How to get lucky in your next presentation?

It was Samuel Goldwyn, of the movie company MGM, who said “The harder I work, the luckier I get”.   So how does one get lucky with presentations?  I often think of a presentation as living on a timeline.  There are things to do before the presentation, things to do during and things to do after that set us up for luck, for success.  These are some things we do.

In our ‘before phase’ we spend a lot of time thinking about the audience – who are they, what are they thinking etc. and then establishing our 3 key messages. This is before we have even opened up PowerPoint. This sounds really straightforward so far.  No surprises.  Once we have our audience and content right we then practice.  This comes as a real surprise to most people including some of our clients. The famous golfer Gary Player said something similar to Goldwyn’s quote, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”.  There is simply no escaping the hard yards; it’s practice, practice and more practice.  Everyone has his or her favorite way of practising.  Mine is to record myself into my phone and hear it back, or loud in the car.  People are afraid they will seem too contrived if they practice.  Believe me you won’t, as it’s your material, you will own it.  I rather take the risk of seeming too polished than coming across as poorly prepared.

Our mentor Peter Cook says right on the day the most important thing is your mindset.  Do you see the presentation as a bore, something you have to do, or do you want to give it your best shot? On ‘The Voice’ channel 9’s reality TV show, Seal gave each of his team members a folded sheet of paper to prepare them for their battle ahead.  When they opened it, the paper simply said ‘There is nothing else there”.  He wanted them to approach this as if there was nothing else there.  Imagine approaching your next presentation with this mindset.

And finally the ‘After phase’.  Spending a minute or two evaluating how you went.  You can ask a trusted advisor in the audience and read the twitter feed.  Always ask yourself what you would keep and what you would do differently.  Evaluation is a dish best served hot!

All of this sounds simple but it’s having the discipline to do it every time for every presentation.  Way back in the first century, Seneca, a Roman philosopher who seems like a really cool guy nailed it when he said ‘Luck is where preparation meets opportunity’.  So see every presentation as an opportunity to shine and prepare like mad to get there.

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  • Gabrielle Dolan

    Thanks Avi. Whether your topic will be well received is a common cause of anxiety. During our workshops we take people through a process of helping them really understand their audience which often results in changes to their messages.

    You need to do some thorough analysis of your audience. What will they be thinking, what will they be feeling, how will they see the situation, what are some of their concerns?, etc.

    While not a 100% guarantee the more you can understand your audience the greater the chance your messages will be well received.

    Hope that helps.


  • Avi

    Hi Ladies thank you for this. I often find myself ‘worried’ whether my topic will be well received and results in me getting ‘anxious’. Any tips around how this can be better managed please? 🙂

  • Olivia Davis

    Thanks Gabriel and Yamini
    You have inspired me to try this approach with my own upcoming presentation – especially the practice into the phone.

    • Yamini Naidu

      Hi Olivia
      Thanks, that is great feedback. It is also my favourite way of practising recording into my phone and then hearing it back. Don’t baulk when you first hear it back though, as nothing prepares us for hearing the sound of our voice back! Our voice does sound different when it’s on our head than when it’s played back to us! All the best with adopting this strategy and let us know how you go.

  • Shaheen Maniar

    You guys sure are so good with your words!! You make it all sound so easy. This was a lovely way of explaining the importance of preparations.

    • Yamini Naidu

      Thanks so much Shaheen. We are often told so and so is a natural presenter and we ask them they always say “hell no, I practice like mad!’ or words to that effect. So just wanted to lay to rest the myth that the people who are great at presenting don’t practice. Also the power of practice, the more we practice the better we can all get, I love the possibility of that. Best Wishes Yamini

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