Score. 9 mental skills for performers.
What if you saw public speaking like an athlete?
Since it's the world cup and I also watch a few games, it got me thinking - how do these athletes prepare mentally for a match? Physical stamina is one thing, but what differentiates winners from losers? And how can we use this mental preparation for public speaking?
When you think about it, the outlines are very similar. You are preparing for an event where you have to perform. People will be watching and you want to do your best. Maybe your presentation is not as high profile as trying to win the world cup, but nevertheless, it is a situation where the results are uncertain and they are important to you. So let's look into this.
According to an article by the Ohio Center for sports psychology, these are the 9 mental skills successful athletes master :
Choose and maintain a positive attitude.
Maintain a high level of self-motivation.
Set high, realistic goals.
Deal effectively with people.
Use positive self-talk.
Use positive mental imagery.
Manage anxiety effectively.
Manage their emotions effectively.
And here is my interpretation of each point for public speaking:
1. Choose and maintain a positive attitude. Attitude is a choice - you can decide for yourself, how you see the outcome of your presentation. Seeing it as a learning experience can really help in taking the drama out of public speaking. This is the reason I always advise my clients to start a notebook dedicated to public speaking. There they can make records of each step they take as a public speaker and see each speaking opportunity as a stepping stone to excellence. At they end they can see how far they have come - you can do the same.
2. Maintain a high level of self-motivation. Think about what you get out of speaking at this event. What does it bring you? Is it just doing your job? Or is it to pitch your idea to investors? Is it an opportunity to speak about something you are passionate about? Think about what motivates you most to give this presentation.
3. Set high, realistic goals. This is a great one for public speaking. What is your goal? We never take the time to think about this as we prepare our PowerPoint of Keynote slides. When you know what your goal is, it is easier to stay focused. So what is your goal? You can note that in the aforementioned notebook :)
4. Deal effectively with people. Realise that you and also your audience are PEOPLE. Even if your presentation is highly technical, you are still a human being with emotions and feelings and so are the people listening to you. Taking this into account will help you engage your audience at an emotional level, which will work much better than just appealing to their intellect.
5. Use positive self-talk. Affirmations, power-poses, breathing - they all help you to stay positive. Formulate affirmations you can use during the stressful moments before you are stepping in front of the audience. Prepare them in advance, not on the day of your big speech! Read this post to get some ideas.
6. Use positive mental imagery. The days before your presentation already visualize yourself giving a great speech. Imagine looking into friendly receptive faces, who encourage you as you speak and who are moved by your words. The more detailed your vision, the better!
7. Manage anxiety effectively. Accept that you will be nervous to some extent. It's normal before any perfomance. It's the adrenaline that pushes you. Practise deep breathing technique to deal with your heart racing. Practise accepting these emotions and staying present. They will subside as you go along in your speech.
8. Manage their emotions effectively. I'm not sure I like the term "manage emotions"... but I get the thought behind it. It's a bit like point Nr. 7 in my opinion, accept that you will have emotions that you don't usually have in everyday life. Accept them of being part of the whole experience. But also see them as a chance to grow - every time we get out of our comfort zone we get the chance to grow a little.
9. Maintain concentration. Mindfulness can really help you with being in the moment. When you are in the moment you have much more presence. Don't worry about what your boss might be thinking of you as you present your topic. Be in the moment and focus on the task at hand. You can think about everything else later.
I hope this post was helpful - please let me know what you think about comparing public speaking to performing in sports? Do you think there is a link? I look forward to your ideas!