Archive for August, 2011

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall: Rehearsing Your Business Talk

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Some clients tell me that they have been advised to practice in front of a mirror when they are rehearsing for a business talk. I discourage this strategy because it trains you, the speaker, to place focus on thoughts that can hinder your power to persuade and your projection of a positive, professional image.

When looking at ourselves in a mirror, most people become preoccupied by the way we look; this is probably human nature and unavoidable. Rehearsing for any business talk should be a process of training oneself to focus the mind correctly:  focusing on your purpose, goals, and objectives that are concerned with and directed toward the listener.

Rehearsing in front of a mirror actually trains you to focus on how you look; it develops and reinforces a preoccupation with self: a very unproductive habit.  The best speakers, conversely, focus outward:   they have trained their minds to do so.

Consider the slow-motion films of Olympic runners crossing the finish line, drenched in sweat, their faces distorted with effort, expending every last ounce of energy to achieve a goal. In their passion to win, they don’t have the slightest care about how they look.  They simply cannot waste their energy on such a concern.

Correct focus and a lack of concern for one’s appearance while speaking also applies to actors.   Unless the character she is playing is preoccupied with how she looks, the actor cannot spare any energy thinking about her physical appearance.  In order to be convincing, she must use all her energy to pursue her acting objectives: to get what the character wants in a given situation.

This is exactly what the business speaker must do:   focus on the needs, desires, and interests of the listeners – and, most importantly, on the actions that the speaker is taking towards those listeners.

Of course, at some point, business speakers must consider facial expressions, gestures, physical demeanor, and attire, etc.  This must occur before the talk begins: during the planning/rehearsal stages.   After you have done the correct internal preparation and rehearsed effectively — and once your physical demeanor matches your focus on the listener — you should forget about your appearance in front of the audience.   At that point, you are free to forget about it, because you are focusing on your objectives and your listeners.

But rehearsing in front of a mirror reinforces the habit of thinking about yourself while you are talking to your audience.   And consider this: a speaker’s preoccupation with self is usually detected by the listener and often projects arrogance or a lack of confidence.

So, rehearse constructively, and rehearse aloud:
• Keep your face up and out
• Focus on spots(s) on the wall or in the room in front of you
• Use the power of imagination: “paste” a friendly face on those spots as you speak, and direct all of your underlying communication actions outward: toward your listeners

This will have a dramatic effect on your power to persuade.