Practice Makes Things Too Perfect

The good news was they were much improved; the bad news is they have to do it all again because it was even shorter than the first time.

It is a general rule of public speaking that, if you are given a minimum time to meet, you should make your speech at least 30 seconds longer than necessary, or perhaps even a minute longer. A speech that must be at least two minutes long should actually be at least two minutes and thirty seconds long, but preferably three minutes. I remember at least one occasion in school when I’d practiced a speech that came up too short. I tried to explain how it had been perfect at home and the teacher was like “Yeah, how about that? Too bad you’re not at home.” (Something like that.)

The problem is that, even if you’ve practiced at home and have the speech measured to the exact second, when you get in front of people adrenaline takes over and you speak a lot faster. Your two minute speech becomes barely a minute and a half and your teacher is glaring and you whilst removing several points from your final score.

In the case of today’s students, their first attempt at a TV commercial (long story) came in at one minute and twenty seconds and I sent them back for a rewrite.

Then, today, when they attempted their second chance they made the second mistake: they made the script longer but then practiced it so much they were much smoother but spoke too fast. Their new speech came in at barely seventy seconds. I suggested a couple ways to make it longer and sent them on their way.

Unfortunately for them, the record is four do-overs. In two of those, the presentation got shorter and shorter. This means I may be seeing these guys a lot in the next few days.

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