Posted by: George E Burney | November 8, 2013

Is It Possible To Overprepare?

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When it comes to research, probably not. The more you know about your subject matter, the better. You want to know much more about that subject than you can ever say in any one presentation. That reserve fund of knowledge, just waiting to be tapped if necessary, gives you the feeling of confidence, of mastery.

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

A beginning speaker may find this hard to believe, but when it comes to rehearsing a presentation, you can reach a point where it may be advantageous to “give it a rest.” Let’s discuss several reasons why this might occur.

We’ll start out with the assumption that the speaker is working from an outline, and will speak extemporaneously.

The Speaker Loses Interest

When you have gone over your material so many times that you are thoroughly sick of your presentation, you should back off. There is little to be gained by forcing yourself to rehearse it ad infinitum. Your speech will lose its freshness and will sound canned. Just read over it from time to time.

Someone may object by saying that once you’re in front of a live audience, the presence of the audience will enliven you and your speech, since you’ll be conversing with people. There’s some truth in that.

On the other hand, you will also have stated your points so many times and in so many different words while rehearsing, you’ll start to feel that you have exhausted all the possible ways of expressing those ideas. That won’t be literally true, but that’s how you’ll feel. No matter how you state those ideas, they will seem “old hat” to you.

The problem with reaching that stage is this: You’ll feel that because you’re tired of saying the same things over and over again, your audience will feel the same way. I know that’s not logical, but when you’re tired of saying something, you naturally feel that others are tired of hearing it, too.

In reality, they have never heard you present those ideas, so what you have to say may seem fresh and novel to your audience. Nevertheless, you’ll struggle to do your best in presenting because you’re no longer excited by either the information or your way of expressing it.

Accidentally Memorizing It

Another danger is this: Without meaning to, you may learn your speech by heart. If you do, it will lose freshness and spontaneity because eventually, with infinite practice, you’ll reach the point where express yourself the same way each time you rehearse it.

By then, you will have decided how you prefer to put things, and you won’t deviate much from those words. Without trying to, you will have  developed a manuscript discourse – not on paper, but in your mind. When you give it, it will sound canned and lifeless.

Then there’s the potential problem of actually giving it from memory, since you know it so well. You’ll naturally feel free to speak to your audience without bothering to consult your outline, until you forget what you should say next! That moment of piercing anxiety will be followed by a long, embarrassing pause while you frantically search your outline for the place where your memory failed you, to remind yourself of what you should say next.

So like most things, preparation (in the sense of rehearsing) can be overdone. You have to know when to take a break.

For a comprehensive discussion of public speaking, please see my eBook, How To Master Public Speaking, Quickly and Easily, available at For more information, click here:


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