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Here’s why you should always over-prepare for a presentation

These five steps can help you improve your presentation skills.

Here’s why you should always over-prepare for a presentation
[Source photo: gorodenkoff/Getty Images]

One of the most common objections I hear from leaders who bring me in for presentation training is, “I don’t want to over-prepare. I’ll sound too rehearsed and I want to come across as spontaneous.”

It often takes some persuading to convince them that this is never the case. Sometimes people need to fall on their face in a high-stakes meeting to realize that preparation is key to being able to bring spontaneity and verve to a speech.

Failing to adequately prepare for your presentation puts your success factor at risk by missing out on the opportunity to wow the people you want to woo. It’s even more important if you have a presentation team with varying levels of experience. Because it’s the preparation that gives you the freedom to riff without losing your narrative thread once you’re in front of an audience.

I would argue that the ubiquitous Taylor Swift who moved $1 billion in ticket sales last year, knows how to prioritize preparation. She trained for her Eras tour for a full six months. Her regimen included running on a treadmill while singing her entire set list out loud. It’s no wonder she was able to maintain stamina with a crushing schedule.

A slightly scaled back version is the time that speakers invest to give a TED Talk. In this case speakers spend an average of one hour’s rehearsal for every minute of their talk. This means that for that 18-minute talk you watched, the speaker rehearsed for about 18 hours. Clients are flabbergasted when they hear this stat and typically ask, “What can I do if I don’t have that kind of time?”

Granted, sometimes you have a new business presentation with an uncomfortable turnaround time. Or disruptions derailed your initial timeline. Regardless there are some tested techniques that can help you prepare sufficiently, or at least more thoroughly than you might have otherwise.

The best presenters don’t happen by accident, and many invest in additional coaching, just as they would if they wanted to improve their golf game or prepare for the GMAT test. In the meantime, here are five steps you can take to improve your presentation skills.


Use your phone to record yourself and then leverage an AI transcript app such as Otter or Temi to record your talk. In reviewing the transcript, you can identify where you can omit needless words.


A transcript review also helps you identify the circumstances under which you use filler words like “um” and “you know.” Some people overuse these words when they are warming up. In which case, you should do a run-through before you go on. Others are tripped up during Q&A sessions. However, you can prepare answers to tough questions so you don’t feel stumped. In either case, taking time to identify your negative quirks and practice pausing when necessary will help you give a better presentation.


Having someone outside your team watch your presentation will help you identify places where you are not effective in making your case, or when you might be losing your narrative thread. An independent point of view will help you see when your stories land or when you need to make another edit.


When people identify a flaw in their presentation, they fix it and then start over with the rehearsal. This often ends up with a strong start and weak finish, because too little time was spent rehearsing the end. Instead, finish your full presentation, identify opportunities for improvement, and then start again.


Often a team leader is the only one comfortable presenting. But less experienced team members may try to present just like you—rather than presenting as themselves. Help your team members understand that everyone should bring their own speaking style to the presentation and trying to copy someone else will only take away from their credibility.

By devoting adequate time to preparation and rehearsal, you’ll help your team grow,  increase your chances of success, and improve your presentation skills. The truth is: you can’t over prepare for a presentation.

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