Break This Rule: #3 – Practice in Front of a Mirror

Mirrors are just a one-person show. Practice often, out loud and on your feet!

Practicing in front of a mirror sounds like great advice. We don’t know what we look like when presenting, and videotaping is not always possible, so why not? This rule is one that everybody knows is “right.”


A mirror makes you self-conscious and never gives you the ability to get out of your head and focus on the audience. Actors and performers actually have a trick for nerves — they focus on the audience or their scene partner instead of themselves. That moves your focus out where it should be — on the audience. And if you want to be prepared and ready for anything, you’ve got to practice. Out loud and on your feet.

What about natural talent or those who do just well enough to get by? Your advantage is that you have tricks and natural grace that allow you to wing it. Your disadvantage is that you believe that’s all you need. And the more you get used to winging it, the less time you’ll devote to improvement. That’s a mistake. Tony Schwartz, who has aggregated studies on this topic, says:

“If you’re not actively working to get better at what you do, there’s good chance you’re getting worse, no matter what the quality of your initial training — in some cases diminished performance is simply the result of a failure to keep up with the advances in a field. But it’s also because most of us tend to become fixed in our habits and practices, even when they’re suboptimal.”

Real, on-your-feet preparation — there’s no substitute. I had a man come up to me after a workshop laughing ruefully. “I was hoping your workshop would give me an out. I was looking for the magic pill: how I can be fabulous without practice. You just verified — there are no shortcuts.”

Sorry, kids. I want you to be bad in the most awesome Michael Jackson way. And in order to embrace that bold badness, you have to practice. Then when you’ve got it down pat, you can handle anything that might come your way. Now get out there and do it!

And if you need any practicing tips, be sure to visit ImprovEdge for extra help on nailing that presentation.

Photo credit: S3aphotography via Flickr