Sportsmen and women rely on past results to estimate what they are likely to achieve in future. The best results become their benchmarks. The logical assumption is that what was achieved before can be achieved again – or perhaps better in the future.
When an athlete has an important event looming, their preparation starts well in advance. This includes more than simply practising, but extends to fitness, techniques, diet and a strategy for the event. The training builds up to a crescendo, and then tapers off a few days before so that the athlete is fresh for the big day. His performance on the day will rest largely on the pre-event preparation, and if it’s a good performance this could become the new benchmark for the future.
Although much of the preparation is physical involving fitness, strength building and sometimes endurance, greater emphasis is now being placed on mental preparedness as we strive to discover what gives certain athletes the edge over others.
When the athlete does not perform according to expectations, he can go back to his training routine and identify where he could have trained harder or smarter, what injuries held him back, how he can improve his diet and how his preparation was compared to other periods.
This all makes sense. I therefore marvel at how business presenters fail to use such obvious psychology to evaluate their presentations. When a presentation is less than successful, instead of going back to possible flaws in the preparation, the presenter tends to berate their own ability – something an athlete will seldom do.
The athlete knows all too well that a trail of negative evidence will strip them of the belief that they can. One poor presentation after the next leads to “I’m just not good at presenting.” This inevitably leads to fewer presentations and later none “because I feel I can’t”.
When we watch an athlete win, we don’t see the hours, days, months and years of practice and sacrifice – we just see the result and assume they are talented. Well, that may be. But the path to success was probably strewn with blood, sweat, tears, plenty of mistakes – and hard work.
And so it is with presentations. If you want to be good at doing them, you need to do a lot of them. This includes a fair share of unsuccessful ones. The more you do, the more you learn and the better you get. The better you prepare, the easier your rehearsal will be, the greater your confidence and the better you’ll do on the day. Yes, you.
Just like anything else, great presentations take years, and are an accumulation of all the presentations you’ve done before.
On 13 July 2014 two unlikely German heroes snatched the world cup from Argentina in 20 seconds of magic. Schurle turned on the wing, beat two defenders and made a sublime cross. Gotzen chested the ball down and volleyed past the Argentine goalkeeper. From nothing it took just 14 seconds, a mere 7 minutes from the end of extra time to secure World Cup glory.
Or was it 14 seconds? The truth is, it took years and years. But when the moment arrived, those years of practice paid off, on the biggest stage of them all.