When celebrity comedian Jerry Seinfeld finally got his first chance at the big time – a six-minute spot on The Tonight Show, he practised those six minutes of spotlight for six months. As he recalls: ” By the end of those six months you could have slapped me, shaken me, or held me under water, I would have still given you those six minutes with pitch perfect timing.”
Charisma takes practise. Steve Jobs, who appeared so masterful on stage, was known to rehearse important presentations relentlessly. Just as a duck appears to be sailing smoothly on the surface of a lake while powerfully paddling below the waterline, it takes a whole lot of effort for a presentation to appear effortless. When a speech is important I practise untill every breath is perfect, because knowing I’ve got a speech so well mastered allows me to be spontaneous during it. I know that I have muscle memory to fall back on.
When you know that a particular presentation will have a significant impact on your career it’s worth rehearsing untill you feel that it’s part of your solid bones. One interesting technique used by magicians is to run through the entire presentation once with their eyes closed. Another good practise is to have your speech audiotaped or, better yet, videotaped and to count what professional speakers call irritants.
These are any sounds or movements that do not add to your message. Because the audience is watching your every move, every sound and facial expression you make is a form of communication that demands a portion of their attention. Be strategic: make sure you’re getting value out of each nonverbal gesture you make, and limit superfluous gestures to avoid wasting any bit of your audience’s attention.
If you’ve been videotaped, ask three people to point out any unnecessary gestures – any tics or distractions. If you’ve been audiotaped, have the speech transcribed and ask them to note every “um” and “ah”. Be sure to not do it yourself – it’s much harder to hear your own irritants, and transcription services ae inexpensive.
And if you can, perform the entire speech at least once in front of a live audience as a trial run.
There is another technique that I like to call free-flow, or free-flowing. It’s when you feel so much at ease with yourself AND with your topic that you do not even care to prepare at all. It’s something that’s being practised in a dating company called Real Social Dynamics and it relies entirely on the speaker’s charisma, their ability to be at ease when on stage and them having a grand pool of knowledge that a single 3 hour speech would barely scratch. It’s always good to rehearse and be ready for your speech, yet if you’re feeling like experimenting with something new and something that makes you feel even more authentic than the best speaker is the world with his rehearsed speech – do it.
Keep in mind that in most cases most of the audience knows less about the subject than you do, so to be not fully prepared and have this vibe of “I don’t know what I’m going to talk about but fuck it, I’ll do it anyway” will help you to connect much better with the crowd.