Over the holidays I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who had coached two Canadian Olympic swimmers to medals. I was really interested to find out her approach to get great results. It turns out that she did two key things:
1. Use visualizations to rehearse. The coach would run a stopwatch while the swimmer mentally “swam” the event lap by lap. When they “finished” the event, the swimmer would raise her hand signaling the coach to note the time.
2. Coach the 50 m event. Regardless of whether the swimmer was entered in a 50m or an 800m event the coach would always focus on the technique required to successfully swim a 50m event and then multiply that by 2 or 3 or 4 etc. to fit the actually event. Other coaches didn’t usually do this, she explained, but she did because she found that controlling technique and form is less mentally fatiguing if you break it down into shorter chunks.
Here’s how you can adapt her Olympic methods for the next time you have to give a presentation.
1. Visualize your presentation before you give it. Take time in the days before you present to sit down with your eyes closed and imagine yourself giving the presentation. See people looking at you in whatever outfit you have decided to wear, see yourself transitioning from one point to the next calmly and with confidence, and imagine the pleasure of receiving congratulations from your boss or the audience. I did this with one of my clients who pitched on CBC’s Dragons Den and according to her the presentation unfolded exactly as she had imagined it. (She also landed a deal!)
2. Coach the 10 min event. Mentally breaking a 30 min presentation into 3 chunks of 10 minutes is less intimidating than imagining you have to speak for a solid 30 minutes. Example: You are going to be presenting a section on sales results, new hires, and a revised safety policy. Talk through each section but if you stumble through sales results don’t go on to new hires until you are clear and solid on the first section. Doing a good delivery of new hires isn’t going to help your sales results section: go back and fix what needs fixing BEFORE you keep on rehearsing the rest.
See you on the podium!