This is one of the most common pieces of advice I overhear when it comes to public speaking. In fact, I heard it just last week. Again. You’ve heard it too. But I’m calling phooey on the mirror.

Think about it. Practice in front of a mirror … Really? Why? Because it simulates reality? Because you are your most objective audience? Because looking at yourself talk will make you less nervous when it’s show time?

Folks, I don’t buy it. I love the idea of practice … if nothing else, practice at least gets you accustomed to managing your own nerves. And that’s actually something. Your nerves are your adrenaline, your body’s energy ramping itself up to perform and succeed. You need your nerves, and you need the experience of having and managing them rather than avoiding the speaking opportunity. But you also need some 360º feedback.

Practice in front of people, that’s what I suggest … colleagues, teammates, friends, and even family members. There’s nothing like a real audience, even a small one, who will give you feedback. I’ve seen real audiences, even small ones, who will give me feedback … but I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen one of those in the mirror!

Beth Levine