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by Derek Loosvelt | September 10, 2019


If you have an important work presentation to give in the next few days or weeks, you'll want to check out this very helpful Harvard Business Review article about how best to rehearse. In the article, HBR points to several well-known TED Talk-ers whose rehearsal methods for their TED Talks you should most definitely steal and make your own. In addition, you might want to steal some of these methods when prepping for your next interview. Here's how, and why.

1. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Then rehearse some more.

According to HBR, "Jill Bolte Taylor rehearsed her 18-minute TED Talk about 200 times before stepping onto the stage." Which probably has a lot to do with the fact that "Her speech, 'Stroke of Insight,' has been viewed 25 million times on the TED site alone."

To apply this to your interview prep, don't be satisfied with rehearsing in your head, once or twice, the answers to common interview questions such as Tell me about yourself, What are your weaknesses?, What are your strengths?, and Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult team member. Instead, go over them in your head 20 times. Then go over them 10 more times. Then go over them aloud, which is to say practice your answers aloud. And maybe even record yourself rehearsing. Then practice some more.

Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. These should be your interview-prep mantras in the days leading up to your interview. Only through practice will your answers improve—and land well.

2. Rehearse under real-world conditions.

The HBR piece points out that the night before giving her TED Talk, Susan Cain, the author of Quiet and "a self-described introvert who has battled a lifelong fear of public speaking," rehearsed her TED Talk in front of 30 Wharton MBA students. This "dress rehearsal" likely played more than a small part in the success of Cain's TED Talk, which to date has been viewed more than 24 million times and which was largely responsible for launching her public-speaking career.

To use this rehearsal method in your interview prep, enlist the help of a friend and a stop watch to simulate an interview. Give this friend a list of questions you think you're likely to receive in your interview, then have this friend sit across from you and conduct a mock interview with you. Use the stop watch to time your interview; try to keep it under 30 minutes.

Also, if you can, record your interview so you can hear what your answers sound like and adjust them accordingly. And do your best not to stop and break the facade of the mock interview; keep going until you get through all the answers. And tell your friend to really play the part of an interviewer, following up on anything that seems like it needs clarifying, not going easy on you.

All of this might sound difficult, but it can be quite enjoyable, especially if your friend is also preparing for an interview—you could take turns playing the parts of interviewer and interviewee.

3. Ask your friends and family for feedback.

The HBR article notes, "Before delivering his first TED Talk, author and podcaster Tim Ferriss practiced delivering his presentation to a small group of strangers in a friend’s house to put himself under pressure. But what he did afterwards was even more critical. He asked the crowd for feedback and incorporated their suggestions in his next rehearsal." This proved to be a success. Ferriss's first TED Talk has received more than 7 million views. His subsequent Talk received millions more.

The message and method here is simple: don't just practice and rehearse with a friend (or two) but also ask them for their opinions on how your answers landed and how you can improve. And tell them to be as honest as they can. Only through honest feedback will you be able to improve.

Note that, at first, any criticism you receive might hurt, but once you make practice and rehearsal a common part of your interview prep, the criticism will hurt much less. And once you see the results in your real interviews (you knocking questions out of the park, you feeling very cool and collected and comfortable in the interviewee's seat) the criticism won't hurt at all. In fact, you'll welcome it.