which basic skills should a person be sure to practice prior to a shoot?
Safety and pistol shooting fundamentals. Its best to have a coach, baring that, get a copy of the Army Marksmanship Units "Service Pistol Guild"
You may never shoot bullseye competition, but fundamentals are fundamentals and there is no better guide to give you the fundamentals.
The book is $6.95 from the CMP Bookstore, written by the best shooters in the world.