Why the Best Rehearsal Audience Might Be Your Dog

“Preparation with improvisation produces spontaneity.” — Michael Port

When I begin working with a new group of television salespeople, I tell them that part of preparing a winning presentation is rehearsal.

I tell them to say every word out loud in advance – it sounds different coming out of your mouth than it does in your head.

Some sales staffs get together and present to each other. Some Account Executives go home and present to their spouse or significant other.

One AE I worked with was too nervous to present to her co-workers, and didn’t have anyone at home to rehearse with – she lived alone with her dog.

So, she told me, she presented to the dog.

rehearse your next sales presentation with yout dog

Photo by Javier Brosch


I believe her – when she got up in front of me, her manager, and the client, she nailed her part.

I’ve told that story many times, and it generally gets a laugh. But it turns out that there may be something to her method.

The New York Times recently reported on a pilot project at American University in which nervous business school students practiced public speaking by presenting to canines:

The audience dogs, as they are called, are a pet project of Bonnie Auslander, the director of the Kogod Center for Business Communications, which helps students hone their writing and speaking skills. Given “the whole fever pitch of dogs in therapy” — pettable pooches routinely show up before finals on some campuses — Ms. Auslander decided to use dogs to help students with speech anxiety. The center booked about a dozen sessions last semester and employed six ‘locally sourced’ dogs, recruited for their calm personalities.”

 According to the University, the theory is that “addressing a friendly and nonjudgmental canine can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and elevate mood — perfect for practicing your speech or team presentation.”

My household doesn’t have any dogs. As an experiment I recently tried presenting to my one-year-old cat, Biscuit.

Photo by pdxknitterati

Photo by pdxknitterati

Results were mixed: she watched me for about 90 seconds, then started batting a pen cap around the room.

So I can’t recommend presenting to a cat. But if you’re nervous about getting up in front of a room full of people, a dog might just be the rehearsal audience you’re looking for.

Question: When has rehearsing your presentation really helped you. When has LACK of rehearsal hurt? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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