I said my first line on stage in the fourth grade. We did some little scenes as part of our Christmas concert, and from that moment I was hooked. The closer we got to the concert, the more after-school rehearsals we had. And while other kids were itching to get home after the school day, I couldn't WAIT for rehearsal to begin.
Since then, I've worked on many different rehearsal schedules: Two months, five weeks, two weeks, two days (no kidding). While I might not always still exhibit my eight year old zeal, (hey, adult life is exhausting!) one thing that hasn't changed is the effectiveness of the simple, three step process to prepare for performance: the Rehearsal Process.
Here's one of the great things about the Rehearsal Process: it's not just for actors. However, if you're delivering a presentation (or any kind of content consumed by another human...) you have more in common with us than you know. You need to have everything completely prepared by a deadline. You need to do it confidently, deal with any stage fright or performance anxiety (yes, actors experience that, too), and you need a method to make it all happen.
Why is the Rehearsal Process a perfect solution for presentation prep? Here are a few major reasons:
It's completely flexible: Whether you have an hour or five months, you can adjust the length of time spent on each step of the process to fit your needs. What's important is that you actually DO every step in the process.
It can be done on your own, or with others: Actors spend a lot of time rehearsing in front of other people (namely their director, stage manager, other actors, etc.) However, they also spend a lot of time rehearsing on their own. Both approaches are extremely useful.
- It builds on itself: Because you're not trying to go for a finished product right away, the Rehearsal Process leads you through preparation one step at a time.
If you've ever sat down and stared at words on a page, wondering what to do with them, or if you've ever gotten up to speak and felt entirely bizarre in your body, or if you've ever been surprised that your presentation ideas didn't come together as they should have, this process is for you. I promise, it makes a difference. You'll notice major improvements, painlessly.
These are the 3 Steps of The Rehearsal Process:
1. Talk Through: Simply sit and speak through your content. Be on the look-out for things that aren't working, don't make sense, or are needless details. Things don't have to be 100% finished (in fact, you may discover that you need a new approach all together in this step), but the point here is to speak through as much as you can, and adjust as you go.
Repeat this as many times as needed. By the end of this step, you should have a better sense of your overall content, as well as be more comfortable with the Vocal component of your presentation. (Meaning, you'll get used to actually speaking your content.)
2. Walk Through: In this step, it's time to put your content on its feet. Use your notes, but stand up as you speak through your content. This is when you can start to experiment with movement and gestures, as well as begin to connect your words to your body. The more time you spend on your feet, the more you can reap the benefits of stage movement.
Added bonus? You continue to build that Vocal component (start thinking about your volume and articulation), and with each pass through your content, you can have an ear to what's working, and what's not. Again, you can do this as many times as your schedule allows.
3. Dress Rehearsal: Now, the only thing missing will be your audience. This is your opportunity to bring EVERYTHING together (including your visuals and wardrobe), as you will on the day of delivery. Rehearse your presentation, top to bottom, with all of these components, and all of the discoveries you've made during the rest of the process. If you've followed the process completely, you should feel comfortable and prepared.
Dress Rehearsal extra credit: Get in the actual space where you'll present, if possible. Invite a trusted colleague or two (or more!) to get the feeling of having an audience, and get some valued feedback. If you want to have more than one Dress Rehearsal, do it. It's up to you.
The process may sound simple, but I assure you: when you try it, it will blow your current presentation prep away. I've seen it work time and time again. All it takes is a little commitment and trust. Give it a try.