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When #presenting be prepared for unexpected problems – lesson from #Rugby

When you present you want to be prepared to handle any problems that pop up unexpectedly – for example: equipment problems, interruptions, and delays.

The best way to be prepared is to have a plan where people know what to do – and to practise implementing that plan.

When I help people prepare for big business presentations – I get presenters to have a plan if something does go wrong. They may not have to use the plan – but it’s good to be prepared.

We can all learn a lot from the Wallabies recent Bledisloe Cup victory.

Yes, I’m a bit of a “rugby nerd” – but many of my Australian and Kiwi and South African and Brit clients seem to enjoy rugby comparisons when I help them improve their presentations.

Appreciators of rugby seem to understand the importance of drills and “moves” and preparation.

The recent Bledisloe Cup match demonstrated how to handle an unscheduled interruption – in this case the injury of AAC – Adam Ashley-Cooper.

AAC injury

Usually you can anticipate delays when there’s a conversion or penalty kick or when teams get in position for a lineout.

Commentator Gordon Bray usually has snippets of player info to fill the time. He knows roughly how long he will have to fill.

However, injuries can happen suddenly and you don’t know how much time you’ll have to fill.

After the AAC injury, the commentary team seemed to roll into a well co-ordinated “play”.

1. Gordon calmly threw to a commercial break which “bought them” 30 seconds.
2. When they came back, AAC was still getting medical attention – so the commentators started to contribute different commentary.
3. Then when AAC was back on his feet – the normal commentary resumed.

The coverage was smooth. There was no “dead air”.

So what can you do if you run into problems during a presentation? You can hardly throw to a commercial break.

TB training group

For big, high-stakes business presentation, I encourage businesses to take a “support player”.

Let’s just say the presentation runs into equipment problems.

We practise “a move” where the main presenter hands over to the support player to talk about some relevant part of the presentation – while the main presenter smoothly attends to the technical problem. It may be for just 2 minutes. They step in and confidently add relevant material.

They should be able to add relevant material without the need for the presentation equipment. Basically, the support player is providing space for the main presenter to get back under control – but in a relevant (not time-wasting) way.

It’s also important that the main presenter stays calm and composed when “throwing” to the support presenter. The audience should get the impression that all is under control and going “as planned”. Composure comes with preparation and practise.

In my opinion, veteran commentator Gordon Bray is a fine example of composure – even under pressure.Gordon Bray 2015

Chances are, the support player will not get “a run” – but they are there just in case.

I encourage the support players (even if they don’t get a run) to be there to monitor reactions of the audience in the room. It’s even better when the support player can contribute a small part of the presentation or answer particular questions within their area of expertise.



If you are a business presenter OR sports person or sports official and you’d like to improve your presenting – I’d love to help. If you are a Rugby fan we will get on famously. If you are from a different sport and not a Rugby fan – I will do my best to use sporting examples YOU can enjoy and relate to.

In my journalism career, the most impressive sportspeople/ sports spokespeople I ever worked with were from Rugby Union and Swimming. Very professional communicators!


One comment on “When #presenting be prepared for unexpected problems – lesson from #Rugby

  1. efangelist
    April 7, 2017

    Reblogged this on efangelist and commented:

    An earlier post – still relevant! This time of year when the cooler weather starts, my mind turns to rugby.

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This entry was posted on August 10, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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