How much preparation is enough?

How do you know if you’ve prepared enough for your next speaking gig? Is there such a thing as too much preparation?

If you want your speech to be a success, you need to prepare. This means determining your content and then practicing your presentation of that content. But how do you know if you’ve prepared enough?

The answer to that question depends on the presentation, and your knowledge of the subject. Some speeches need more preparation than others. But a basic rule of thumb would be to ask yourself “Do you feel confident enough in your ability to deliver the content that you can do it even if your pre-determined crutches all failed you?”

That means, if you were planning on using PowerPoint slides to help you along, would you still be able to give a meaningful presentation without them?

That means, if you were planning on using notes, would you still be able to give a meaningful presentation if you spilled coffee all over them, rendering them illegible?

That means, if you were planning on using rote memory and you lost your place somewhere along the way, would you still be able to give the audience a meaningful presentation?

In essence, prepare until you know the basic content and organization of your speech without help. This way, you can present the core messages of your presentation even if it is not verbatim what you wrote down on paper.

So now the question is, can you over prepare for a presentation?

Yes. Here are the signs that you’ve over prepared for a speech:

  • You know the presentation so well that you can give it in your sleep … and that’s how the audience perceives it. If the words are so ingrained in your mind that your presentation loses its passion and authenticity … you’ve prepared way too much.
  • You are completely derailed if someone in the audience interrupts you with a question. Knowing your speech by rote has some serious pitfalls. Your mind may literally depend on B following A to the point that if the journey between A and B is interrupted, you have to start over at A to get to B properly.
  • Your desire for perfection outweighs your desire to give the audience what they need. Sometimes what you intended to say, in the order you intended to say it, is not what your audience needs to hear or in the order they need to hear it. You need to be flexible enough to be able to tailor your presentation on the fly.

Definitely prepare for your presentation … but keep a balance so that it serves both you and your audience well.

About Carma

Carma Spence, author of Public Speaking Super Powers, is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years experience in marketing, public relations and science communication. She is a multi-dimensional entrepreneur, a certified life coach, science fiction writer and poet. She is able to see people's brilliance and help them bring their genius to light. The wind beneath her clients’ wings, Carma provides creative entrepreneurs with expert advice on branding and online presence, as well as the emotional support necessary to carve out their niche for success online. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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