Lessons from Showbiz: Perfection takes Practice

PracticeYou’ve been asked to speak at an upcoming company meeting.

Your first reaction: Excitement.

Your next reaction: Panic.

When it comes to doing business presentations, there are those who are naturals and then there are the rest of us. But—whether you love the stage or fear it—there’s one principle that separates those who deliver stellar presentations and those who don’t… practice.

One of my music mentors, the great jazz educator Rich Matteson, put it this way: If a baseball player got on base safely half the time he went to bat, he would have a 500 batting average, which is unheard of in that game. If a musician performing on stage only played half the notes right, he’d be laughed off the stage. That’s why we practice.

“Doc” Severinson, an acknowledged master of the trumpet, still practices two to three hours a day. You’d think someone as accomplished as Doc could take a day off once in a while, but he never does. He’s quoted as saying; “If I miss one day of practice, I’ll notice. If I miss two days of practice, the band will notice. And if I miss three days of practice, the audience with notice!”

In the business arena, Steve Jobs—arguably the greatest pitchman of all time—appreciated the need to practice. Jobs’ pre-show rehearsal sessions were legendary—grueling, hours-long marathons. From his text to the technical execution to the slightest inflection… nothing was left to chance. And his results spoke for themselves.

What to practice? How?

  • Practice presenting aloud… exercise your voice.
  • Work in front of a mirror… get that discomfort out in your office or conference room.
  • Use a video camera and critique yourself.
  • Ask others to review and critique your presentation as well.
  • Edit and refine your copy. If you consistently stumble over a line, it’s time for a re-write.
  • And always do a final rehearsal on the stage where you’re going to present… and with the people who are going to support your presentation.

Some presenters are naturals on the stage. Others aren’t. Either way, it takes practice to get a presentation stage-ready and ensure you deliver the effect you intend.


Rick Cornish creates communications that inform, influence and inspire… helping organizations increase sales, promote unity and persuade their people to embrace change. Working in video, corporate meetings, event marketing and more; Rick delivers purposeful creative that drives business results and builds stronger brands.

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