Rehearsing Your Speech

Learning Objectives

Discuss the benefits of rehearsing your speech.

Just like a Broadway performer learns their lines, studies their role, and practices at home before they present something to an audience, the skilled public speaker will do the same. Why? Not that practice makes perfect, but because preparedness makes confidence!


What does it mean to be prepared? In public speaking, it means you have done sufficient topic research, written your speech outline, created visual aids, and rehearsed your speech out loud.


To rehearse effectively, the speaker should:

  • Start early to allow yourself enough time to experiment, revise, and try again during rehearsal.
  • Plan a feedback strategy by recording for self-analysis or by receiving feedback from a friend or a coach.
    • Remember, practice does not make perfect if you continue to practice ineffective strategies. Therefore, you must experiment and learn from the experience to improve the total speech.
  • Rehearse out loud.
    • Speak in a conversational style. If your rehearsal would disturb roommates or family members, speak softly but do rehearse out loud.
  • Rehearse all the parts of your speech.
    • Rehearse with your graphics and coordinate them to your talk.
    • Practice your nonverbal communication as well as the words you speak. A mirror or a recording can be helpful for this practice session so you can look at your physical delivery and make adjustments to facial expressions and gestures.
    • Make sure you are making eye contact and practice looking up along with speaking words.
  • Time your rehearsals.
    • Time the individual parts and the total speech with a stopwatch and make sure to have a clock that you can see while speaking.
    • Prepare for interruptions and questions. Make sure to leave room for a Q&A session at the end of your speech.
    • During your final rehearsal, make brief notes for yourself so you know how long each point in the speech takes. Then mark your outline accordingly so you know if you are spending too much time on any given point during delivery.


Smartphone with stopwatch app

You’ll need a stopwatch to time your speech.

When you’re ready to rehearse the full speech, you should begin timing each run-through with a stopwatch (you probably have one on your phone, or just type “stopwatch” into a search engine for an online app). Generally, you will have a set amount of time to speak, including Q&A. When rehearsing, you want to make sure to include all the parts of the speech including quotes, examples, video clips, and visual aids. If you don’t include all aspects of the speech, you may run out of time and have to cut short important content during delivery.

Timing is not only about knowing how long you are going to speak, but also about how fast to speak, when to pause, and how long to pause to achieve the desired effect. You can vary the rate of speaking and the use of pausing to achieve different vocal effects as you practice.

Dress rehearsal

If at all possible, do a rehearsal in the actual space where you’ll be presenting. Many classrooms are left empty at certain times of the day and this can make a big difference in the speaker’s comfort level if they’ve already presented it in the actual presentation space. If it’s not possible, your bedroom or living room will do.

Lay out your speaking outfit in advance so you don’t waste time and stress tracking down the right clothes. Many speakers find it helpful to rehearse in the clothes they intend to wear for the speech.

While it may seem tedious to rehearse so much, speakers who practice their speech in advance are way more confident and relaxed during the actual presentation. Very little can go wrong when you already know how you want it to go. It is also much easier to adjust to little things like equipment malfunctions, timing changes, and interruptions when you know that the speech content is solid.

Try It