One of the most humiliating experiences of my life was when I gave my second speech at my Toastmaster club thirty years ago. I stood up and my mind sat down and vanished. I could not think of a word, every moment was an eternity. Nothing, nothing came to my mind, not even I am sorry, I forgot or…I could not breathe. I was sweating and my face was red as I walked back to my seat. Why? Well the first speech I had given previous month won the best speech that time. Because I was so scared, so frightened and terrified at the thought of public speaking that I had rehearsed my head off. If I say I had rehearsed over a thousand time it is not an exaggeration. So, for my second presentation, I wrote a good speech and rehearsed a few times. I was more confident, or perhaps over confident.
The key to a good presentation is that you do not have to do any work during the delivery, because you have done it all during your preparation. As they say: “all the hay is in the barn.”
Athletes, musicians, dancers, and actors rehearse. Politicians and attorneys have mock debates and moot-case arguments. Why shouldn’t negotiators practice?
Mental rehearsal helps you to deepen your understanding, hone your skills, and perfect your performance. Practice, rehearsal and role-playing, in a context where failure can be forgiven, all improve coherence and self-confidence, allow you to organize and fix in your mind facts and figures, and learn to embody your method of delivery and persuasive attitude.
In addition to knowing your role on a negotiation there is another element. The late Roger Fisher of the Harvard Program on Negotiation offered a useful tip. When we rehearse what we’re going to say, it’s natural to play our own role aloud and hear our counterpart’s voice in our mind. Fisher suggests doing the opposite: play your counterpart’s role aloud.
From that shifted perspective, you’re likely to feel the strengths of your counterpart’s position and hear the weaknesses of your own. Moreover, making an effort to place yourself in the other side’s mindset is a beneficial emotional practice that leads to enhanced empathy, an act of defining and refining the kind of energy we want to create and leave behind.
“No matter what – rehearsed, under-rehearsed, over-rehearsed, doubts about rehearsing – the first gig is always the first gig, and you put on your little praying hat, batten down the hatch, and do what you do.” – Mick Fleetwood, Fleetwood Mac
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