Chance favours the prepared


I like to consult with wise people in the hope that some wisdom will rub off on me. One such wise person (whom I will call ‘the sage’ from now on) advised me to stop giving excuses for my failure. The failure in question was a particularly bad presentation I gave, where my work was shredded to pieces in front of dozens of postgraduate students and a couple of professors. For this year, that occasion still remains my most embarrassing moment, though my driving debacle could easily be worse.

Anyhow, I went to the sage hoping to find pity and to be consoled that the presentation was not as bad as I thought. Instead, the sage told me that my sob stories were not credible anymore. In fact, this sage I speak of is often quite brutally honest with me. Another time she told me, ‘Lorraine, that joke is not funny anymore!’ after I had insisted on my usual stereotype jokes over dinner.

An aside: I have noted that only Kenyans laugh at these stereotype jokes and I don’t mean that to be another stereotype! By the way, the sage speaks very gently so please read some kindness into her chiding.

Back to my poor presentation: as advised, I stopped whining and started preparing. So, for my most recent presentation, I recited my speech to myself, well over 64 times! Which, is probably overdoing it, but it worked! I also did a good job of my other presentation at the GIDEC conference in Botswana because, you guessed it, I was prepared.

After my talk at GIDEC 2013, people from all over, congratulating me on my research. Thankfully, I had my stinging failures written in this blog, just so that I don’t swell up with too much pride. But, I allowed myself to enjoy the glory of the moment a little bit while I made some very useful connections with accomplished scholars.

So there you have it: I may not be blessed with the gift of eloquence but I sure can make up for it. Which I suppose is fair given that I have to do almost nothing to look so beautiful. You may wonder though how I never improved my presentation skills after six years of lecturing. Well, I also thought I was good and that is why I never bothered to prepare much before. 

It is to my dismay that I discovered how different audiences require different delivery styles: lecturing a bunch of undergraduate students in Kenya is not the same as presenting to a hoard of postgraduates and professors in Stellenbosch or a crowd of international delegates at a conference. 

But it should not be that different! These are all just people I am speaking to after all. I also would like to thank the venerable sage for the tough love. I need it from time to time.

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