party’s Vice Presidential candidate.

If you’ve ever done a talk that was televised or taped, you know that the lights are hot.

Senator Rubio seemed to be perspiring heavily.  He wiped his brow several times as he spoke.  I commented about that to my wife, and she said “he has dry mouth too.”  Just as he said that, the Senator reached for a bottle of water.  This was an awkward TV moment – and one that the commentators focused as much as the content of his talk.

I don’t know what was going on with Senator Rubio, but it appeared to me that he let the moment, the lights and his nerves get in the way of delivering a polished talk.  Will this kill his political aspirations? Probably not, but it was a missed opportunity.

Uncontrolled nervousness can really derail a good presentation.  I offer my coaching clients a simple piece of advice when it comes to controlling presentation nerves – practice your talk out loud.

Tweet 120 in my career success book Success Tweets says, “Practice presentations. Control your nerves by practicing out loud.  The more you practice the less nervous you’ll be.”  You can download a free copy of Success Tweets at http://budurl.com/STExpl.

I don’t know if Senator Rubio took the time to practice out loud – or if he prepared by reading through the copy that was loaded on the teleprompter.  I do know that he came across as extremely nervous, and this distracted from his message.

Here’s why I think it is really important to practice your presentations out loud.

Practicing your presentations out loud…

  • Calms your nerves.  When you practice several times, the presentation is familiar and comfortable to you.  This makes you less nervous.
  • Helps you edit your talk for impact.  There is nothing like saying it out loud to show you the rough spots in your presentation.  Once you identify these rough spots, you can correct them before you’re in front of an audience.
  • Helps you get better.  The more times you repeat a talk out loud, the better it gets.  It’s almost impossible to be over-prepared for a presentation.  Practice does indeed make perfect.

These three reasons should convince you that it’s important to practice your talk out loud.  Yet I am always amazed that so many people don’t take the time to practice.  They have some great excuses…

  • It takes too much time.
  • I know what I’m going to say, I don’t need to practice.
  • I feel foolish talking to myself.
  • I won’t get any better.
  • I’ve done this talk a million times, I don’t need to practice.

And I say, “WRONG!!!”

Practice is the main ingredient of any successful presentation, not funny slides and animation – practice.

Thomas Edison is famous for saying, “Many people miss opportunity because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  I am semi-famous for saying, “Most people know the right thing to do in most situations, their common sense tells them.  They don’t use their common sense for a bunch of bogus reasons.”

So don’t come up with bogus reasons for not practicing your presentations out loud.  If you want to become a dynamic communicator, and create the life and career success you want and deserve, you have to practice your talks – out loud.  That’s some of the most important career advice I can give you.

I don’t know how Senator Rubio prepared for his talk the other night.  I do know that his nerves distracted from his message – and that’s not a good thing.  Practicing your talks out loud will help you control your nerves and keep the focus on your message.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  If you want to be able to deliver dynamic presentations, you have to follow the career advice in Tweet 120 in Success Tweets.  “Practice presentations.  You can control your nerves by practicing out loud.  The more you practice, the less afraid you’ll be.”  Besides controlling your nerves, you’ll get better each time you practice.  Trust me on this one, time spent practicing a presentation is time well spent.

Read more posts by Bud Bilanich, Ed.D., The Common Sense Guy, a career success coach, leadership consultant, motivational speaker, bestselling author and influential blogger.