If you know you have a big presentation coming up, your first instinct may be spending every waking moment preparing for it. But hold up. In a recent webinar for Intuition, Jason Guinn, a public speaking expert, shared that’s the worst thing you can do if you want to deliver something that wows your audience.
While it’s always great to prepare, over-preparing can hurt your presentation for a couple of different reasons. The first being that it can make it a whole lot harder for you to deviate from your plan when you need to. “For example, if you see your audience start to fall asleep, it’s harder for a planner to adjust,” says Guinn. “They’re so ingrained in what they’re saying, and so rehearsed; they know exactly what’s happening next.”
Another problem with being over-prepared is that you might sound inauthentic to your audience. Instead of sounding like you’re speaking from your heart, you sound super-rehearsed. “It’s not genuine, and it makes it hard to follow along,” says Guinn. Aside from what you’re saying, that goes for what you’re doing with your hands and body, too. “Practicing everything to a T—including hand gestures and body language—can make your presentation so boring.”
While there’s such a thing as over-preparing, under-preparing is a problem, too. Having that flexibility makes you come off as more genuine, but it can also have the downside of making you sound unprofessional. “It can cause you to mumble and have more fillers as well,” Guinn says, like saying “um.” It might also leave you without the ability to explain things well or be able to provide examples when needed, since you didn’t think things through beforehand.
When giving a great presentation, Guinn says it all comes down to finding a balance between being a planner and being underprepared. “Plan well, but also have that flexibility,” he says. That could mean planning 80 percent of the presentation, but leaving 20 percent flexibility so you can deliver it more authentically and switch things up when needed. It’s a small change, but it could completely change your presentation for the better.