Presentation Success x SUP Adventures: 5 Crossover Lessons

Being a self-professed presentation geek, I admit that my thoughts on the topic are often floating about in my mind. Presentation success as far as helping others find it, secure it and ensure it is my passion.

I enjoy the challenge of trying to reach people in different ways through the sharing of stories and off-beat metaphors. Now, If that type of approach jives with you, you’re in luck because I’ve got five unique takes on two seemingly opposing topics–SUP (stand up paddle) and presentation.

SUP → Stand Up Paddle

SUP x Presentation Success

To start, I must let it be known that I am one of the thousands of people who have recently taken up this relatively new hobby on the water. I find it offers a challenge of the mind and spirit. It is also not without its dangers and excitement too.

My experiences

Less than two years ago, I purchased a board and proceeded to drop into rivers, lakes, ponds, and oceans in Japan and Canada. It has been a true adventure. I have come across sting-rays, small sharks, turtles, snakes, giant jellyfish, bald eagles, hawks, cats, dogs and a host of other expected and unexpected surprises. (For an entertaining story, ask me about CPR and wildlife sometime.)

In that time, I paddled through still, choppy and even stormy waters. All the while, I have had time to reflect on many things including my self-professed obsession with presentations. 

I have discovered 5 crossover lessons that my time on the water has taught me about how to attain presentation success. I’d love to share them with you today because I am certain they’ll help anybody looking to grow into a world-class presenter.

(1) Manage Fear

There are several things that people could fear or presently fear of being out on a lake or ocean. Think wildlife, waves, powerful currents, etc.

My story

For me personally, seeing a shark while paddling about took me back. Not that this shark was large, in fact, it was probably a baby. I have surfed for many years and have spent a lot of time in oceans as well. Of course, I am not naive to this particular risk.  However, actually seeing one for the first time made the truth of the matter so much more real.

This lead me to research local shark attack statistics in my area. I assumed that seeing statistical data would calm my mind. I did find what I was looking for in that the odds of an unprovoked attack are so minimal. However, I also discovered that of the fatal attacks in Japanese waters, most took place in the inland sea where I tend to go.

To add, I also discovered that the culprit in most cases were great whites which I had NO IDEA were present in Japanese waters.

So my point here is that despite years of being in the water and experiencing no sense of worry pertaining to sharks, I must admit that now, whenever I paddle alone, I am cognizant of that risk and sometimes battle with nerves associated with it. 

My realization

I love the water and all of the enjoyment it brings me, however, I do need to manage this relatively new anxiety. Otherwise, it could easily kill this burgeoning hobby of mine. In essence, I have found myself in need of my own anxiety management tips and tricks at times!  

The crossover into presentations

SUP x Presentation Success

Presentations I find are much the same. People are constantly battling with the unknown in this realm too. Concerns can range from how they will be received, to whether they can execute without failing, right on through to whether they will be laughed at and/or have their ideas easily dismissed. There are so many worries. Not to mention new anxieties can arise seemingly out of nowhere.

Much like fretting over matters related to being on the water, the management of speaking anxieties is essential. For speaking, having control over your nerves means giving you and your ideas a chance to flourish and resonate with others. The latter, of course, is highly correlated with this notion of presentation success. 

The big takeaway

Find solutions that empower you and allow you to succeed versus falling prey to ideas and beliefs that will harm you and your ability to attain presentation success. For those who haven’t grabbed my ebook on managing speaking anxieties, I highly recommend you take advantage and swipe it here now! 

Panic to Presence Book

(2) Keep Moving Forward at all Costs

In being out on the water, or on stage, things have a way of not always going the way you envision. Sometimes that means your performance and results are achieved more easily than imagined. Other times the opposite can occur.


Waves get larger, currents pull in unexpected directions, the wind can pick up making things more challenging etc. 

When out on the water, if I give in to any of the above, I will invariably fail. That is why continuing to strive —at all costs–towards my goal is key. If I can commit to that mindset, I know that I will be better positioned to actually succeed in the end.

The crossover into presentations

The same goes for presentations. On some days it seems that our words seem to roll off the tongue a little more smoothly and easily. Certain audiences provide a spark which makes the whole presentation experience go that much better.

However, other times, fellow speakers run over time and you are left with less time than you planned for. Tech problems arise, lines are momentarily forgotten. Things happen that make for more challenging presentations.

The goal in both easy and challenging situations is to keep moving forward.

When presentation success is not attained, most times, the reason is not as flukey as it seems. More times than not, it is linked to a break in effort.

Rehearsal time is squeezed out of a schedule, final technical checks are forgotten, etc.

People who experience such failure often find themselves at the mercy of currents and blowing winds within their own lives such as their jobs or other personal responsibilities which re-direct them away from the time and commitment needed to achieve presentation success.

