Practice Makes Perfect

Posted on by Drew in speaking tips.

The evening before a recent conference, a friend shared with me that she was anxious about getting up on stage the following day because she’d counted three people in the audience that had already seen her give the same presentation at a different event. I think this is a very common worry, and one we’ve written about before.

I was thinking about this when I came across this really great TED Talk by Simone Giertz. If you’ve not seen it, it’s worth 10 minutes of your time.

A well polished and confident presentation that kept the audience engaged and laughing in all the right places.

At the end, the YouTube suggestion algorithm prompted me to watch another talk by Giertz, this time from XOXO Festival, recorded about 18 months before the TED video.

It’s not the exact same presentation, but it’s not so different either. You can see how both are branches of the same tree. Giertz uses a lot of the same material for introducing herself, framing her background and explaining how she works. She uses a lot of the same lines and throws in the same jokes, and shows some of the same video clips. It’s expertly tailored to a different audience with a different message than the TED talk. She does a tremendous job and the audience loves it.

As great as the talk is, you can also see how 18 months of refining the material (and no doubt rehearsing heavily for TED - who wouldn’t!) really elevates the delivery to the next level. Sections that fell a little flat at XOXO were restructured for TED. Notice how the funny line about getting marriage proposals flies by with the first delivery at XOXO, but lands as a punchline at TED. This is what practice gives you.

This is a really smart approach. Each time you write a completely new presentation, you bring across your increased personal experience, but hit reset on all that polish and refinement. But by appropriately reusing what works, and making improvements where things can be improved, you can create a presentation that evolves and becomes stronger over time.

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