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Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face

Womenlines takes pleasure to share about Neha Dhingra Saraf, Head of Business Development APAC in Singapore, as a guest writer. She is sharing a very interesting article highlighting from her real-life experience that if you don’t allow emotions to take over the mind under challenging circumstances, things can really turn out to be ok –

Someone once told me that the minute you think of a backup plan, you admit that plan A is not going to work. We had an interesting long conversation where we agreed to disagree.

I was recently given an opportunity to deliver a presentation on social selling to a room full of forty senior executives from across the world. I was excited and prepared for the session.

Plan A

Present the beautiful deck and deliver a 1-hour session. Prepared for it well in advance and was confident that it will go well.


The night before the session I was told I only had 30 minutes and the presentation would start at 8:30 am, fairly significant changes to happen at short notice for an important senior leadership session. The more challenging part, however, was that I was asked to do something I had never done before – deliver a TED-talk style talk without slides!

Plan B

It was challenging to cover the same content in half the time but I had the whole night (with lots of coffee) to prepare. All that was need to be done was tweak the presentation, rehearse again, think of props to use in absence of slides and wake up super early after a long day and a long night. Sounds fun? Read on.

Dinner ended around 11 pm and by midnight I was halfway through BUT dozed off on my laptop soon after. Not being a morning person, woke up early to prepare (Thanks to my tired brain having the foresight to set an alarm for the next day). I said to myself – All is well, don’t panic. I rehearsed the whole thing and was clear on the action plan. Things still appeared to be somewhat under control.

Next morning from 7:30 – 8 am there was a team fitness session in the same room so I went to the venue well before that and noted my points on the whiteboards. There was another gentleman in the room who was supposed to present after me and hence I had to politely request him to not use the three boards that I put my notes on. We smiled and nodded at each other. After the session at 8 am, I rushed to my room, quickly took a shower and came back at 8:20.


Another twist

To my horror, all the whiteboards had been wiped clean!

With 5 minutes to the presentation and no visible talking points, I had two options – to be angry with the gentleman and panic OR relax, gather my thoughts and improvise.

Plan C

I chose the second option, took three deep breaths, downed two quick espresso shots and started at 8:30.

The session went well. I shared what happened with some of the colleagues over drinks later that night. Interestingly, the feedback was that they couldn’t spot any anxiety or nervousness during the session.

What to do when Murphy’s Law strikes?

Few things that helped me tackle the situation:

  • Fortune favours the prepared mind – Being very familiar with the topic, had already delivered similar sessions over a hundred times ranging from 30 minutes to a whole day.
  • Do it with passion or not at all – Being extremely passionate about social selling, the topic often comes up in conversations with colleagues, new hires, students and sometimes acquaintances. This helps provide diverse perspectives on the topic which actively promotes lateral thinking on the subject.
  • Don’t let fear tell you that it is protecting you. Fear is a liar! – At 8:25, the worst thing I could have done to myself was panic and cloud my judgment with fear. Being given an opportunity to present to senior leadership at an offsite with a packed agenda, rescheduling was also not an option. At that moment, I had nothing to lose except facing the challenge head-on.


Getting back after being hit is a choice. It takes courage and perseverance to get back up.


Like what you read? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments section, like or share the post and reach out to me in case you have any feedback. Follow me on TwitterLinkedInPinterestInstagram.

Neha was born and raised in India and now calls Singapore home. She leads a team of business development professionals across the Asia Pacific at Oracle. Neha designs and delivers workshops, virtual training, webinars and initiatives to educate sales professionals and small businesses on how to use social tools to engage via various social channels. Intertwined in this activity, she loves to travel, make friends, drink wine and collect and upcycle glass bottles – normally empty!

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