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Practice Does Not Make Perfect – Are You Reinforcing Bad Habits?

Patricia Fripp 12-17

Are you practicing to improve? Or are you inadvertently reinforcing bad habits? Sure, the old adage says that practice makes perfect. But in fact, practice makes permanent.

Practice can help you become a better speaker, but it can also make you more comfortable with your public speaking mistakes -  unconscious language or gestures that detract from your message. My recommendation is to closely examine what you actually say and do in important conversations and presentations. Have you ever recorded what it is you say at the podium? Have you ever videotaped yourself in a training session with your staff? Or asked for the feedback of a trusted colleague? You might be surprised.

People have said to me, “Well, Miss Fripp, you’re a professional public speaker – of course you have to look at what you say and how you say it!” The fact of the matter is, you are speaking in public all the time. You network here. You share your perspective at lunch there. You interact with others every day. You go to an industry event and meet with prospects or clients. Outside the privacy of your own home, all speaking is public speaking.

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to speak in South Africa. One weekend our hosts took us to a game reserve. While it was wonderful and exotic, we were hardly roughing it. The trackers had been out for an hour by the time we got up at 6:30 a.m. to sip our cafe-au-lait. We bundled up in layers of clothes and piled into big tall jeeps to see these animals -  zebras, giraffes, elephants and rhinos, and plenty of monkeys - they were as magnificent as you would expect!

The thought occurred to me, however, that what keeps many of those animals alive in their wilderness can get us eaten alive in ours. Although at times it is appropriate to stand in the background and let somebody else have center stage, in general, many of us fade into the background at a time that is not to our advantage to do so. As a professional, your communication style should help you stand out – be distinctive, powerful, and persuasive. 

Take the time to honestly evaluate your public speaking. It can be very helpful to get an outside perspective on your presentation to reveal any areas in which you might improve your content or delivery. If you are not getting adequate feedback from those around you, consider professional speech coaching. After you understand where you need to improve, you can practice to make good habits permanent.


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