The “Curse” of Overthinking Your Presentation

By September 5, 2011SpeakerNotes

If you’re in the midst of preparing for your next presentation and suspect you might be over thinking it, try this quick test.  Are you . . .

~Obsessing rather than progressing?
~Feeling as if you’ve hit a wall?
~Frantically looking for that magic bullet to get back on track?

If you answered “yes” more than once, take a moment to step away (physically and mentally) and clear your head. Chances are, you’re falling victim to one of three common traps. Here they are, along with some tips for breaking free and ensuring that you’ll be confident, heard and inspiring when you step up to speak.

Trap #1: “Spinning your wheels”

You find yourself repeating the same few lines over and over, struggling with exactly what to say. Most likely, you don’t have a clear core message — that one simple sentence that summarizes your entire presentation.

By asking yourself exactly what you envision your listeners saying or doing at the end of the presentation, you’ll clarify your intentions and quickly get yourself unstuck.

Trap #2: “The curse of knowledge”

If you’ve read the book Made to Stick you’re familiar with what authors Chip Heath & Dan Heath call “the curse of knowledge” — in an effort to be complete, we feel obligated to share every single thing we know rather than considering just what our listeners need to know to get the point. As a result, like the Energizer Bunny we keep going…and going…and as a result, little sticks with our now-overwhelmed audience.

Instead, circle back to that all-important core message — what do I want my audience to say or do when I’m done? — and identify 3-4 main supporting points rather than reciting a laundry list. Remember, quality always trumps quantity.

Trap #3: “Stuck at the starting gate”

Recently, I was helping a client prepare for a webinar that was guaranteed to attract hundreds of attendees. This bright, focused and motivated presenter quickly stalled trying to create a picture-perfect opening. In fact, she was so determined to nail the ideal icebreaker, she was running out of time and putting the rest of her high-stakes presentation at risk.

If you find yourself in this situation, mentally table your opening and move on. Chances are, the ideal opening will emerge as you develop the rest of your messaging. Or try asking a question or quoting a startling statistic to grab listeners’ attention right from the start.

What’s the common cure to avoid falling victim to these three overthinking traps? Remembering it’s about intention, not precision.  By focusing on the intention of your message rather than the precision of your words, you’ll stop overthinking and start moving toward a cohesive, effective presentation that will deliver results.

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