So wrote one of my speaker coaching clients after having given a successful talk. He's one of many speakers I coach who don't have much time to practice, thanks to their busy schedules. Yet I know that practice may be the single most important determinant in whether their speeches are a success. That's when I point them to their cars.
The car-as-practice-cubicle is one of my favorite stealth ways to practice your public speaking. These days, I usually recommend you use this tactic once your script is frozen or done. All you have to do is make an audio recording on your smartphone (or, if you lack a smartphone, on an MP3 recorder) of yourself giving the very best reading you can from the script. Feel free to plug it into your dashboard's audio system.
For this recording, you want to capture every word as written. Then, on your commute, all you have to do is play it once and listen, then spend the rest of the time trying to repeat it from memory. That gives you at least two trips on a daily commute in which to practice, more if you travel in your car frequently. And you can replay the recording as much as you want.
Practicing in your car is useful if you're a speaker who is:
- An introvert. The commute time alone in your car couldn't be more private, which will help keep your energy higher. Other drivers will assume you're singing along to something.
- Trying to memorize a script so you can deliver the speech without notes: For talks in the style of TED, or for situations where notes are impractical or just forbidden, you need to memorize. I'm not a big fan of rote memorization, in the style of kids reciting long poems in school ("The boy stood on the burning deck..."). Instead, I advise speakers to memorize the structure, and as much of the content as possible, letting any lines that drop to stay where they're dropped. But listening and repeating your content audibly will do better than most tactics at helping you remember what you wrote in your script.
- Pressed for time and loaded with interruptions: Carving an hour or two a day to practice in your office may be impossible, with calls and people at your door every few minutes. Or your office may lack the privacy you need. The car in these cases is your public-speaking friend.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Sameer Vasta)