Procrastination: The Silent Killer of a Successful Presentation

Jane Sheffield
Lead Trainer & Owner
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You’ve got a big talk coming up, and you’re eager to do a stellar job. But let’s be honest, your day job keeps getting in the way, and preparing a presentation isn’t exactly a task that sparks joy. So, the prep doesn’t happen.

If you struggle to dedicate time to your presentation, here are three methods to help you fight procrastination and deliver the talk you want to give.

Get a big picture plan first

My daughter used to hate brushing her hair. She learned the hard way that eight days without brushing leads to a nightmare session with a hairbrush. Presentation prep is no different. Trying to pull everything together 24 hours before your talk is stressful, painful and can result in hair loss.

So don’t it. Try this instead:

  • As soon as you commit to your talk, sketch out a rough map of the journey you want to take your audience on. To do this you need to understand who you are speaking to and want  you want them to know or do. The answer to this, will form your overarching Key Message. This Key Message then acts as a focus and a filter, for you do decide what is in, and what is out.

  • Develop a three-box structure to get them there. Base your presentation on the three most important questions your audience will have when they first hear your key message. These questions form the backbone of your talk.

  • Answer each question with a strong statement. Put these statements somewhere visible—your office wall, bedroom wall, wherever. Then, leave them.

  •  Over the next few weeks, ask yourself, “How am I going to prove these statements to my audience?” Think about the stories, examples, facts, data, and endorsements that will support your points. Write them up or use sticky notes. This will give you time to think about engaging and persuasive evidence that resonate with this particular group of people.

Book Catch-Ups

We humans need accountability. And that usually means a date in the diary that can’t be moved. Book in at least one session with a  presentation coach, colleague, or your boss to run through your presentation and share your thinking. This meeting forces you to prepare. One client of mine books weekly sessions when working on a talk. She hates presenting, so puts off all tasks associated with it! Both of us know this, so we turn up to those meetings come hell or highwater, and her presentations always gets there in the end.

Choose Talking Over Slides

Don’t waste hours on slide design, before you know what you are going to say. You are your presentation, not your slides.

I had a client who spent hours perfecting her slides for every leadership meeting and then struggled to understand when her presentation didn’t go smoothly. She felt unnatural, read from her slides, struggled with eye contact, and hated the experience. When we worked together, she soon realized she was spending her time on the wrong thing. Talking through her ideas quickly revealed the areas needing more work and helped her get familiar with her messaging. Once you’re clear on your narrative, then it’s time to think about what visual aids will help your audience either understand or remember your points. But only then.

By following these steps, you’ll overcome procrastination, get clear on your messaging, and learn to prepare in a way that makes you feel comfortable, confident and in control.

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