Why You Shouldn't "Rehearse" - You Should "Stumble"

I was in D.C. a few weeks back giving a workshop to an organization, helping them develop and deliver more "moving presentations." We talked about the theory of persuasion a bit, then we dove into the structure of a moving talk - and then we got into delivery.

Friends - this is always where the rubber hits the road and where I get the most questions and concerns and panic.

And here's why: this is the part that we usually fail to prepare well. It's the part that gets hacked off when we're short on time. It's the part that we avoid.


Because it's vulnerable and sometimes awkward and can be darn scary if you've got to share it with others before it feels ready.

So, I employ a strategy to help my speakers take the step to just get up and do it, already! And that is:

We don't rehearse. We stumble.

Why Stumbling is Different from Rehearsing

Rehearsing connotes some kind of readiness... audience, presenting the best of what you've got, a certain level of polish, perhaps...

And I've found that when I say to a speaker, "Let's rehearse this" - they panic.

"But it's not ready for you to see!"

"... Guess what?... [some random thing to distract me and you from doing the awkward thing of just starting...]"

"It's not very good yet!"

"Well, of course it's not ready yet! We're practicing," I tell them.

But I still can't convince some of my speakers that I don't WANT you to do all your learning outside our practices. I want to help shape it, be with you in the mistakes, point out all the learning that happens as we're struggling. THAT is where all the aha's come from!

I'm not there for you to impress me with how very little you need me.

No, I'm there to be with you as you fall on your face.

So, I started calling my rehearsals a "stumble-through." To make perfectly clear that you're going to stumble. And that's how we get better. So stumble away!

And it helped.

Freedom to fail is powerful. Especially when so much of the learning happens in the stumbling.

I'm not there for you to impress me with how very little you need me. I'm there to be with you as you fall on your face. And it is my privilege to be with you as you fall on that sweet face of yours.

And then I'll help you up. Remind you that the stumbling is just part of it. And that now, if you ever stumble in the real-deal (which you just might), you'll know how to find your way out of it.

And then together we'll try again. And it will be better. And a little easier. And that will feel so totally amazing because you'll have fought your way through to the other side.

You won't have avoided those awkward "rehearsals" that don't go anyplace real.

Oh no, not us. We're gonna stumble.

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