Why I Still Rehearse Before Every Speech

 New York City, NY- OCTOBER 5: Dr. Blake Brandes speaks to sixth graders at City Knoll Middle School as part of his hip-hop motivational assembly tour.

I’ll never forget when my friend and amazing spoken word poet Joshua Bennett was reminiscing about a speech he gave during his early years of performing.

“Man, I thought I could just go up there with a topic and get my Malcolm X on,” Joshua laughed.  “But winging it was definitely not the best idea.”

Early in my speaking career, I used to have a similar mentality.  I thought that confidence, familiarity with my subject matter, and good intentions would be enough to produce a great speech. 

Looking back on it, I see that my ego was getting in the way of creating the most impact possible for my audience. 

This point was made painfully clear when I watched two of my speeches back-to-back.  I had performed one with a general outline, and I had written out the other speech completely.  The difference was stark, and it was clear which speech made a more lasting impression on my audience.  

From that point on, I worked with my business partner to rewrite all of my speeches from the ground up.  We started with the key concepts and deliberately connected all of the points to create a transformational narrative experience.  We chose stories that demonstrated the main lessons and designed interactive activities that would keep students engaged. 

Then we rehearsed the speeches over and over.  We cut out unnecessary sentences and clarified transitions that needed more deliberate connections. 

Because of all of the time and effort we put into them, the speeches were much more powerful and effective. 

But even though I’ve delivered some of these speeches over 25 times in the last few months, I still rehearse before every speech. 

Each time I rehearse, I think of new or subtle ways to improve a line or my delivery during a certain section.  But most importantly, it keeps my ego in check.  The day I think I have my speeches perfectly formed and memorized is the day that I stop innovating, and I don’t plan for that to happen at any point. 

Performing the speeches to an audience over and over is also a great way to check my ego (and afford myself some self-compassion).  I can give a speech in one school to a rapturous audience, and the next day I can give the same speech at another school and spend a lot more energy maintaining students’ focus.  The reception of the speech depends as much on the students as it does on my performance, and that is always a helpful reminder when a speech goes well (or less than ideally). 

Are there areas of your life where your ego is preventing you from moving forward to create a greater impact?  Is there one action that you know you should take but that you’ve been resisting because it feels like too much work? 

 I’m encouraging you to go ahead and take one small step toward improving that area of your life right now.  As soon as you’re done reading this post, make that commitment.  Send that email.  Make that call.  Book that session.  Set your alarm.  Create that calendar event.  Throw away or delete what’s limiting you.

When we move beyond the ego in an area of our lives one time, it’s easier to do it the next time.  So consider this my invitation for you to Remix Your Reality!

Posted on October 22, 2015 .