We have all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect” but is it really true? Practice is a key part of any new skill acquisition, but there’s more to it than simple, mindless repetition. They way we practice is as important as whether we practice when it comes to improving presentation skill. The aim of this post is to get you to change the way you practice and in so doing, accelerate the rate at which you become a better, more confident presenter and speaker.I am talking about a technique called Deliberate Practice and it turns the way most people practice completely on its head. You see the problem is most people view practice as a something which they “have to do” to improve rather than something that’s fun and fulfilling. It becomes a dull, mindless, mechanical, repetition which fails to engage our brains. The result is either we give up, or we keep rehashing the same old mistakes, without getting any better. I see this all the time with people who come on presentation training courses I run. They have learned the basics, but after that they have started to stagnate. Deliberate practice can change all that and kick-start you on an exciting accelerated learning journey that is both effective and fulfilling. So how do you apply deliberate practice to improving presentation skill? Here are three ideas to get you started Stay focussed and aware by limiting the time you practice. Practicing for too long is demotivating and counter productive. I find that practicing for short bursts of time, say 10-15 minutes, is the ideal way of improving your presentation skill. You can learn a lot by practicing a short presentation or a section of a longer presentation. I am a member of Toastmasters International, a worldwide network of not-for-profit public speaking clubs. In a typical club meeting 3 or 4 members practice a speech of around 7 minutes duration. Keep a learning journal: Deliberate practice is all about setting specific practice goals and then striving to meet them. Keep a journal or logbook where you set yourself specific goals and make notes about your discoveries as you practice. What worked? What helped? What did you learn? This helps turn improving your presentation skill into a set of little challenges that keep you engaged and motivated, People who keep a record like this and who refer back to develop their skills faster than those who rely on their memory alone. Ask yourself “What’s the problem I am trying to solve?” Our brains work best when they have a specific challenge. Let’s say that you want to improve your vocal variety when you speak. You could practice speaking louder or softer. Or you could step back and brainstorm as many ways as you can think of to “stretch your vocal range” e.g. Give a speech in a place where there is a lot of background noise so that you have to raise your voice to be heard. Don’t just go with the first idea however. Create lots of options and then pick the one(s) that look the most feasible and then try them out. Think of it as experimentation rather than rehearsal. I’d love to know how you get on so please leave a comment below and remember to share this post with your friends and colleagues if you found it useful. Just click on the social sharing buttons below or to the side.