“Steal” From Athletes for Better Presentations

In Self by A. Geoffrey Crane

Athletes are under intense pressure to perform during highly competitive conditions. Armed only with their bodies and minds during an event, they understand the importance of “focus” very well. To achieve this, many athletes use a process called “mental preparation” before an event to enhance their performance.

You don’t have to be a professional athlete, however, to take advantage of mental preparation skills. They are just as applicable to those of us who work outside of the sports industry yet are periodically called upon to perform for an audience. Whenever we give a presentation, enter a high-stakes negotiation or even just work through a tough problem under scrutiny, mental preparation can help us deliver a stellar performance.

Mental preparation is composed of four key techniques:

Imagery: Creating a detailed mental picture of what a successful performance looks like. What does it look like, for example, when your audience is riveted to your every word?

Mental rehearsal: Walking through each step of the performance in your mind before and during delivery. Are any steps more important than others? Which parts do you think you need to spend more time on?

Selective attention: Attending to only those stimuli that are necessary to do a good job. Perhaps the entire audience’s reactions are irrelevant; maybe only the heckler in the back is.

Positive thinking: Working from the assumption that things will and are going very well. Confidence and positive energy are infectious; your audience will certainly appreciate it.

Combined, these skills can help substantially boost your confidence levels and bring any “nerves” you might have well under control. As you begin to feel better prepared, the quality and delivery of your performance will benefit immensely.

If you are feeling nervous before a big show, take a few moments to answer these questions to help get yourself ready:

1) Think of three mental images that portray you as a success during and after your performance. Try to bring each of these images into sharp detail.

2) Can you identify the important steps of your upcoming performance? Try to describe particular moments that will require your special attention. Which steps will be pivotal to your success?

3) What steps will you take to ensure that you only pay attention to what you need to during your performance? What do you consider irrelevant?

4) Identify three checkpoints during your performance that you can use as evidence that things are going well. What positive things could you tell yourself?

We hope these tips help you knock your next presentation out of the park!

Photo by kelseyannvere


Get actionable insights delivered to your inbox once a month.