The higher you soar in your career, the more you’ll find that big moments play a critical part in your progression.

What you say and how you say it at such times is often crucial to what happens for you next – for better or for worse.

These big moments can include:

* Job interviews and career appraisals

* Presentations to vital audiences – inside and outside your organisation

* Times when you’re cross-examined by members of the board 

* Media interviews

* Being grilled by a public inquiry 

* Needing to utter some words of acceptance when you win that major award.

In fact, speaking when you win that award can be particularly daunting – especially if it’s something as high profile as a “BAFTA” (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award and millions are watching on TV.




There’s one key thing that separates those who do well with their big moment challenges and those who don’t.

It’s effective preparation.

This can even include what you choose to wear for your big moment in the spotlight – ideally something that reflects the real you.

At this year’s BAFTA Awards night, the exuberant host Graham Norton managed that – though his spotty tastes may not necessarily suit you!


And when it comes to what you say in such spotlight moments, whoever came up with the line “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” was right.


Being prepared for whatever can be thrown at you is so much more effective than the opposite – just saying whatever pops into your head at the time!

Here’s a video – recorded amidst the glorious springtime sunshine in the English county of Hertfordshire – to help encourage you to prepare for whatever can hit you or your organisation.




The real question for most people is not so much whether to prepare, it’s HOW to prepare.

Often it’s a matter of preparing quickly under time pressure.



One of the things we sometimes do within communications-training sessions is to practice preparing under time constraints.

Until you’ve practiced it effectively, figuring out how to prepare can be such a challenging prospect that you feel as though you need prayer.



So here’s a method of rapid preparation which is appropriately called the “AMEN” formula.

This enables you to focus on what you need to work through in advance – even if it’s just a little bit before your big moment.

This is what AMEN stands for:

A = Audience. Whether you’re preparing for a one-to-one conversation or a large gathering, always focus your preparations on what audience members require and what you can do to help them.

If you don’t know the composition or thinking of your audience then make some inquiries.

I send out “pre-session forms” to event organisers in order to get a sample of participants’ views ahead of the occasion.

M = Messages. Every big communication moment is an opportunity to get across one or more messages. So work out in advance your headline message – and any additional messages you wish to convey.

Ideally sum up each message in a single positive sentence such as: “The key to our future growth will be to sell more of our products globally”. 

E = Examples. Select illustrations – including “real life” stories, pertinent statistics or other examples that back up each of your messages. In this way you can paint the right pictures in the minds of your listeners.

N = Negatives. Write down all the negative questions that you need to consider. Don’t hold back here. Phrase the negative questions in the most ferocious way you can. Consider the best thing you can say regarding each negative.

If you prepare for the harshest conditions, when it comes to the reality of the big moment it will probably be easier than what you prepared for – and you should perform all the better as a result.

In communications-boosting training sessions you can be guided through each element of the AMEN formula in relation to whatever challenges you face.

And in the sessions you can be tested out on what you prepare, to ensure that you’re ready for whatever is thrown at you in that big moment.

Details about communications-boosting sessions for individuals are here:

Information about programmes for teams is here:



As far as possible, I seek to enable those I train to have their big moments without any preparation notes on display.

However, it’s often handy to have your key AMEN points written on a small card somewhere on you – so you can glance at it just beforehand if you need a reminder.

 But please keep it out of public sight if you can – as you don’t want to seem dependent on it.

The exception to this is if you have the acting talent and on-stage charm that Olivia Colman demonstrated when accepting her Leading Actress BAFTA Award.

She managed to flourish her notes in the spotlight in a way that got a series of laughs as she did.



Even if she didn’t know in advance that she was going to win, for all her dizziness on stage, Olivia Colman clearly had done the right thing and been (at least partially) prepared for her big moment.

If you don’t quite have Olivia Colman’s performance talents, and you’d like some help preparing for your next big moment, do get in touch.

And there’s still time to prepare if you’re in with a chance of having to make an acceptance speech after this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

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