The big takeaway

To succeed on the stage and on the water, you’ve got to continue to move forward. Careful planning and commitment is key.

(3) Notice the beauty of the moment

I often like to set challenges of time or distance while gliding along on the water. Such goal-setting practices exercises are worthwhile, however, I also know that my satisfaction cannot be solely tied to my own personal achievements.  

One of the reasons I love SUP is the beauty of being on the water. Whether that be sunsets, sunrises, scenic views etc. I feel as though I am constantly feeding myself with ample amounts of unadulterated good vibes.

Taking it all in as I move along makes it all worthwhile. The wonder of what I will encounter next helps to deliver this sense of joy. At times, it is easy to forget about what else is going on around you and zero in on oneself only.

That is a mistake.

The crossover into presentations

Presentation success relies on the same principle. As a presenter, focussing on yourself and your end goal exclusively is counterproductive. For if you do, you may find the results you produce will be less than desirable.

Classic presentation advice states that in order to succeed, presenters must not forget to focus on the audience with questions like, “What are their needs? How can I better please them?” Taking the time to look around and imagine how your advice or information will benefit others is essential.

Perhaps your information sparks a new breakthrough for someone or gives new know-how that will somehow create a positive impact in some tangible way.

This distinction is essential.

The big takeaway

Looking around and choosing to focus on things outside of yourself exclusively is key to presentation success.

(4) Have a plan

Almost always I have a plan of where I aim to go whenever I get out on the water. Whether that is a certain distance or particular location, I know the goal in advance and I aim to fulfill it by making my way towards it.

Plans are great because they make things clear pertaining to what needs to be achieved each step of the way.

They can also help account for potential dangers as well as layout a level of preparation required to execute.

Ultimately, plans if drawn up well, will allow you to safely arrive at your destination when out on the water.  

The crossover into presentations

The crossover for presentations is the exact same. There needs to be a plan to ensure that your desired results have a shot of succeeding. Your talk will not move your listeners towards action (new thought, new knowledge, some sort of result) without having defined plans to achieve those goals. 

Having a structured outline or script which has been vetted for applicability and logic is essential. Add in a plan to rehearse the content and check that you have all of the necessary equipment in place (computers, slides, adapters etc.) are also vital components to your overall presentation success.

Great presentations that resonate and lead to action do not magically evolve. They are structured processes that people follow to ensure that desired results follow.

The big takeaway

Like most things, presentation success requires a degree of careful planning to achieve results.  

(5)  Know the waters

Whenever I venture into the water I am pretty careful to check the weather in advance, wind, tides and even the amount of traffic on the water. Essentially, I like to know the usual conditions of where I’ll be dropping into as well as what I could expect on that particular day.

The reasons for doing so are obvious. The more I know, the more prepared I am for any potential challenges I may suddenly face. In skipping this step, I am putting myself at peril. Being one or two kilometers offshore and having a sudden storm whip up would be a disaster.

SUP x Presentation Success

The crossover into presentations

Again, the same principle applies to the world of speaking. Covering your bases in advance as far as what is expected for your talk is critical to your success. You need to know the basic parameters.


Audiences will have expectations. Listening to someone speak takes time away from other things that busy professionals could be doing. The content had better be value-laden and useful.

Organizers of conferences will have things they’d like speakers to adhere to (contextually relevant topic matter, time parameters being adhered to etc.).

Don’t overlook

Also, matters of technicality like slides, software, adapters, stage design, audio, video capabilities all need to be readied and prepared in advance to ensure that problems with those matters do not derail a presentation before it has a chance to begin.

Therefore, it is paramount that speakers are on top of these issues in advance. If speakers ignore such things, they risk putting themselves and their messages at risk of complete failure.

The big takeaway

Know the parameters of your talk; that is, what you need to succeed. Secondly, being aware of what the venue requires or offers is just as important. Finally, knowing what you are walking into relating to expectations from audiences and organizers is equally important.

Final Thoughts

SUP and presentations are very different types of activities. That is clear. However, the principles for success in both are not entirely different. Both require a certain level of emotional control, diligence relating to planning, preparation and goal setting. Both can be utterly rewarding too!

If SUP is not your thing

I would venture that you could probably replace SUP for something else and still be able to draw some parallels between what it takes to succeed in presenting and whatever alternate activity you have chosen. The keys to success in most endeavors can usually be traced back to certain core values a person embodies and leverages to increase the odds of achievement.

10-Second Reflection Exercise 

So have a think about what you read today. How well do you do these things? Are you consistent in your approach or do you find yourself doing things half-heartedly? Becoming a world-class speaker and experiencing presentation success is not incredibly difficult from a technical standpoint. However, it can be a challenge from a consistency in approach perspective.

As always, I would love to hear how you are doing! You can reach out by finding and following us on these platforms:

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