On the one hand, you are a pro in your field, you know your stuff, you present in meetings all the time, you’re sure you can pull it off, and you just don’t have time to practice.

On the other hand, you have been asked to speak in front of a slightly larger audience than usual this time, using slightly different visuals than usual, and the opportunity is somewhat higher stakes than usual, but you just don’t have time to practice.

The realist in me says, no worries, the world won’t end, you’ll pull yourself together and pull it off, you’ll be just fine if you don’t have time to practice. Organize yourself, review the material, and you’ll do okay.

But the Coach in me says, while there may be no particular harm done if you don’t rehearse, there might also be no particular good done either. What if you could get up and nail it versus getting up and doing okay? If you have to think, and wonder or worry, about whether you should rehearse or not, then you probably already know the answer.

Last week, I worked with a client three days and then one day before a bigger than usual presentation. She’s a pro, knows her stuff, presents a lot, was asked to speak to a larger audience, with new visuals, and it was pretty high stakes. She was organized and had reviewed the material quite a bit. Three days before, we met and mostly went over content and visuals, fine-tuning transitions and making a few edits. One day before, we met, did some more fine-tuning and then had her run through the whole thing – choreographing the speaker with her content and visuals – about four times.

How’d she do in rehearsal? Not so great. She fumbled, forgot, changed things, got frustrated, wanted to stop. But she pushed through.

How’d she do the next day in the actual presentation? Amazing. She nailed it. She was polished, the presentation flowed, she hit the high notes beautifully, and she ended just under her time goal without ever rushing. It all came together smoothly; she was ready, and it showed.

The lesson here is that even crummy rehearsals are valuable. Practicing as if it’s the real deal forces a level of intimacy and familiarity between you and your presentation that can only benefit you – your brain and your mouth – when it’s showtime!

Beth Levine