“Well, yes, the talk was rough. I needed all those notes, and I had to read from them because I thought of a much better thing to talk about at the last minute and changed the whole presentation. I didn’t have time to practice the new material.”
No, no, no, no, NO! Naughty speaker! Twenty points from Gryffindor!
This is Shiny Topic Syndrome. It is a wretched thing that happens when lurking insecurity about the thing we are creating meets with the attention-grabbing fireworks of a novel idea.
That talk you were originally working on seems so pedestrian after wrestling with it for a couple weeks that you become convinced that it can’t be any good. The Lizard Brain rears up and whispers to you that the talk is boring, you’re boring, and the people listening to you will be bored. It asks why you are bothering to give it, tells you all sorts of dreadful outcomes, and tries to convince you to give up.
Then suddenly – BOOM! Your genius shows up and an incredible idea blazes a trail across your eyes. This is the talk you must give! This needs, nay, must be addressed! Your Lizard Brain has already convinced you that your old presentation is garbage – why would you continue work on it? So you scrap your previous presentation and begin frantically creating this new one, feeling wonderfully fired up.
If this thought occurs to you early in the creation process, then fine. Knock yourself out if, and only if, you have enough time to make a presentation that will be as polished and finished as the one you were going to give in the first place.
But if this is an eleventh hour idea, watch out. If you tell yourself that the brilliance of this idea will overshadow the lack of preparation, the scattered train of thought, and the shoddy delivery, than you can be absolutely certain that you are dealing with Shiny Topic Syndrome. This is not a new stage of brilliance; this is fear rearing its head while wearing a clever disguise. This is mistaking familiarity with the notion that because something is no longer super exciting or novel to you that it won’t be new or exciting to anyone else. This is a push point, one of the hard parts of doing detailed work and crafting something with care and attention.
The practice and polish you were putting into the original presentation is critical for your work and for your audience. That is the dull, grinding work that ensures you give them something of high value and that you present it with the deftness they need to be able to grasp and absorb your information. It might not be as sparkly to you as the new Shiny Topic, but that is mostly due to the stage of work that you are presently at.
The idea that flashed into your brain may be brilliant. That’s great – write it down before it runs away, and turn it into your next presentation. But don’t abandon your original topic. Don’t let the combined intoxication of novelty and fear allow you to present second-rate work. Do not dash off a half-baked talk, give a dreadful delivery, and then tell me that you just didn’t have time to refine and polish. Don’t say that the new topic was just so much better that you had to do it instead of going ahead with your planned, prepared talk. I won’t buy it, and neither will your audience.