With the recent RIO Olympics still fresh in mind, you’ve no doubt been regaled by tales of athletes training to reach their peak performance on the track, on the field, or in the water. What you may not be so familiar with is the comparisons that can be drawn between athletic performance and corporate performance. More specifically, in the way you prepare to perform, whether that’s on the track or in the boardroom, bears striking resemblance to one another. In this post, we’ll look through the preparations you need to make in order to enhance your presentation skills and perform at your peak.
You need an expert coach
Remember, luck is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration; nobody gets to be the best at something without extensive preparation and practice, and nobody gets there without the assistance of qualified professionals pushing you to be the best. In sports you’d look to an experienced coach to take this role, to mentor you, to support you, and to keep you striving towards your goal. In presentation skills there’s no difference in the need for a professional coach, there’s just a few less push-ups (or is there?).
Practice, practice, practice
Practising is the cornerstone of developing your abilities. While a coach would give you laps to build up endurance and stamina to run a better race, a presentation trainer creates a supportive environment to gain practical experience of speaking to small and larger groups to get comfortable and confident for your next pitch, tender, or business meeting. It’s not just about that one event though.
In many sports, winning one race or match is simply an invitation to a tougher race or match. In the corporate realm that may mean a successful pitch leads to your next pitch to a tougher, more high-profile audience. Learning to re-focus in the aftermath of victory, or defeat, is paramount to continuing your development and improving your overall presentational skills.
Feedback; the breakfast of champions
Feedback is a critical part of performance. Continual observation, and mentoring with advice from an experienced coach provide you with a stronger understanding of your own skills and ability; where your strengths lie, and what needs to be improved upon. A gymnast may need to work on their dismount, a runner their starting push, a swimmer their turn at the end of a lap. These small things combined are what lead to the podium. When presenting, it’s more than just the words you’re saying. You need to identify and adapt to the personalities in your audience, manage your nerves, and build rapport. This takes practice, and practice is of course at its most effective when you know what to work on.
In many ways, feedback may be the most vital element of preparation. It’s omnipresent, it provides motivation, it outlines your abilities and assists in focusing your attention to the areas that need it most, and it provides reasons for you to continue learning.
Develop a style that works for you
Like with any personal development, it’s personal. While best practices and expert advice build the foundations of your success, a tailored approach to suit your personality is key to unlocking your full potential. Perhaps a tennis player has a stronger forehand than backhand? Maybe they’re great at rushing the net, but weaker at the ‘smash’?
Sometimes, understanding your strengths is the key to overcoming your weaknesses. Developing your own style promotes self-confidence and builds and sustains credibility. Self-confidence gives you the ammunition to deliver compelling presentations that bring your content to life and truly engage your audiences.
Nerves don’t have to be your enemy
Notice the way elite athletes wander around the starting blocks, stretching, controlling their breathing, staring down the finish line? It’s all a process of controlling nerves, not eliminating them, and that’s the key. Nerves are normal, and a part of every presentation. Understanding them and learning to harness them instead of letting them overwhelm you should be a critical element of your presentation preparation.
That runner is focusing on the objective ahead; running that race. Not the crowd cheering, not the other runners, not the resulting celebration or commiseration. During presentations, consider what your objective is. In many cases, you’re delivering information and it’s your job to do that clearly and concisely to gain and keep their attention. An engaged audience is easier to inform, more open to influence, and far more likely to be inspired, allowing you to achieve your desired outcome.
Make the most of crowd support
The term “home crowd advantage” gets thrown around a lot in sports, and for good reason. Hearing the crowd erupt as a Brazilian athlete approached the track in Rio, for example, was enough to make anyone want to strive towards greatness, so imagine it from their perspective!
Crowd support means something slightly different with presentations though. Unlike Olympic athletes that enjoy a supportive yet impersonal crowd, a presenter has the ability to engage personally with their audience. Whereas an athlete garners applause and impassioned cries, a presenter can move people in both a rational and emotional way. They also have the ability to converse with the audience, truly engaging and connecting with them.
Reflection and areas to improve for the future
Never losing the drive to be better is what pushes our famed athletes past the previous peaks of human ability and into the record books. This drive comes from reflecting on your past experiences, both positive and negative and identifying where to improve.
During practical workshops, you’re given the opportunity to have your presentation reviewed, and along with expert analysis and coaching, you’ll be able to maximise on your strengths, and develop your weaknesses.
Preparation, the key to presenting | secondnature
The Olympians now have another 4 years to prepare for their next events, but we doubt you’ll be waiting that long. Presentations skills are an absolute in the business world, regardless of industry. The ability to capture the attention of an audience, deliver information, ‘sell’ yourself and your business is a universal talent and one that needs to be trained. Preparation is integral to success, so get in touch with secondnature today and learn how to prepare smarter, and faster to achieve your business goals through effective presentations.
Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the founder and managing director of secondnature. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
She believes in a training approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
Belinda is currently helping to transform the presentation skills of people in organisations such as BBC Worldwide, DHL, ESRI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Pfizer, Roche, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.