Is it possible to overthink what could be a career-defining presentation?... In a word, yes.

If you’re in the midst of preparing for your next presentation and suspect you might be overthinking it, try this quick test.

Are you…
• Obsessing rather than progressing?
• Feeling as if you’ve hit a wall?
• Frantically looking for that magic bullet to get back on track?

If you answered “yes” more than once, take a moment to step away (physically and mentally) and clear your head. Chances are, you’re falling victim to one of three common traps. Here they are, along with some tips for breaking free and ensuring that you’ll be confident, heard and inspiring when you step up to speak.

Trap #1: “Spinning your wheels”
You find yourself repeating the same few lines over and over, struggling with exactly what to say. Most likely, you don’t have a clear core message — that one simple sentence that summarizes your entire presentation.

By asking yourself exactly what you envision your listeners saying or doing at the end of the presentation, you’ll clarify your intentions and quickly get yourself unstuck.

Trap #2: “The curse of knowledge”
If you’ve read the book Made to Stick you’re familiar with what authors Chip Heath & Dan Heath call “the curse of knowledge” — in an effort to be complete, we feel obligated to share every single thing we know rather than considering just what our listeners need to know to get the point. As a result, like the Energizer Bunny we keep going…and going…and consequently, little sticks with our now-overwhelmed audience.

Instead, circle back to that all-important core message — what do I want my audience to say or do when I’m done? — and identify 3-4 main supporting points rather than reciting a laundry list. Remember, quality always trumps quantity.

Trap #3: “Stuck at the starting gate”
Recently, I was helping a client prepare for a webinar that was guaranteed to attract hundreds of attendees. This bright, focused and motivated presenter quickly stalled trying to create a picture-perfect opening. In fact, she was so determined to nail the ideal icebreaker, she was running out of time and putting the rest of her high-stakes presentation at risk.

If you find yourself in this situation, mentally table your opening and move on. Chances are, the ideal opening will emerge as you develop the rest of your message. You might also try asking a question or quoting a startling statistic to grab listeners’ attention right from the start.

What’s the common cure to avoid falling victim to these three overthinking traps? Remembering it is never about you – it is always about the audience. By getting out of your own head and returning the focus to where it belongs – your listeners – you’re guaranteed to stop overthinking and start moving toward a cohesive, effective presentation that will deliver the business results you want.

Author's Bio: 

A strategic communication advisor, Stephanie Scotti works with people to prepare and delivery high stakes presentations when they have to win. Drawing on her 25 years of coaching experience and 8 years of teaching presentation skills for Duke University, Stephanie understands what it takes to transform information into knowledge and knowledge into action that achieves results.

Stephanie has provided presentation coaching to over 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, the highest levels of government officials, and international business executives.

An active member of National Speakers Association and an award-winning leadership professional, she also volunteers as a speaker or communications coach for non-profits such as the Red Cross and the Governing Institute of New Jersey. Stephanie holds a Bachelor’s in Speech Communications & Education and a Master’s in Organizational Communications & Business.