My 120/80 Principle

Emiko Hori is the author of Let’s Play Speech!: How to Give a Better Speech Using the Principles of Musical Performance, available on Amazon.
Follow Emiko at @EFunnygal

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Speech is a performance. There are many similarities between music performance and public speaking. Many elements of the musician’s mindset, attitude and preparation for a performance apply to any presentation, any audience, and any circumstance.

In the music world, we use the 120/80 principle when preparing for a performance. That means if I prepare 120 percent of what I want to accomplish on the stage, the outcome will be about 80 percent of what was expected. During the live presentation, a number of things may happen:

  • Issues with the microphone
  • Forgetting a line
  • Unexpected audience response
  • Unexpected distraction
  • and so on

2.Darren_And_MyBook_RectangleJust ask any presenter or performer after the presentation if they achieved 100 percent of the goal of their performance. Nearly all would say no. There is always room for improvement!

In terms of piano practice and performance, there is no such thing as “over-rehearsing.” There are thousands of ways to interpret and express each single phrase in music. Just imagine the millions of combinations and possibilities that can be demonstrated in a ten-minute presentation. It is impossible to over-rehearse millions of options.

Sometimes you have to put yourself in a physical location where no interruption will happen for the time allocated for your presentation. Lock yourself in your room, escape to the backyard, a garage, or even the bathroom! You must be creative in finding a place to rehearse. Then run through your presentation from beginning to end, without stopping.

One day, I gained access to a conference room where I was to give a speech the following day. Even though I was allowed to rehearse on the day of the presentation, I wanted to see if I could get an additional practice in prior to my allocated time. It was a large amphitheater-style auditorium in a hospital. Luckily, the door was unlocked, and the facility manager graciously let me in. I gave my entire presentation for the facility manager, without stopping from beginning to end. I was extremely fortunate to have this opportunity.

However, most of the time, we are not that lucky. We have no guarantee of securing a conference room whenever we want to rehearse. Then, we have to be creative.

Be sure to situate yourself in the center of the room where you are practicing. Next, feel the size of the actual stage you will be presenting on. You have to imagine that the room you practice in is the size of the stage where you’ll be giving the presentation. This is necessary for a successful practice session. It requires tremendous concentration, effort, and imagination. It must all be in your head—what the space looks like, how big the space is, and so on. But it works.

Give your presentation from beginning to end, without stopping. How do you feel after going over your presentation? Being able to rehearse the presentation without stopping is the minimum requirement prior to giving a real presentation. Did you feel that you nailed it 100 percent? If so, congratulations. You must feel good about it. You should be proud of yourself for achieving it. However, at the same time, you may need more work until you feel your presentation is 120 percent ready.

You should analyze which section needs to be refined. Once you figure it out, you may want to practice your presentation separately in smaller modules. Sometimes you may want to practice just the conclusion multiple times. Sometimes you may want to practice just the middle section several times.

Have you noticed that a great musicians’ CD sounds so perfect no matter where you start listening, even from the middle of the phrase? This is not because of the effect of professional editing. Rather, it is because of the result of delivering the music with 120 percent conviction.

You may want to record or videotape your practice session, from beginning to end. Then listen to your recording from the middle of your speech, from the middle of your sentence. Did your delivery sound natural to you? If not, something may not be quite refined enough.

The 120/80 principle is the key to successful preparation for both musicians and public speakers.

Emiko Hori is the author of Let’s Play Speech! How to Give a Better Speech Using the Principles of Musical Performance, available on Amazon.
Follow Emiko at @EFunnygal

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