7 steps to beating presentation procrastination

Seven simple ideas to beat procrastination. Don’t read later. Read now!

by Peter Watts

Procrastination is putting off a task we don’t want to do today, so that it can become a task we want to do even less tomorrow. Creating the opportunity to speak in public for example.

Ask any accomplished presenter and they will say that the sure-fire way to becoming accomplished is to get out there and practice, as often as possible. Presentations seldom seek us out.  To win those opportunities we have to create them, and that’s often a task we feel we can safely shelve for another day.

The first step to beating procrastination is to recognize that WE are the only people standing in the way of making the future happen.

Once that step is taken, here is the plan for beating the procrastination cycle:

  • Break the challenge down into logical tasks; Task one, task two, task three, and so forth. Task one for example, might be creating a list of your possible opportunities to speak. Task two might be building a list of the people you need to contact. Create a road map of those steps, and set out on them one by one. Assign deadlines for when tasks will be accomplished.
  • Starting out on the task can feel like the hardest part. As the Chinese saying goes: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”  Take that first foot-step and you’ll find that the second becomes easier. Movement builds momentum.
  • Seek out a mentor, someone who understands your goals and would be willing to nudge and nag you towards success.
  • Schedule tasks for appropriate times of the day. For example, gathering materials or contact names might be something you can do in low-energy moments after lunch, while creative work is better done while you are fresh in the morning.
  • Set out the tools. I personally procrastinate about building PowerPoint presentations, but if a client wants me to supply one, then my first step is to simply open PowerPoint on my laptop. If I don’t do this, it’s amazing how many other things I’ll be able to find to do instead, such as checking email. Once PowerPoint is open though, I’ve started the task, and design time is more likely to follow.
  • Celebrate your successes along each step. Rewards are a great way to get yourself doing something you don’t want to do. What can you treat yourself to as a reward for getting each task done?

Procrastination is the force that holds us back. Beat procrastination, and wonderful things are free to happen.

Puncturing Perfectionism

by Peter Watts

Take a look at the following quote from Nandan Nilekani, head of the software company Infosys. He’s speaking in a 2008 interview for New Yorker magazine about the author Thomas Friedman:

“What I learned from Tom is speed……. I realised, when you have a story to tell you can’t dither over it for years and years – you’re going to be obsolete. That’s why I refer to him as an intellectual entrepreneur: the entrepreneur succeeds because they get an idea and then they move faster than the rest, they bring the product to market.”

When we have something to say, it is born of “Now”. We might have just come up with the solution to a business problem, or a winning sales pitch, or have something important to say on a community matter. Nilekani is pointing out that these ideas are best served fresh.

Delay and they go past their sell-by or get sold by someone else.

So why do many of us often hesitate when given the chance to speak in public?

The reason is often perfectionism. The capable speaker allows themselves to slip into being the panicky perfectionist. We procrastinate, we second-guess ourselves, we despair about every getting everything right, and before we know it, the moment to speak has been lost.

Each time this happens, a divot of hesitation lands in our psyche. Over time these divots grow from molehill to mountain. As each subsequent chance to speak arises, we face a growing divot-mound of past hesitations. Falter again and yet another muddy clod will fly through the air to join the others.

Woody Allen is reputed to have said:

“80% of success is in just showing up.”

This is nowhere truer than of public speaking. Becoming an effective public speaker is a journey 10% learning and 90% practical experience.

Perfectionism halts that journey before it’s even begun.

Next time you have something to say, try to get on up and say it!  It might not initially feel natural or comfortable, but know that next time it will be easier, and every time after that become easier still. Each time you find your voice you smack one of those divots back out onto the fairway where it belongs.

While preparation is good, over-prepping to the point of panic is not.

Sometimes we need to take on the challenge and just do it!

For more ideas on how to control presentation nerves, try the following Presenters’s Blog posts:

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