Are you making the most of your dress rehearsals?

Ever worry about tripping when you walk onto the stage to give your speech? You’re not alone. For many professionals, logistical details are a significant source of public speaking anxiety. Here’s how you can use a dress rehearsal to reduce your level of anxiety and increase your level of comfort before an important presentation.

1. Get comfortable with the space

Figure out where you will be sitting; then, practice walking to the stage and up the stairs, standing at the side of the stage during your introduction, and moving to the lectern. Repetition (especially in the shoes you plan to wear for your speech) will build confidence and muscle memory. Also, identify the arrangement of your water, notes, and any props at the lectern so you know that everything will fit and will be easily accessible.

When you practice your presentation, make sure you take advantage of the entire stage for purposeful movement (if the advanced technique of moving away from the lectern is something you are ready to try). If possible, run through your talk a few times on the stage to get comfortable with the space and the bright lights. It’s much less overwhelming to address a large audience if you already feel comfortable in the room and on the stage.

2. Test the technology

A dress rehearsal isn’t a dress rehearsal without testing technology. Using PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi to supplement your talk? Load up your slides onto the computer that you’ll use for the actual presentation to ensure that they are saved to that machine and make sure you have the proper cables and adapters to display with a projector onto a large screen. And pay close attention to formatting of your slides – sometimes incompatibility with versions of slide applications will cause distortions in the colors, fonts, and layout. Don’t forget to test out the clicker you’ll use during your talk – you should feel comfortable advancing and reversing your slides from anywhere on stage.

img_00073. Get familiar with the sound system

A subset of technology that requires special attention for dress-rehearsal testing is the sound system. Have the event AV professionals get you wired up with the microphone that you will use during your speech (see above photo of a sound check of Spoken with Authority coached speakers in December 2016) – ideally a lavaliere microphone or wireless headset, so you aren’t tied to the lectern or stuck with a handheld microphone that limits your ability to gesture.

Consider the clothes you plan to wear for your speech; it can be difficult to attach the battery pack for a microphone if you don’t have a pocket, waistband or belt. And dangling earrings should be avoided with a headset microphone because the movement of your head can cause a clanking sound.

As you run through your presentation with the live microphone, walk around the stage to identify where it gives feedback, so you can avoid those areas when you present. Take note of any loud or unpleasant sounds that result from touching or hitting the microphone while you move or gesture; practice alternative hand movements or change the placement of the microphone.

Just like you familiarized yourself with the wireless presentation clicker, play around with the on / off button on the microphone so you can avoid any situation where a live microphone picks up sounds that you don’t want amplified. To be extra sure, remember to always remove a microphone for a trip to the restroom or a personal conversation.

If you plan to use audio for your presentation – either a video clip with sound and / or microphones for audience members to ask questions – make sure you test those as well to avoid any technical glitches during your speech.

For all the time you put into planning and preparing a speech, don’t shortchange the time you spend on dress rehearsals. Every minute dedicated to getting comfortable in the space and with the technology will help allay your fears and bolster your confidence.