People are sometimes concerned that too much practice will make their story or presentation sound rehearsed or canned.

Actually, with more practice, you can be more natural and connect more authentically with your audience. However, I’ll qualify that by saying there’s good practice and bad practice.

Bad practice leaves out the audience.

If you memorise the whole of your presentation, or treat it as static material to be delivered, this is bad practice.

I saw an example of this a few months ago.  A senior representative from a global technology company was visiting Sydney from the US, and he came to speak to the staff at one of the companies I work with, with the aim of sowing the seeds for a closer commercial relationship. 

When I was chatting with him before the presentation, he was quite engaging. But when he began his talk, it was as if he had pressed the “Play" button on a recorded speech. It was clear he had given the same presentation many, many times before, never deviating one iota from his script.

We, the audience, may as well have not been there.  For that matter, he may as well have not been there. It was a missed opportunity. 

Good practice, on the other hand, involves being present with an audience. (You do need an audience; you won’t get the same results alone.)

I usually start practising a new story or presentation with my Toastmasters club.  You can start with any group of people with whom you feel safe to experiment and make mistakes.

With each successive practice run, I discover all kinds of things if I pay attention: I understand the material better and why it is important, I can see which parts resonate with an audience and which parts fall flat, I find out what sections need clarification or reorganisation.

After I have done this a few times, it becomes much less like giving a presentation and much more like having a conversation with the audience. It becomes completely natural and fresh. I can relax and enjoy it, and so can they.