Don’t make the same mistakes I made

I puffed out my chest, fixed my hair and took to the stage. What followed next was a stirring speech that had style, substance, and impact. The audience was engaged and I received a standing ovation once it was over. Except in reality NONE of that happened. Instead, the total opposite occurred. 

Although my SCA Selection Day seems like a lifetime ago and despite having what feels like non-existent memory, I remember the presentation part of my Selection Day very well. In fact, I’m a little scarred by it. This is because it was a complete disaster. 

Naturally, I was a bundle of nerves. However, this was worsened by a lack of preparation and poor planning. Instead of learning the script off by heart, I ended up reading from the screen. However, I stupidly kept my script and presentation on the same Google Document. This rookie error meant that my audience could see my script and (mildly) amusing gags. It also resulted in me having to repeatedly scroll up and down the document to show my presentation and then read the script. Shambolic. 

Sidenote: on reflection, spending the 3 days before the presentation on holiday consuming copious amounts of alcohol and lazing around in the sun wasn’t effective Selection Day preparation. 

So, with that in mind, here are my top tips to help you prepare for that strange day:

  1. Familiarise yourself with the platform you’ll be using on the day. I used Teams at my workplace which meant that I was unaccustomed to using Zoom. If Zoom isn’t your thing, get to know it like the back of your hand.
  2. If you’re using a script, have it on a separate document and NOT on the document you share.
  3. If you can, learn your damn script off by heart. 
  4. Practice! Practice the presentation and make sure you can deliver it within the time allocated.
  5. Create or build something unconventional, original and memorable. The mentors will know if you’re not being your authentic self.
  6. Get a solid night’s sleep the night before. Beauty sleep is essential. Plus Selection Day is a long and peculiar day! 
  7. If you’re a fidget like me, hold a pen in your hand to help you stop fidgeting.  
  8. Maintain good eye contact when speaking to your audience. Someone recently told me about the “Rule of Three” when presenting. This involves picking three people within the audience to focus on – one in the middle, one on the right, and one on the left.
  9. It’s likely that you’ll be nervous and talking faster than normal. If this occurs, try to talk slower and remember to breathe while talking to avoid running out of breath.
  10. Less is more. Keep words on a slide to a minimum unless they’re an absolute necessity. 

I’m sure you’ve heard and read a ton of cliche quotes underlining the importance of thorough preparation, so I won’t bore you anymore. But seriously, make sure you prepare properly. And in the words of Roger Sterling, “be slick, be glib and be you.” 

Break a leg!


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