Planning Makes Perfect

The Myth of Spontaneity

A young lawyer specializing in real estate law contacted my office for an emergency consultation. It was the very day before he was to appear on TV for a five-minute presentation. Not only was Jeff nervous, but also he knew there were going to be three other panelists, one of whom was highly critical of his position. We scheduled a meeting.

When I asked him to discuss what he intended to say, Jeff replied in a furtive manner, “Well, I don’t know exactly what I am going to say. You see, I want it to be spontaneous… when I get there and I hear the others I will know what I want to say. I don’t want to spoil the spontaneity of it all. I have my notes here, and I have to go over them with you.”

It took us two hours to figure out what it was that Jeff wanted to say in this five-minute presentation – two hours so that he would be on target, to the point, coming across as a professional who knew his business. We did the very best that we could, and his presentation went as well as it might have under the circumstances. However, it certainly would have made more sense if he had worked on this talk one week ahead of time, avoiding all of that misery and fright? Didn’t he deserve to use this opportunity to show himself off to his best advantage?

The Overnight Disaster

When people tell me they work best under pressure, I tell them that it is impossible to plan, write and rehearse a well-thought-out presentation one or two days before a scheduled appearance. A hurriedly assembled talk, with no time for rehearsals, is a big mistake, especially for people who have a problem with public speaking. That mistake is compounded by the fact that many people suffer from anticipatory anxiety, a severe form of distress, for days or even weeks before a presentation. It may take the form of sleepless nights, with constant worry and dread that the presentation will turn out to be a catastrophe.

As many studies have shown, anticipatory anxiety is usually associated with avoidance behavior. A person fearing a task will put off working on it until the last minute. As the deadline draws closer, your chances of coming up with a first-rate presentation grow dim and your anxiety and avoidance increases. A wonderful opportunity to show how smart and special you are is lost with a lackluster performance.

Rescue Remedy

The best way to overcome anticipatory anxiety is to get to work immediately. There is something about breaking down a task and making a detailed schedule that relieves anxiety as nothing else can.

In ‘The New TalkPower: A Panic Clinical for Public Speaking’, various charts and rehearsal schedules will help you plan, write, and rehearse your presentations. Copy them and use them each time you have to do a talk. There are also templates to show you exactly how to organize and edit the many words and ideas you are dealing with. The TalkPower game plan will prove invaluable for mapping out your basic organizational work in one or two pages. 

For more tips and instructions, please purchase "Talkpower: The mind-body way to speak without fear" or attend one of our upcoming Talkpower Workshops on September 17&18 or November 5&6 (if not satisfied, money back guaranteed). 

© 2000-2013 by Natalie H. Rogers