Let’s define “practice.” I believe you cannot “practice” by yourself. You can only “memorize” when you are alone. We present differently when someone is watching. I practiced my speech twenty-two times (including once at a prison club).
A CEO I now coach recently told me that the best thing I’d taught him was that creating a good speech was “a process.” A good example of this is when you see a comedian on television. The five-minute set he or she does has been something worked on for months. That comedian has probably performed that exact set and recorded it every night that week, several times per night. It is very common for a comedian to go onstage at one club, then run across town and perform at another. There were days I practiced at a breakfast club, then went to my day job, left at lunch to practice at another club, went back to my job, and left at the end of the day to go to a Toastmasters club for more practice at night. Three opportunities to practice in one day.
I once rehearsed on a golf course! My speech was about Dr. Robert Goddard, the father of modern day rocketry. I talked about how he was my childhood hero. There is a monument on a golf course in my hometown designating the spot where Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket. I thought it might help if I memorized the speech from “the spot.” Memorization is not my strong suit. And though it may seem a little over-the-top, I did everything I could to help me win the contest.
In addition to all the practicing, I did a lot of praying. I did not pray to win. I prayed for inspiration to affect the lives of those in the audience. Some people may think it is hokey, but I firmly believe that the audience can tell for whom you are there: for yourself or for them. If you are always there for them, you can never go wrong.