The One Thing You Need to Know About Presenting for Career Success

This is the third in a series of three blog posts I’m doing on presentations.  Today I want to focus on the importance of preparing for your presentations.  Tweet 119 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Discipline yourself to prepare for presentations.  Practice out loud until you are totally in sync with what you’re going to say.”

Many people fear making presentations.  That’s why they’re not very good at them.  I subscribe to James Malinchak’s ezine on speaking.  It’s always full of interesting anecdotes.  A couple of days ago, James told a very interesting story about a conversation he had with Michael Jordan.  He posed the following scenario to Michael…

“It’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals and your team is playing on the road at your opponents’ place.  There’s 00:01 second left on the clock and your team is losing by 1 point.  You’re at the free-throw line to shoot two shots.  This is literally win or lose time, and the ball is in your hands.  If you make both free throws, your team wins their first ever championship.  If you miss both, your team loses the championship.  How would you feel?”

Michael Jordan’s response…

“That’s easy!  That situation wouldn’t bother me because I would have already disciplined myself to make sure I had already prepared for success in that, or any other situation!”

James went on to say…

“Not the answer I was expecting, but it’s very profound when you think about those two words that most would rather simply skim over: 1) Disciplined; and 2) Prepared.  The more I thought about those two words, the more I began to realize just how important they are for becoming a successful speaker, author, trainer or coach!  Most people are not disciplined to prepare themselves for success.”

James is on to something here.  Disciplined preparation is the key to becoming a dynamic presenter.  I teach my coaching clients a five-point model of presentation success.  The fifth point is “practice, practice, practice.”  I suggest practicing your talk out loud using your visuals.  I suggest doing this as many times as it takes to become 100% comfortable with what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.

When I say this I am often met with frowns and a lot of excuses about not having the time to do the kind of preparation I suggest.

And that’s why many people suck at presenting.  In Michael Jordan and James Malinchak’s words, they don’t have the personal discipline to prepare for a successful presentation.  And without disciplined preparation it’s basically impossible to do a good presentation.

A couple of years ago, Cathy and I were in Florida to celebrate our niece, Morgan’s, wedding.  Cathy was hosting a bridesmaid luncheon.  The night before the luncheon, she practiced the welcoming talk she was going to give at the luncheon at least five times.  And you know what?  It got better every time she practiced it.  She practiced one more time the morning of the luncheon, and she had it down cold.  She disciplined herself to prepare for her talk.  She was ready to do it.  And she gave a killer talk.  Good for her.

Cathy often accompanies me when I travel.  If I am doing a talk the next day, she knows my ritual before going to bed.  I will practice my talk – out loud – at least twice, and as many times as it takes for me to feel that I have it perfected.  It takes a little bit of time to practice like this, but the audience applause and, more important, my feeling of satisfaction after delivering a great talk are worth it.

By now it should be pretty clear that I think that practicing your presentations – out loud – is the most important presentation success tip.  I’ve mentioned practice in the last five success tweets.

Here’s a recap of 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.  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.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  If you want to be able to deliver dynamic presentations that will enhance your career success, you have to follow the career advice in Tweets 119 and 120 in Success Tweets.  “Discipline yourself to prepare for presentations.  Practice out loud until you are totally in sync with what you’re going to say.” (119) “Practice presentations.  You can control your nerves by practicing out loud.  The more you practice, the less afraid you’ll be.” (120)  Disciplined preparation is especially important to becoming a great presenter.  If you want to become a great presenter, discipline yourself to prepare for your talks by practicing – out loud and with your visuals – until you are totally in sync with what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.  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.

That’s my career advice on the importance of practicing your presentations – out loud.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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