Four tips to Getting Unstuck During a Presentation

August 15th, 2019

Photo by Aubrey Rose Odom on Unsplash

Do you ever get STUCK in the process of creating a presentation or a talk? 

STUCK comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes in all times and places. 

It comes before you even begin your talk and shows up sounding something like “I’ll start speaking NEXT YEAR” and you just can’t quite get yourself to start THIS year. 

It comes in the middle, after the enthusiasm of beginning has worn off, and you sit in the middle of your room surrounded by piles of sticky notes, not knowing how to make any sense of all the ideas. 

It comes after edit # 5,642, when no matter how hard you try you just can’t take that perfectionist hat off, so you do another edit.

It comes at the end, when you’re pretty sure you’re ready to roll, but you get up on your feet to rehearse it and you think “THIS IS ALL WRONG!” and you convince yourself you have to scrap the whole thing and start from scratch. 

It comes when you’ve rehearsed it for the gazillionth time and you hate the talk so much you don’t want to hear another word come out of your mouth. 

It comes after you nail a brilliant talk and you think “That was the one and only brilliant thing I’ll ever say. There’s nothing left inside me. I have no more stories to tell.” So you hide under the covers for the rest of your life as your glory slowly fades out there in the world. 

I confess I’ve been in each one of  those places. I know it’s easy to throw in the towel and walk away when stuckness reigns. But the truth is, that stuck place could turn out to be the doorway to your next layer of genius that hasn’t revealed itself yet.

Here are a few ideas for getting unstuck: 

ONE: Shake the stuck place loose by walking. 

A private client who was creating a TEDx talk recently came to me and said he was hitting a wall. He’d started off strong, but hit some muck mid-process. 

So we took a walk!  We spent the entire session on our feet walking by the creek. 

There’s a lot to be said for a white board to organize ideas, but he had aha’s he wouldn’t have had if we’d be inside sitting in my office getting friendly with the dry-erase markers. 

We came back to the white board later, but the walk shook the stuck place loose, and what he didn’t know he already knew revealed itself.  

TWO: Make a list

One morning I was dragging my feet to get my day started. I found myself wanting to do anything but make  my daily morning list of the top 3 gotta-get-done-today items. 

So I started making lists. Here’s the list of lists I made: 

A list of talk titles
A list of big ideas
A list of opening lines for my keynote
A list of stages I want to speak on
A list of Johanna-ism’s 
A list of customers who have inspired me
A list of programs I want to create
A list of story starters 
A list of themes for Speaker’s Playground 
A list of mentors who have impacted my business 
A list of people I want to reach out to who are a little bit scary to reach out to 
A list of moments from my life that I want to turn into stories
A list of limiting beliefs that get caught in the filter of my mind
A list of affirmations that remind me my work makes a difference

The list of lists got my brain oiled up and excited about the work I get to do. Not only did it juice my creativity in the moment, but it helped me hunker down and focus on the projects of the day. 

I’ve started in on a few of these lists and each one presents new ideas I hadn’t had before. 

Wherever you are in your talk-creating process, make a list of what could possibly come next. Be ridiculous. Be wild. You might surprise yourself! 

THREE: Put a stake in the ground. 

You can’t correct course standing still. Sometimes you just have to put a stake in teh ground and move forward. No matter how imperfect it is. 

In fact, the imperfecter the better.

If you start to get used to imperfect, the dragon of perfectionism will have much less power over you. You’ll start to see that putting out imperfect ideas makes way for the brilliant ones. 

So put an idea out there. Make a decision. Let your idea be NOT Amazing. Just let the idea breathe the light of day. 

Action begets action. 

You can always move the stake down the line, but putting a stake in the ground will help you get out of STUCK and into ACTION. 


There’s nothing like play to unhook rigidity from its mighty grip. 

STUCK is RIGID. When something is stuck, it doesn’t move. Play usually involves moving, which makes play a powerful antidote to rigid. 

With play you get to let go of preciousness, let go of some of the stakes that are locking you down. You get to access the full expressive capabilities of your body and your voice, and do something weird and over-the-top in the spirit of creating new pathways for getting unstuck. 

At the Speaker’s Playground we play a lot. I love getting to watch people crack open in ways they never imagined possible, and then apply that new possibility to the place that was previously STUCK. 

Play invites surprise and delight, which gives you fresh eyes for looking at an old stuck place. 


So if you find yourself STUCK in any phase of your talk-crafting process, try one of the above strategies for getting unstuck, and see what happens! 

Do something.  Do anything to move away from stuck and towards action. 

Energy creates more energy. Words make way for more words. Ideas make way for more ideas. 

But most importantly, GET CURIOUS. 

Whatever you try, stay curious. Rather than making stuck a problem, get curious about it. 

What does stuck feel like? Where does it live in your body? How is it serving you? 

Curiosity is your best teacher. Your stuckness can be the doorway to your next big idea if you let it! 

I’d love to hear what gets YOU unstuck.  

One response to “Four tips to Getting Unstuck During a Presentation”

  1. This had perfect timing!! Thank you SO much! I’ve been feeling stuck for sure but just reading this I feel jazzed to get some dates on the books!
    I’m up for an EVVY book award tonight and I believe I get to say something if I win. I’m considering it my first talk! Lol!
    Thank you for all your guidance and inspiration!

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