Zoom Presentations Require More Rehearsals

We’ve long known that when people make a presentation that is not in-person in front of others, that person rehearses LESS.  The reality is you need to rehearse more.  Even if you are presenting a PowerPoint , you need to think through and rehearse all of the animations and transitions that you should be building into the PowerPoint so that it is more effective on Zoom. 

Obviously it is valuable to rehearse the entire presentation a few times so that you feel comfortable, but, make time to nail down and feel good about your open and close.  That’s when the audience is paying their highest level of attention.

If you are presenting with others, it’s particularly important that you plan out the handovers so that the whole presentation runs smoothly asnd you don’t appear to be bumping into each other.

Create a Safe Rehearsal Zone

Rehearsal is extremely important.  It is equally important that everyone on the team feel they are in a safe environment to rehearse.  Safe means that they can fumble through ideas and concepts without people jumping on their every word. Safe means the leader is not trying to micro-manage the entire presentation and everyone’s part. Safe means that people can experiment with what they want to say and change what doesn’t resonate without feeling like a dope.

Fear of Public Speaking

People fear speaking in public more than death. (I’ve seen both things happen simultaneously in my workshops)

I have a theory based on my own speaking experiences. When I know the material, when I know everything about the material, I’m a pretty good presenter.  But, when I’ve memorized the presentation, then I’m nervous.  There’s a big difference between knowing and memorizing.

I get to know the material by discussing it, reviewing it, reworking it in rehearsals and presenting it over and over again —without a script—until I know it in my bones. I focus on the opening, because if I can get past that smoothly, the rest is cake.

You can’t avoid being nervous when giving a presentation, but you can feel very confident knowing the material better than anyone else in the room.

How to Win the Business Pitch

Recently someone told me that while they understand the importance of rehearsal, there is just never enough time to do it.  There’s hardly enough time to prepare the proposal and to think about the prospect’s challenges and solutions.

But, often what wins the pitch is the pitch.  All of the prep work you did needs to be choreographed into a seamless story that the client can grasp, appreciate and, recognize that it is coming from a well oiled team.  To do it best, everyone on the team needs to rehearse together.  Everyone has to make time.

If you don’t want to rehearse, or can’t do it, then don’t waste all of those hours and money preparing the presentation. Your chances of winning just dropped.

It seems crazy to put all of that time in schmoozing a prospect and investing in a proposal to waste it all because you couldn’t find time to rehearse.

Rehearse Like a Basketball Player

Professional athletes practice. They practice all of the time.  Even after playing 6 or 7 games in a row, basketball players come out the next morning to practice.

If you’re making a presentation you need to practice.  You need to think through all of your plays. How are you going to open?  What is the single big message you want people to take away? How will you summarize and what action will you ask of the audience?  Then you need to rehearse all of this in front of real people.

Now you’re ready for game day.

The Best Way to Rehearse

The best way to rehearse your presentation is in front of people. Any people.  Half of the reason we’re all so anxious about speaking in public is — the public. We worry about how our comments will be received, and if we look goofy saying them. So, while rehearsing in front of a mirror can help a bit, the best practice is in front of real people;  colleagues, spouses, children, strangers on the subway. On Zoom, you have the advantage of being able to connect with someone easily so that you can rehearse in front of them, and, you can record the session.  Watching yourself present will be an eye-opener. You’ll feel more confident.

Using notes in a presentation

The most frequently asked question in my workshop is whether the presenter can use notes or not.

If the notes are a couple of words to remind you of each topic you want to cover, then those notes could be helpful.

If the notes require that you constantly look down to keep your place in your presentation, then that’s a problem.  When you look down at your notes you can’t also keep eye contact with your audience.  You’re less interesting because you’re not thinking about what you’re saying, only about what you’re reading. You’re much more prone to get lost in your remarks because if you do lose to your place, you have no life-line. And, the audience loses interest in you when you don’t have eye contact.

Not using notes does require a certain amount of preparation and rehearsal, which most people hate to do.  But, if you’re going to all that trouble to put yourself on the line in front of others, why not invest the time to make yourself great.

Rehearse Transitions in a Presentation

One of the many reasons everyone needs to prepare and rehearse is to have intelligent transitions from one thought to the next.  You may know the subject matter cold, but unless you’ve planned the flow of your remarks, you can fall into an awkward pattern in which you repeat the same things over and over as you search for a bridge to the next part of your comments.

If you have properly revised your PowerPoint to make it works more effectively on Zoom, then you absolutely need to rehearse to coordinate with the various animations you inserted into the slides. 

Don’t assume because you know the topic that you know the speech.

Prepare and rehearse every time.

Video Your Presentation Rehearsals

Much of the work that goes into presentation skill training has to do with very basic techniques – volume, eye contact, posture, smiling, enunciation, etc.  These techniques are so basic that one client, a lawyer, questioned whether he should spend time working on them because he thought he had command of these things whenever he spoke.

But then, after he saw himself on video tape, he realized he didn’t do any of them.  In fact, he scowled and mumbled. His only eye contact was with the ceiling.

