Even the ‘greats’ rehearse

Some people say they don’t like to rehearse because it makes them feel stale or somehow false.  They want to feel authentic and free-flowing.

They often feel more relaxed in the Q&A session after the presentation, than in the actual presentation itself. They say that when they present they somehow go into ‘presentation mode’, which looks less natural, pre-thought out and rehearsed.

Many people think that the so-called ‘greats’, those who appear to excel at speaking and presenting, are just born that way. As if they came out of the womb holding a microphone, possessing oodles of charisma and charm.

Of course, we might not be in quite the league of the greats but I know, from the experience of my clients, that we can all learn to up our game in front of an audience.

When I was a young actor, one of my favourite two actors was the great Richard Burton. (The other was James Mason, who also had an extraordinary voice.) It’s often easy to hear these two in their stride, for example when Richard Burton is epically narrating The War of the Worlds, and think we could never achieve the level they’ve achieved.

I was fascinated to come across these out-takes from Richard Burton’s recording of The War of the Worlds. I was impressed by his desire for perfection. He would continue to try different styles and explore different emphasis until he knew that he’d got it just right.

It’s always a good idea to speak your presentation out loud as a rehearsal, rather than just reading it silently in your head. When you vocalise it, you highlight any difficult words and phrases. Or, at least, the ones that you find tricky. It also helps you to gauge the best pacing and emphasis.

Have a listen to the great Richard Burton doing just that. This is rehearsal gold dust:


There’s a great story about Richard Burton rehearsing … When Anthony Hopkins was playing the lead in Equus on Broadway, he allowed Richard Burton to play a couple of matinees so that he could get up to speed to play the lead in the film of the play. Imagine being in the theatre audience that afternoon … ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, we applogise but Mr. Anthony Hopkins will not be performing this afternoon. This afternoon the part of Dr. Dysart will be played by Mr Richard Burton!’

And once he’s fully rehearsed, he’s just magic. Watch Richard Burton here in a concert performance of Camelot. Look particularly at the end of this clip, and the way he lifts his eyes in time with the music. Who says rehearsal doesn’t pay off?!




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“Robin’s rare combination of experience, intelligence and humour was inspiring.”

Sita Schutt
Founding Director, Prospero World