Tag Archives: Rehearsal


Generally pitches and presentations do not suffer from a lack of effort and hard work- research into the subject and the audience, development of an idea, a proposition and the supporting argument, a storyline or script and the visual aids/charts.

PREPARATION---compass  A lot goes on but, generally, at the expense of time spent in preparation for the performance at the end of it all, the performance, the way everyone comes across, which will determine success or failure . Professional actors perform for a living. Here is how one actor answered questions on preparation.

How do you approach preparing for performance?

Every actor has their own way of working. After time you find what works for you. There are two types of preparation for me: preparation that happens in the lead up to, and over the rehearsal period, and preparation that happens in the hours before the play begins.

During the rehearsal period my own private preparation work includes a lot of research and daydreaming, reading the script quietly to myself repetitively so that I become familiar with it.

Before I go on stage my warming up preparation includes doing a relaxation, stretching my body out, warming up my voice, and then going through my lines quietly to myself.

How do you handle the different demands of a script?

I break up my script into sections, or units, based on when my character changes tactic in a scene. This helps me focus on smaller sections of the script so that I can work on giving a more detailed, less generalised performance. Each unit is like each point in a speech.

At the beginning of each unit I write my intention, for example: to convince, to charm, to seduce, to make someone understand me, to inspire, to excite, to calm, to reassure etc. When I have worked out what my intention for each unit is, I focus on using my words to land my intention.

I underline key words to give more gravity to what I am saying.

How do you make the role your own?

When I start to read my script aloud I tend to move around a lot, or go for a walk. I physicalize what I am saying with my hands and my body, sometimes even in an overly exaggerated manner. I sometimes even stomp as I am learning my lines. All of this gets energy moving through the body, helps me lose any tension, makes me feel relaxed, and gets me out of my head.

The more embodied your script is in you, the more ownership you have over it, the more it is you. To me, performance is ownership of what you are saying and doing.

What steps do you take to connect with your audience?  

I try to say my lines as many different ways as I can so that I don’t get stuck in a habit.

I try to find a need to speak – I think of my lines as a need to communicate, rather than just a pre-prepared speech. No-one wants to hear something prepared. People want to feel like you are saying what you are saying to them and only them for the first time.

What do you look to get from rehearsal?

Emotional connection and clarity in what I want and what I am saying. To be comfortable with any blocking (movement on the stage) so that I don’t have to think about it – this comes from repetition. The more you can say your lines and do your movement over and over again in rehearsals, the more you can be free in performance.

Can you rehearse without an audience?

Yes. It is good to take time working on the script without the added pressure and nerves of rehearsing in front of an audience. You can get familiar with the script on your own.

However, it is then very helpful, if not essential, to have someone to rehearse with – to speak to, so that you stop thinking about how you sound, and you start focusing on how you are affecting the person you are speaking to. The most engaging actors are those who are focusing on who they are speaking to, not on themselves.

 “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”
Mae West




Rehearsal for the better.

For actors rehearsal is a necessity, an essential part of their professional life, as it is for business folk who pitch. Or as it should be. Here are some thoughts on rehearsal from “Acting for the Better”, an excellent book by Mary Hasbury. It is aimed at actors but the thinking holds true for the pitch.


“Rehearsal is when the real work is done. The play has to be brought to life and become sufficiently fluent and polished to present to an audience”. It is what the  audience take out, not  what you put in.

She discusses various other aspects of rehearsal. For example:

” Give roughly the same amount of rehearsal to scene endings as you do to the beginnings.” In a pitch,  work on hand-overs!

” Remember that it is in rehearsal that positioning and groupings are worked out. Only the director ‘out front’ can see what the picture looks like to the audience.”  The pitch rehearsal without someone ‘out front’ achieves little.

“Rehearsal is the time to try out degrees of emotion, how best to use pauses, when to shine and when to fade into the background. Then when it comes to the actual performance, you reproduce everything that you have evolved and developed in rehearsal.”  To perform at your best, you must rehearse.

Rehearsal or run-through? What’s the difference.

 My last post, Make Feedback your Friend, described how experimental opera performers subjected themselves to the potentially painful criticism of a live audience.  An extreme form of rehearsal and rehearsal is something many pitch teams go out of their way to avoid. They settle instead for the run-through.


Is this enough and what’s the difference?

 The run-through is a necessary activity. It will involve talking through likely content, who says what and for how long, a discussion on visual aids, working out timings and hand-overs,  who sits where  or stands, how the room will be propped, where will the client sit, what are the likely questions and who fields them and so on.

Necessary but not a rehearsal. Pitching is performance and it is no good escaping the ‘pain’ of rehearsal with a run through. To improve performance you need an audience  in front of you. Other members of your team are not good for this. They already know what you are going meant say and will be be more concerned with content than your style.

Any non-participant, given a simple briefing of the context, can raise the value of rehearsal.  In any pitch you are putting on a show and in rehearsal you need someone to show off to.

Pitch perfect.

Last  Sunday evening in a church in Notting Hill there was a beautiful performance of Monteverdi’s very difficult Vespers. Some excellent professional soloists and an orchestra, with period instruments, together with the real stars the amateur, 45 strong, Skolia Choir.

  The choir, and I know this because  my wife was one of them, rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed, probably some thirty times, for this one perfomance. It paid off. They were superb.

Compare and contrast with how so many companies prepare for their one performance, the pitch. They will spend enormous energy developing their ‘score’, the content, and then little or nil on the rehearsal.

Why is this when they know that in a competitive arena the decision will, largely, be down to an emotional response to their performance on the day. Why is there such resistance and reluctance to rehearse? Here are some of the ‘reasons.’

1.  “We needed every moment to improve and fine tune our proposal.” Excuse. A ‘great’ proposal unrehearsed will lose out to the good one fully rehearsed.

2.   “It was not possible to fit in rehearsals due to client meetings.” Excuse. If you can organise diaries for the pitch, you can do so for rehearsals.

3.  “As long as everyone runs through their part, no need to rehearse together.”  Excuse. And chances of teamwork shining through disappear.

4.  “I am better conserving my nervous energy for the pitch itself.” Excuse. The more you rehearse the better you will be, and the more confident.

5.  “We always do a run through just before to check order and charts.” Excuse. This is not a rehearsal, and just before leaves no time for changes. 

Any other excuses? Please tell me.

Pitches are performances. The response is largely emotional.  Compared with the resource that goes into any pitch, rehearsal is your best return on investment. The more you rehearse the more you increase your chance of winning.

The London 2012 Bid team rehearsed 10 times. The Skolia Choir 30 times. Both won!

“Rehearsal makes nice people nicer”

These clever words were written by copywriter Kevin Millicheap when he edited, and improved, the content of the Best Practice Guide on this site, ‘Rehearsal. The Discriminators’.  Experience in recent months, working  with teams from very different companies, confirms just how apt is this thought.

Typically in the first, and too often the only rehearsal, time, angst and energy are expended on revising content, altering visual aids, deciding who says what and when and for how long. Then, with luck, there will be a run-through, stumble-through, of the presentation itself.

All this is fine if it is the first rehearsal. These practicalities must be sorted before proper rehearsals will work and then you need two of them, but aim for three or more. The London 2012 Bid team rehearsed 10 times.

It is fascinating to to observe the real improvements where rehearsal is taken seriously.  From a startpoint, where concern over content inhibits, moving up through the ‘rehearsal gears’ increases confidence.  This leads to a more spontaneous, engaging, personable approach.  People become their normal ‘nice’ selves. 

 And who wants to work with ‘nasty’ people?