I've already discussed practice performances in the context of playing a newly-learned piece or two. But now, with a recital on the horizon, you should be planning one or two practice performances of the entire recital. In the case of a few pieces, it's relatively easy to find a moment when you can play for someone or a small group. But a full recital takes commitment, not just for you but for your practice audience as well.
|A tough crowd|
Just as I wrote before, you want to make sure that your audience makes you nervous. To that end, your practice recital should not be too casual, and it should strive to replicate the emotions that will be present for the public recital. You can have a lot of fun with this, and you can turn it into a nice event, as opposed to an academic exercise.
I'm a very lucky guy in that I can use my home as a practice venue. I'm even more lucky in that my girlfriend is really into this. Not only can I tap into her guest list as well as my own, she also likes to plan a really great cocktail party for afterwards. What's nice about her guest list is that, inevitably, there are audience members I've never met before, and this keeps me on my toes. Even more so, it's nice to have someone to act as host so that I can focus on what I'm there to do. For my own house recitals, I print programs, set up formal seating (as formal as I can be), and plan an intermission. In other words, I try to make it as real as possible.
If you don't have a home venue, you can always rely on some old standbys: churches, other people's homes, or even nursing homes. Whatever venue you choose, however, it's important to let the audience know that you're playing a practice recital. This isn't to take the edge off of your nerves, but it is to let the audience know exactly why they're there. I mention this because, especially if you're playing in a church or nursing home, it's very easy for some venues to appropriate your practice event into something bigger than what you intend it to be. Just be careful.
It may go without saying, but you need to be thoughtful about your audience. If you're performing locally, be careful that you don't siphon off your local audience by inviting them to your practice recital. In local cases, I tend to invite people whom I know are unable to attend the "real" recital. In addition, develop a rotating list of guests so that you're not always inviting the same people every time. Otherwise, they might get bored with you, and you'll cease to be nervous with them.
Just as I recommended for playing a few pieces, you can always use Google+ or another resource to stream your practice recital to the internet. You might not get a nice cocktail hour out of it, but it is an option when you have trouble coming up with an audience. And who knows? You might even build an internet following!