An effective mantra for presentation preparation is, it’s easier to subtract than add. Go into your speeches with twenty percent more content than is necessary. That way, it would be easy and simple to adjust on the fly if there was a time issue, or a need to go off on an improvisational tangent to serve the needs of the audience in the moment. That twenty percent always makes you feel safe, confident and relaxed in your ability as the speaker. It equips you to call audibles and customize the message. Because it’s easier to subtract than add. Compare that strategy to winging it. Flying by the seat of your pants. Completely different physical and psychological experience. Going into a speech where you know you have an hour to present and only a half hour’s worth of content, profoundly highly anxiety provoking. Before the talk, you’re secretly praying the company president speaking before you goes long in his remarks. And during the presentation itself, you’re scrambling for ideas, elongating stories unnecessarily, forcing audience participation and essentially fighting for your life to make the time pass. Because it’s easier to subtract than add.
OVER PREPARATION — Creating twenty percent more content than necessary so it’s easier to adjust on the fly
The concept of over preparation can be useful in many creative processes. If you take a little extra time to overachieve from the beginning of the process, you set yourself up for success. By going deep early and aiming for volume right away, it’s easier to scale back later. It may not be necessary to watch two documentaries and read the company founder's book before your client kickoff meeting, but doing prolific homework affords you the chance to relax and improvise down the road.
Here's a story of the most dreadful, embarrassing and stressful presentation of my life. During breakfast on the morning of that presentation, my client sat down, pat me on the shoulder and said how psyched he and his team were for my three hour workshop. Nearly choking on my sausage link, I said, excuse me, three hours? Didn’t we agree on ninety minutes? Sure enough, my client whipped out our contract and pointed to the line item that said, deliverable, three hour workshop. Well fuck me and call me a donkey. My client stared me down as if to say, you better fill that time. My entire body started sweating. My face was so hot it could heat soup. Talk about under preparation. And my client could smell the fear on my breath too. Long story short, we did the three hour workshop. But let me tell you, it was the longest three hours of my life. The whole time was spent parallel processing the content coming out of my mouth, while trying to invent the content that would fill the remainder of the time I hadn’t prepared for. Never made that mistake again.
What if you inhaled as much material as your intellectual lungs could handle? How might that positively impact your exhale? Try starting with over preparing by twenty percent. See how that changes your experience during the creative process. You might also find that it’s easier to subtract than add. Do you have a habit of over preparing or under preparing?
Feel safe, confident and relaxed in your performance
Set yourself up for success by overachieving from the very beginning
Eliminate the need to scramble for ideas and fight uphill creative battles
Make it easy to go an improvisational tangent to serve the needs of the audience in the moment