Communication Tip of the Week - Practice with Different Audiences

Saxophone Player Practicing

To be a better public speaker, you must practice. Most books on improving presentation skills list practice as the number one technique to get better. The best way to practice is to give speeches in a positive setting and receive immediate feedback from skilled evaluators.

Practice with Skilled Evaluators

I love Toastmasters. I encourage you to join a local club. In a previous post, I talked about joining Toastmasters to get ready for my presentation at Code on the Beach 2015. Because of Toastmasters, I was able to practice portions of my presentation over a year long period.

Each Toastmasters club has a group of experienced speakers that provide constructive criticism about your speeches. The members are trained to give evaluations that focus on one or two items that can make your presentation better.

Practice with Brutally Honest Evaluators

You also need to practice in front of people that can be honest about your presentation. You will need to let your audience know before you start that you are looking for anything they don't like and any suggestion that will make the presentation better.

I did this with my Code on the Beach speech. My coworkers are some of the most honest people I know. And that's what I wanted. The feedback they gave me proved invaluable. It made the session better. The one person who saw the practice and the real presentation told me that he could tell the difference.

Just remember, when the honesty comes out, they're helping you be your best!

Practice with Short Attention Span Evaluators

It can be a challenge to keep your audience engaged. Take the time to practice with people who get bored quick. You'll see it on their face when you need to keep things moving.

I included a few of these short attention span coworkers in my last practice. Their reactions of boredom made me rework my slides to not spend 10 minutes on one slide and keep things moving.


You need to be up front with your audience when you are practicing. If you are at the beginning of the process, you might want general suggestions on speech organization. As you refine your speech, you'll want to tell the audience that you're looking for detailed recommendations. For example: do your slide images fit the topic, did your stories relate to the message, and are there any suggestions that would put the speech over the top.

Whatever you do, practice! Your audiences will appreciate the effort.

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