Many experienced trainers feel that there is something lacking in their rehearsals, even after mentally reviewing their notes and presentation aids. They'll know their style and method of delivery. They'll already have experience with their subject, and have pre-established methods of getting points across. Many of their facts and supporting material will already be committed to memory. Still, experience indicates that there must be a way to be better prepared to deliver a presentation. At this point, an auditory rehearsal can have great value. Practice and polishing specific effects, smoothing out the use of visuals, or trying new ideas out on someone may be of additional benefit.
In an auditory rehearsal, a trainer can serve as their own auditor by recording their presentation, listening to it (or observing it, if they use video tape), making notes, and re-recording it, but this method lacks the objectivity which other people can provide. The best way to achieve this objectivity is to choose one or more reasonably qualified persons to act as "rehearsal critics." If a group can be assembled approximating the size of the real audience, have them ask questions that the public group might ask. Auditors should have technical knowledge sufficient to criticize or check the accuracy and validity of the presentation's substance. They should possess the ability to evaluate the trainer objectively. Their interest and willingness to serve as critics must be genuine and if possible, they should have read this article.
It is important that a trainer see their auditors as a real audience and make the presentation exactly as it would be made under the actual conditions. Do not "act"; treat this rehearsal as a real-life situation. Beforehand, trainer and critics should decide whether a given rehearsal is to be all, or only a part of the presentation, and then there should be no interruptions. All comments should be reserved until that portion has been delivered in its entirety. Partial rehearsing is less desirable than running through the entire presentation, but time restrictions often preclude this. There should be at least two full rehearsals including notes, materials and hand-outs: one to find the mistakes in the total version, the second to correct them. Additional rehearsals are determined by available time and the need for further polishing.
Upon completion of a full auditory rehearsal, many trainers feel more confident about their presentation. In effect, they already will have delivered their presentation. The auditory rehearsal critique enables them to see how and why their audiences react the way they do. In essence, auditory rehearsals become the missing link between preparation and performance.
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CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA., a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.