John Schack

How to minimize preparation time, with maximum quality

A student walks to the front of the classroom. He sets his outline down and begins speaking. He immediately captivates the audience with his clear, strong voice and witty report. His points are all backed-up with strong supports, and his transitions tie them all up in a neat little package. He doesn't waver, pace, or bounce and his eye contact is perfect. As he sits down and critique for the speech is asked for by the student leader, the room remains silent. "He was perfect." a student murmurs in the back. All seem to agree. Even though I also would usually agree with this assessment of my speech, I know one area I need to work on: minimizing my pre-speech practice and still achieve quality results. This seems to me to be the most undertaught part of the process, but yet one of the most important since college students have 4 or 5 other classes to study for. Without the proper practice, the student either gives a nervous, poor-quality speech or spends needless hours of memorizing, which for all intensive purposes, comes out sounding canned. How can a middle ground be found? By just simply following a few simple pre-speech practice strategies.

1. Try giving the speech before you can even hammer out a rough outline. By just talking out loud about your subject, you will not only get a feel of how the speech should be structured but also give you an idea on how long your outline needs to be. Don't time yourself yet, though. This pre-outline exercise acts as a form of brainstorming and also familiarizes yourself verbally with the subject. This will cut down on time you spend later when you are preparing to give your speech.

2. Quickly type out a rough outline created from your brainstorming, and print it out. Try to do a once through typing job with no revisions! This is important since you really can't tell what revisions to make before you say it in speech form. Take your outline then and give the speech. It will sound pretty bad, but that is fine. The revisions you make now will be faster and more appropriate then you would have done just by reading it through. Again this also gets you that much more familiar verbally with your speech.

3. Take this rough draft to class, and put it out-of-mind till you get the corrections back. This will allow you to work on other class work, and be more receptive to comments and criticisms received on the outline since you won't be so attached to the original form. It is then very important just to try the outline again including the criticism changes WITHOUT retyping the outline yet. Doing this first will allow you to make the appropriate changes right off the bat. In otherwords, you will stuck in typing revisions over and over, and only realizing later they were wrong, hence wasting your time.

4. Now that you have realized the appropriate corrections, go ahead and revise the outline. This should be done at least 1 day before you give the speech. Remember that while your revising the outline, that what looks good on paper, doesn't necessarily sounds good in a speech. Organization is good for time management, but don't let it trap you into a speech that sounds mechanical. Talk parts out loud as you would give them in a speech. This will allow you to make better revisions on the spot rather than having to go back over and over again wasting valuable time. Just remember preparing for a speech doesn't have to be time consuming, if you prepare the right way.

5. After you finish revising the speech, leave it alone till day/night before. This may seem as if there is not enough time, but this isn't true. If you have been following the program thus far, you should be pretty aware and familiar with your speech. My suggestion is that every time you practice, run through the whole outline. If you familiarize yourself with it in chunks, you will deliver it in chunks. It is important to work on those transitions right away. Go at it for an hour, then put it away even if you don't have it quite down yet. With speech, you still keep learning even after you stop practicing. This is an important lesson if you are to realize how to minimize study time for desired results. Also this will avoid you memorizing too much, and giving a speech that sounds canned. Don't put the speech totally out of your mind. You want to keep familiar with it. After an hour, come back to it and go through it a few more times out loud. By now you should have very little, if any, reliance on the outline. It's time to put it away for the night. It is possible to over-practice which results in over-memorization and eventual burn out.

6. Now it is the day of the speech, and you should feel pretty prepared. It would be good to go over the speech a few times before class, but again DON'T OVER PRACTICE! Your gradual learning process had implanted the speech in your brain, so you can give a loose, flowing presentation. GOOD LUCK!

I believe that learning this pre-speech practice routine will work wonders because it will not only cut out over-practicing and time wasting, but will give you an effective speech. No last minute memorization. Just a gradual process that will surely get you an A+.