Ask anyone who has ever produced an annual meeting, and they will tell you that one of the most difficult steps in the process is getting people to rehearse. It is one of the most difficult steps in any presentation, and lack of rehearsal is the chief cause of nervousness and poor performances. Everyone realizes the importance of rehearsal, but they are sometimes inhibited about rehearsing in front of their colleagues. Instead, they rehearse at home in the shower or in front of a mirror.
Here are some rehearsal tips that will improve the participation and output which, in turn, will create a more vibrant annual meeting.
1. Create a safe rehearsal zone. Don’t ever embarrass anyone in front of their colleagues. If you have very critical things to say, talk to that person on the side. Create a rehearsal area that is reassuring and points out all of the good things that they do. Allow people to give their presentation without interruption.
2. Never say more than 3 critical comments at one time. It’s demoralizing and too much to adjust to. Always give praise along with criticism.
3. Don’t try to micromanage each presenter’s presentation. Let people be themselves and use words and expressions they are comfortable with (within limits).
4. Dissuade people from rehearsing by themselves. The reason people get nervous in front of a crowd is because they are in front of a crowd. When they practice alone, they’re not addressing that issue.
5. Rehearsals require a number of different steps. The first is walking through the material to make sure it is appropriate and the speaker is in sync with it. A second step is having the presenter work one-on-one with a seasoned presenter, so more critical feedback can be done privately. I like to use this one-on-one rehearsal to focus on technique issues: posture, working at a podium, eye contact, voice, smile, inflection, etc. It’s a good idea to video tape one of these rehearsals so the presenter can see what the audience sees. There may be a need to have additional one-on-one sessions.
6. If the presenters will be using a podium in the real meeting, get one for the rehearsals. Try to duplicate as much of the actual meeting conditions as is practical.
7. Be sensitive to your presenters who are either inexperienced or get very nervous when presenting. Give them more chances to rehearse and be very gentle with criticism. Be especially reassuring. You’ll never make a nervous presenter less nervous with criticism.
8. Have one rehearsal with everyone who is presenting assembled. Don’t do this piecemeal. Insistent that everyone show up. At this rehearsal the presenters should give their opening, run through their slides, discuss how they will close their segment and practice the kind of handover they will do for the next presenter. Handovers are very important and need to be rehearsed.
9. On the day of the presentation, but before the audience is allowed in, have everyone stand at the real podium with the real lights in their face and the microphone turned on.
10. Now you’re ready. Make sure the presenters have time to mingle with the audience and talk about what they will be presenting. This last step is an important element in calming nerves. When people can mingle with the audience and chat about what they will be discussing, they will be more confident.
Go get ‘em!