When we were selling our old house several years ago, my five-year-old daughter Annie loved giving tours to prospective buyers. She hustled husbands and wives around, showing off the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms etc.
Arriving at the living room she would stand at a spot in front of our large, framed wall-mirror. Then she would look at the prospective buyers and say, “This is where my daddy stands when he talks to himself.”
And it’s true. I practiced a lot of presentations in front of that big mirror. I still do. That’s because rehearsing in front of a mirror – one of the oldest tips in public speaking – is still one of the best things you can do to improve your presentation style.
Mirrors Help You See What you Look Like
Speakers often have no idea what they look like. And that’s a bad thing.
I was working with a senior executive in Atlanta recently and I videotaped her rehearsing a speech. When she was done, I showed her the tape and she was appalled. “I had no idea that I looked so angry,” she said. “I look like I’m about to bite someone’s head off.”
Of course mirrors can be better than video cameras for seeing how you come across. Mirrors are more accessible than video cameras. And when you’re practicing in a mirror, you don’t have to wait for the replay.
Mirrors help you Learn How to Smile
My grandfather had a saying about people that he thought looked too serious: “He looks like he was weaned on a pickle.”
Mirrors help you overcome that “pickle-faced” look that so many of us carry around with us in business. Indeed, when I left the practice of law and got into the training business, I spent a great deal of time in front of the mirror, working on smiling and just getting more animated.
Next time you rehearse in front of a mirror, try forcing a smile as you speak. It’s not that I want you be phony. Rather, I want you to learn how to ignite the charm that often gets overwhelmed by public speaking anxiety.
I once urged an attorney to “fake a smile” when he spoke. While he tried his best, it looked like his face was in pain. I walked him to a nearby bathroom and made him watch himself. With a little practice, he figured out how to make it look natural.
Mirrors Also Help with Eye Contact
One of the worst things you can do as a speaker is read your presentation. Overreliance on notes is just as bad. It makes you look like you’re in junior high reading an essay to the class on what you did on your summer vacation.
Great speakers stand in front of audiences and tell their story. You want it to look like it’s coming from the heart. Practicing in front of a mirror discourages overreliance on notes. After all, you can’t look at your notes while looking at yourself in the mirror.
If you practice in a mirror, you learn to connect with that person looking back at you. You get a feeling for what your audience experiences. And that’s a good thing.
Joey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”