Can you over-prepare for a presentation?

We’ve often written in this blog about the importance of preparing properly for any presentation.

It is also something we stress on our presentation skills courses.

Preparation is crucial to your presentation being delivered successfully. It is the starting point of any good presentation or speech.

But can you over-prepare?

That may sound contradictory, but it is an important issue.

There are plenty of people who believe you can never be too prepared. And you don’t have to search too far on Google to find articles that claim over-preparation doesn’t exist and that you need to have your presentation etched into your brain.

But we disagree. You can have too much of a good thing. And on our courses, we point out how being over-prepared can damage your presentation, whether you are delivering it face-to-face or online.

Over-preparation normally comes from a sensation we are probably all familiar with - the pressure to deliver a perfect performance.

I know I experienced it several years ago when I was asked to deliver what I considered at the time to be a high-stakes presentation.

I was pretty new to the role I was in at the time and determined to make the right impression. So, I spent weeks memorising what I was going to say, pretty much word for word.

The result was a scripted, robotic performance devoid of any personality or spontaneity – as well as several nosebleeds from the pressure I put on myself.

But I know I’m not alone in having taken this approach. I’m aware of others who have gone further and also memorised the gestures and facial expression they would use when they reached key points in the presentation.

Over-prepared presentations can look like bad acting and can make it almost impossible to develop that crucial connection with the audience.

And over-prepared presenters are often unable to adapt if something goes wrong, when they become flustered or it becomes clear they haven’t captured the focus of the audience.

But how can you tell if you have done enough preparation or you have over-prepared?

That can feel like a grey area and a bit of a tricky balance, so here are a few tips from our new online presentations skills course to help:

 

You are prepared when:

  • You feel confident about delivering your presentation
  • You’re clear on the message you want to get across and how you are going to support it
  • You know how you want the audience to feel
  • You have anticipated what you may be asked
  • You know the technology set-up and have a plan B if anything goes wrong

 

You are overprepared when:

  • You are lying awake at night trying to memorise your presentation verbatim
  • You have written and memorised answers to every audience question you have anticipated
  • You have rehearsed the facial expressions and gestures you will use at key moments
  • You have put your entire presentation in to a huge deck of PowerPoint slides.

 

A good presentation skills course will help you become the best version of yourself you can be when you present. Audiences want to see your personality, your character and some spontaneity. In short, a natural delivery.

They don’t want to be spoken to by a robot, who has become focused on achieving perfection.

But if you still need persuading that you don’t need to memorise your presentations word-for-word, it is important to remember that some of the best lines in memorable speeches were not scripted.

Dr Martin Luther King’s speech notes didn’t contain the powerful “I have a dream” part.

Similarly, George W Bush’s famous speech after 9/11 was also improvised. Responding to someone in the crowd saying they couldn’t hear him, the then President said: “I can hear you. The whole world hears you. And whoever knocked down these buildings will hear all of us real soon.”

 

Keen to find out more? Our new online Presentation and Personal Impact Skills course will help you get your preparation right and ensure you don’t over-prepare.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.

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