“Watching myself on tape changed my presentation style dramatically.  It was amazing.”

You’ll become a better, more powerful speaker fast when your training includes videotaping every exercise, and using the Zoom record system.

5 Body Language Techniques to Focus on in a Zoom Presentation

-Eye contact. Look at the lens of the camera as you speak, not the screen.

-Smile. It’s still an easy way to connect with the audience.

-Get Stoked.  Look like you want to be there.

-Volume. The audio is crucial in a Zoom presentation.  Use a microphone and headset.

-Postures/Gesture. Don’t sit slumped over when you present.  We encourage hand and gesture use, but keep your hands close to your body and don’t flail.   It makes you look wild on the screen.

How to Rehearse a Team Presentation

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”    Muhammad Ali.

Training.  Rehearsal. Same thing. Everyone needs to rehearse. And, everyone hates rehearsing. But, you got to.  If you are presenting with others, they should also be at the rehearsal.  Pay particular attention to how each person opens and closes their segment and how each person hands over to the next person.  If possible, rehearse without notes so you get to know the material and not memorize the script.

Thanks Champ.

Rehearse the Whole Pitch, Not Just Words

Try to rehearse your entire presentation, not just the words.  Rehearse how you will stand, gestures, pauses, theatrical embellishments. Rehearse how you will work the room with your eyes.  If you will be presenting seated, rehearse seated. Duplicate as much of the real situation as possible.

And, always rehearse in front of others.

Presentations Require Preparation

The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.

Bobby Knight, Basketball coach

 Behind every great presentation are lots of hours of preparation.  Lots and lots.

Helping Others Rehearse

If you are helping someone rehearse a presentation, follow Alex Haley’s advice: Find the good and praise it.

It’s more important to make the speaker confident than to nitpick a word or two.

Memory Technique

I’ve found it’s best to learn a speech point by point, not word for word.

–George Plimpton

Weeks of Prep, Minutes of Rehearsal

When I was in advertising, I saw that most teams spent weeks putting a campaign together and minutes thinking about how to present it to the client.

If you create brilliant work but have a dull presentation, it isn’t the client’s fault if they don’t buy it.

If it sounds like a speech, rewrite it.

Your presentation should sound like you, not like a formal, structured thesis.  You are best when you are you.  As you rehearse the text out loud if it doesn’t sound like the you we all know and love…start over.

Rehearsal Etiquette

When helping a colleague rehearse a presentation,  the more positive the discussion, the more positive the outcome.  The closer the rehearsal is to the actual presentation, the less critique and the more praise usually makes for a happier outcome.

How to Give a Presentation Without Note Cards

Instead of note cards use a process called chunking.  When we arrange information into groups, it’s easier to remember. That’s why a phone number is chunked into sections instead of one long 10 digest number.


Arrange the content of your presentation into 3 or 4 sections.  It will be a lot easier to remember, and easier for the audience to digest.

 If you need help call me.

Always Have a Dress Rehearsal

Rehearsals are valuable. The last rehearsal, the dress rehearsal, is particularly important.

Here is how to make that dress rehearsal more productive:
-Once you start the rehearsal, it’s game conditions. You don’t stop until the end.
-If someone flubs, they must keep going. In a real presentation you can’t start over.
-The time for comments and fine tuning is over. Be careful of changing any speakers content or role too close to the actual pitch.
-If you are presenting as a team, rehearse as a team.
-Rehearse in similar physical conditions to the real location. Sit and stand as you would in the real pitch. Ditto handovers.
-If using PowerPoint and other presentation visuals, who, on the pitch team, will control the remote and set-up.
-Everyone says their entire part, no “and then I’ll say yadda yadda yadda”
-Have people sit on the other side of the table to present to. If you are going to have a Q&A session, have those people ask questions.
-Check your timing when finished. Allowing for the Q&A period, your total time should never exceed the time allotted.

Finish the rehearsal positive and charged. Avoid laundry lists of criticism. If you are the pitch leader, smile, be positive and everyone will join you and think good thoughts.

Rehearse Like the Greats

The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90. “Because, I think I’m making progress,” he replied.

You want to make a great presentation?

Practice. Practice, Practice, Practice.


Video Killed the Radio Star

In a recent class at Harvard, when we videotaped the presenters for their ‘final exercise’, something  amazing and reoccurring happened.  In a class of 24 doctors, each person commented on seeing something about their own body language that they had no idea they were doing.  What needed to be fixed was always easy to do; like smiling, eye contact, and posture.  Have a friend or coworker videotape your next rehearsal or presentation.  Use Zoom to record your next presentation rehearsal.

Presentation Tip: Rehearsals are Fail-proof, PowerPoint is not.

A former student wrote recently that during a presentation he was giving, the computer crashed. No PowerPoint! Luckily, he’d been taught how important rehearsing is. Not only did he nail his presentation, but afterward a number of colleagues congratulated him on one of his ‘best presentations yet’. This is an important lesson about presenting: Tech will always fail us; rehearsing never will.


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