This post is by Andrew D. Gilman, CEO of CommCore Consulting Group, a privately held specialty communications firm serving businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations around the world. Gilman is co-author of “Get To The Point.”

I recently had a conversation with Franc D’ Ambrosio, the actor and singer who was awarded the title of the “Worlds Longest Running Phantom” (Phantom of the Opera). Franc says that a great performance before the live, ticket-paying audience is in direct relationship to the rigor and effort put into practice and rehearsal.

This is also true of Olympic athletes, he noted. Elite performers say that their practices have to be so rigorous and true-to-life that by the time they get into true competition, game or match, their performance is almost automatic. If you practice well, slight changes in a game or show won’t throw you off. To the contrary, if you haven’t rehearsed enough, little things can have a big negative impact on performance.

D’Ambrosio’s comments reinforce one of the central points in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” Gladwell cites research that it takes 10,000 hours of practice of constant repetition and coaching to get good at sports, playing musical instruments and countless other endeavors.

I’m not sure why, but an increasing number of executives have been trying to avoid the serious rehearsals. They’ll say:

  • “I’ve been through training before.”
  • “I’ll read through the material tonight before tomorrow’s pitch.”
  • “I’ve done this a million times before.”

Even, when those things are true, it’s imperative to invest the time in training, practice and rehearsal.

Here are a few suggestions to make the most of your rehearsal:

  • Place rehearsal time on the calendar. Once it’s on your schedule, it’s harder to take off.
  • If you don’t like a big crowd, rehearse in front of a smaller group.
  • Practice the toughest questions.
  • Work on both style and content.
  • Use video, even if it’s a “flip” type camera so you can watch yourself and make adjustments.
  • If you don’t like the performance or an answer, keep working at it until you get it right.

Clichés are around for a reason. This one makes sense: Perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Image credit, Cimmerian, via

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15 responses to “Why you can't skimp on rehearsals”

  1. Sylvia Jordan says:

    I had to do a big presentation in front of 2000 people last November. l was the second presenter. I have given speeches and presentation for many years. For the first time however I decided to rehearse and practice my presentation. It made a phenomenal difference. I was more relaxed, confident, and my flow was better. I will always practice now moving forward.

  2. Jim says:

    great article. I have been speaking for 25 plus years and I still practice often. I can tell the difference when I practice and just go with my gut. You audience knows when you practice.

  3. Gian says:

    Here we are comparing paying audience to the audience who have come not to enjoy a flawless performance but listen to somebody with profound thought and ahead of time kind of capabilities. This if done with practice, practice and practice looses its sheen of spontaneity and at times you need to think in real time also; which I am afraid will get blunted by "practice" as all the questions and conversation can not be on predicable lines.
    Better way will be – know your stuff, run it in your mind like a film couple of times and be your original self. As far as manner of speech is concerned that anyway every one of us who is listened to by family, friends, colleagues and class is already good at it.

  4. Having been in the world of professional speaking for 30 years, I can tell you that is ONLY by lots of practice that you become free to be spontaneous. There's a difference between practice and being over-coached. When the story and information are owned by you internally, magic happens.

  5. John F says:

    I disagree with Gian. If you practice, practice, practice, you will know your material better than anyone else. At that point, you can handle any question on your presentation – no matter how offbeat – with confidence.

    My dad and high school speech coach taught me to practice until I could make a presentation letter perfect. It’s a lesson that has served me well. And I’ve served as an expert witness on many occasions; while not a formal presentation per se, it’s very important to be prepared for the questions that will be asked. Recently, I was directed not to prepare for a deposition, and to simply answer ‘I don’t recall’ when I didn’t remember details of a project that had gone sour. The deposition was, for me, a disaster. Never again!

    Practice, practice, practice!

  6. Mike Bayly says:

    Gian, as Andrew has said this only works for a (very) few people and at some point they probably DID practice. I have seen so many presentations that quite honestly were an insult to their audience. It's not what you think about it, its all about your audience and what they think, just as going to the theater. Practice is key, but so also is training so that what you practice is the right stuff! I would encourage you to at least get an assessment of your presentation which would give you an honest critique.

  7. Barrie W. Mizerski says:

    On neuroscience and leadership: Yes, and according to Csikszentmihalyi in his book “Flow,” all the other scientists will agree with you. But how do you learn it?

    In my discussions with Dr. Michael Posner on meditation, he stated that meditation produces cortisol, a stress-management chemical. I informed him that we actors and musicians have been meditating for approximately 2,300 years. Dr. Posner replied, “Yes, and we scientists are finally catching up.”

    Science has added a funny new chapter on how to achieve peak performance power and through ipsative assessment (I’ll explain later) grade that performance. When you are in your Optimum Performance State (OPS) you feel like you and the universe are one because the brain’s reward centers have produced the chemical dopamine.


  8. Barrie W. Mizerski says:

    There are specific exercises and techniques that prepare you to enter the OPS (musical meditation, aphoristic breathing, visualization, etc.) that when linked with learning and memory strategies will give you the knowledge and confidence to attain this state even before your foot touches the stage. Then when the band starts to cook or the actors are in the moment, the brain’s reward centers (nucleus accumbens-olfactory tubercle complex, hypothalamus and ventral tegmental area) produce dopamine. That’s the chemical that makes you feel so good and love to perform that you’ll WANT TO DO IT AGAIN TOMORROW. Educators take note.

    Now here comes the funny part: Nova television had an embarrassed scientist explain that with the latest imaging technology they only recently discovered the brain centers that reward you with dopamine. He actually stated that dopamine is present during sex, while using the drug, and playing music (rock and roll). Sex drugs and rock and roll – the anthem of the musicians and by extension the film actors, of the 60’s and 70’s. And I thought I was just in a rock band and then acting in film, not doing brain research – who knew?

  9. Barrie W. Mizerski says:

    This leads us to assessing or testing your growth as an actor, artist or educator in any curriculum. The secret is ipsative assessment, ongoing recording or videotaping your progress to document improvement.

    1. Positive Performance Power –exercises that turn negative stage fright into positive performance power so you can focus on the task at hand, whether a performance or a test .
    2. Memory Mechanics™ – learning and memory strategies for dialogue, direction or any curriculum.
    3. Record and review as convenient, at least every one or two weeks. All who watch, including family members, can receive positive, confident feedback.
    4. Students and professionals alike can see their artistic and intellectual progress. Watching and listening to yourself grow weekly is a much better assessment tool than bubbling in a sterile form and being told “if you don’t know the answer guess” – where’s the validity?
    5. The taping can be used as both a formative and ipsative assessment as part of holistic grading.

  10. Barrie W. Mizerski says:

    In conclusion, to consistently achieve your peak performance in any artistic or curriculum endeavor, you must exercise all the components of your instrument. That includes mental training to separate task from self, to change negative stage fright into positive performance power, and specific learning and memory techniques. This can result in optimum emotional expression, confidence in either taking a test or taking the audience on the story’s journey. And through video or audio taping you can get an honest assessment of your artistic growth and how to improve your own creative journey. These techniques are applicable to actors, business professionals and educators.

    “I see, I forget
    I hear, I remember.
    I do, I understand.” Confucius
    “I tape, I learn.” Mizerski

  11. Tim says:

    I've given the same presentation to a few different groups. After a few weeks between giving the presentation I thought I had it down and didn't need any refresher. That next time up I failed miserably. I sounded rote and boring and messed up my pacing and the slides. Never get cocky.