3 tips to avoid going off on tangents


As a younger lawyer, I often used to go off on tangents, both in presentations and in conversations. I still have to watch myself now to make sure I stay focused and on topic.

I have clients who come to me because their presentations don’t flow and careen all over the place. When clients go off on tangents, they often lose sight of the purpose of their presentations. I provide tools to help my clients overcome that problem.

These tips will help you stay focused and not go off on tangents.

Tip 1 – Prepare your presentation
One likely cause of going off on tangents is attempting to wing a presentation with little preparation or practice. You need to know how long you have and edit and practise to make sure your content fits within the time available, with some time to spare. Figure out an organization for your presentation that you can put your key information into.

Tip 2 – Organize your presentation
While you are preparing your presentation, think about an organizational structure to use. You may think about “say what you will say – say it – say what you said”. That is fine as far as it goes but won’t lead to a memorable presentation. My five-step structure for an informative presentation has you think about what to do to get your audience’s attention, stimulate their desire to know more, outline what’s to come, share your key information in a way that is memorable and finish with a call to action, ideally tied back to your opening.

The first thing to consider is what your audience needs to know. The purpose of your presentation is not to demonstrate how much you know. It is to provide valuable information to your audience.

Once you have just the key information identified, divide that into 3 big buckets. Your audience will remember 3, in a way they are unlikely to remember 4 or more, which is just a list. If you have more content, you can subdivide under the 3 main buckets.

As you organize your presentation, remember the importance of using stories in an informative presentation. Stories help you get your audience’s attention, stimulate their desire to know more, and makes your key information memorable. Check out my blog posts on stories in this roundup blog post.

Tip 3 – Practise your presentation
Once you have your presentation organized, you need to practice your presentation until it is inside you. You want to be able to converse with your audience and get all your key information across. Does that mean you should memorize your presentation? No, It does not. Check out my blog post on “How do I Memorize my Presentation?” for tips on what to do instead.

Just remember

  • Prepare your presentation to fit within the time allotted,
  • Organize your presentation to get your key information across in a way that is memorable and engaging
  • Practise, practise, practise!

Need help?
Are you someone who often goes off on tangents during your presentation? Do you need help to stop doing that? Would you like to know where going off on tangents shows up in the 10 things that we will discuss at an AMP Up Session to make your informative presentations memorable and engaging. If so, book a free 45-minute AMP UP Session here.