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Better practice for better performance

NOTE: This post is written for students participating in the 2024 McGill 3MT training program. I'm sharing it here so non-McGill graduate student researchers can benefit too. If you are at another university and interested in how the rest of the training program might become available at your university, institute or lab, don't hesitate to reach out. Cheers, Andy

Most people practice wrong.

They talk quietly in a small room in the hopes that no one will hear them.

Yes, you memorize your script,

But you are not getting ready for the moment when you have to speak your opening line in a large unfamiliar room standing in front of an audience. This means that you

  • are not practicing working through the nerves.

  • are not rehearsing how you will step on stage.

  • are not practicing at the front of the room.

The video here details a 5-minute process that will get you ready for the moment when you need to speak your opening line. You don't need to practice this way every time, but you do need to practice this way often enough that the whole process becomes familiar.

Here's 5 more things you can do that will get you prepared to nail your presentation every time.

  • Develop a vocal warm-up routine. This should be done 5-10 minutes before going on stage. Here's my go to video for figuring that out. . .

  • Deliver your talk with loud music playing.

  • Deliver your talk while doing something else.

  • Deliver your talk being overly dramatic in gestures in voice.

  • Deliver your talk while naming the emotions you feel along the way.

And here's a bonus tip for timed presentations.

Identify moments where you will time check. For a short talk (< 5 minutes):

  • the first should be @ 45-60 seconds where you transition out of the intro.

  • halfway through in the middle of your talk

  • 1 minute to go

  • before your start your finish (20 seconds to go)

These are moments where you check your pacing. For timed events where there is a timer you can see, you glance at the timer at these pre-determined moments to see if you are running fast or slow and then adjust accordingly. For longer talks 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 45 minutes, you use the same technique but shift the time checks to much wider spacing. You should never need more than 3 or 4 time checks for any length presentation, and you should be able to do these without the audience knowing.

Rushing the conclusion is a terrible final impression; make this part of your presentation routine and never again will you hurrying at the end.

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