In Chapter four of Management Communication, James O’Rourke focuses on speaking and over the course of the chapter develops a comprehensive framework for giving a successful management speech. He begins by stressing the importance of things like developing strategies and knowing your audience; and concludes with rehearsing the speech and ultimately delivering it. While all of these steps are important and can make or break a good speech, I believe that rehearsing is often the most overlooked and underutilized step in speech preparation.
Over the course of my life I’ve had to make several speeches. Some of them were successful while others were colossal failures. If I reminisce solely on the bad speeches, a common theme begins to develop. I didn’t adequately prepare the delivery of the speech. I didn’t rehearse it. Rehearsal is so important, because the only way to practice a speech is to deliver it. If I really think back to those speeches, they were great on paper. The quality of the writing was some of my best, and I didn’t think that rehearsing was necessary. I thought the speech would deliver itself. One of my worst experiences with speaking came when I had to give a speech on game theory for a class. I had my slides prepared, and I knew what I wanted to say; but when I went up to deliver the speech, I froze. My mind went blank and fear took over. I couldn’t recover because I didn’t adequately prepare for the situation.
Ever since that bad experience I have always rehearsed every speech I give. It’s one thing to have complete confidence in what you have written, but having confidence that you can communicate what you have written effectively through speaking is an entirely different concept. The only way to develop the confidence to deliver your speech effectively is to practice speaking it over and over and over again. It must become second nature. And by the time you have to step up and deliver the speech, you can be confident that you are prepared to deal with any type of situation that might develop.