Practicing PREP

There is a proven way to get better at a Dynamic Speaking, and that is to Practice!  To be effective, practice must have a few qualities. First, frequent practice builds mental and physical connections to the task. Second, accurate and precise practice leads to effective action in real-world engagements.  Remember, Vince Lombardi said that “Practice does not make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.  Perfect practice makes perfect.”  Here is a dynamic speaking exercise: PREP.

There are two ways that you can practice the PREP format – Point, Reason, Example, Point. One way is to recall stories and anecdotes and work on delivering them so that they are interesting, engaging, and memorable.  This will provide you with ready-to-go Examples, to which you need to join an appropriately selected Point and Reason.  Then, assemble the three parts into the four-steps and Voila! You have a PREP.

Now practice it!

However, while useful for designing a speech from the ground up, this method is backward when it comes to the full implementation and power of the PREP method.  By starting with the story as an Example, you affix a specific Point and Reason in your mind to go with that story. Thus you may miss out on the full richness and significance of your experiences.  Because of this, I recommend approaching it from the other side. Practice in a way that more closely represents how PREP can be used on-the-fly in extemporaneous or improvisational speech (such as during Question and Answer periods).

Point

Dynamic speaker in front of a room full of people, practicing PREP technique.
PREP is a great organizational tool for any speech.

Start with a Point – any Point will do.  First, decide if you wish to argue for or against the Point. Then, state it in the positive (for) or negative (against).  Be sure to declare it without hesitation and qualifiers (“I think,” “I believe,” “Perhaps”).  Deliver it strongly without glancing at your notes (memorize it!).

Reason

Then flowing out of the Point, develop a logical Reason why you took your position.  Experiment with it by teasing it out and give it life.  You can bring a Rule of Three to the Reason (give the top three reasons), or walk through a progression of thought from known and agreed-upon general principles leading to the Point.

Example

Without hesitation, explanation, or equivocation (i.e., avoid saying, “I will now tell you an amusing real-life story to help you understand my Point…”), rather just do it (e.g., “A while back someone told me…” or “For me, it happened this way…”).  This is the Example. Give details (sights, smells, sounds) and make it interesting.  Say it well; with inflection, purposeful pauses, and appropriate pace.  Smile and invite the audience to be there with you, experiencing the situation as if they were you.  Clearly indicate how and why the story relates to the Point – not required if it is obvious to all, but sometimes needed if the story is nuanced and the Point subtle.

Point

Finally, tie it all together by returning to the Point.  Most often, this can be given verbatim from the beginning, but sometimes a slight modification in delivery or content (a pause, some emphasis, an extra word) can make all the difference as the audience will have a different perspective and changed relationship with what you say compared to the first time.

A comment about length:  a PREP can be done in as little as four sentences, but usually the Reason and Example sections (about 80% of the whole) are significantly longer than the Point (about 10%, taken twice).  For practice, target a PREP for 30 seconds to 1 minute (using a well-known, extremely simple, or previously told Example) to about 5 minutes maximum (to avoid fatiguing the audience).

Practicing with PREP Cards

A highly effective and satisfying way to practice the dynamic speaking exercise PREP is to use a deck of PREP cards.  Each card contains a brief quotation from a well-known author (unless anonymous) to provide a little background and context.  With a pre-determined amount of preparation time, draw a card at random. 

Use your preparation time to quickly commit the quotation to memory (so that it can be delivered powerfully at the beginning and end without referencing notes).  Assemble your reasons (three maximum) and place them in order (most important reason goes last, to capitalize on the principle of recency).  Finally, search through your experiences and interactions.  Look for a situation, a predicament, or a dilemma that relates to the quote/Point.  Soon you will surprise yourself how rapidly you do this, and with practice, you will see the richness of your experiences and find Examples that can be used with multiple Points. With practice and experience, slight changes to how they are told will effectively emphasize the right aspects.

PREP will be a go-to tool in your speaking kit, pulled out and used for Question and Answer, simplifying a complicated concept, or injecting a story into your narrative.  Use the dynamic speaking exercise PREP cards to practice, alone or in a group.  You can download sample PREP cards with the link below:  print the .pdf on cardstock or plain paper and laminate, then cut them out and use them as the Point in a PREP.  If you enjoy using these sample cards, you can make your own with your favorite quotes, or order a pre-printed set.

Practicing PREP – today’s CommLink.  Click here to read an example of using PREP in a classroom situation.  Be sure to look for more Dynamic Speaking Principles from P H Tyson & Associates.

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