What Athletes Can Teach Public Speakers About Performance Success
If you’ve ever watched professional sports, let alone the Olympic games, you’ve probably wondered what it takes to get to that kind of performance level. I mean, how do mere mortals keep their calm under such intense stress and get their bodies to do what they want on command?
It’s not magic. It turns out it’s a lot of hard work, dedication, and some specific fitness regimes that help top athletes build muscle, increase agility and gain speed.
But guess what? These practices can work for anyone who wants to be at the top of their game, even public speakers.
If you are a new public speaker, you can get into the best speaking shape of your life by doing what the top athletes do. Here’s how:
Working and Relaxing Muscles
Athletes don’t just hit the gym and work their muscles hard; they also have trainers that do deep tissue work to release painful muscle knots. Their trainers know that any muscle tightness will hinder their ability to move effectively.
Public speakers also need to know when to go hard and when to lighten up in their delivery. To be effective at communication, a speaker must understand that sometimes they need to speak loudly, and sometimes they need to speak softly. Changing up volume will hold the listeners’ attention.
Getting Quality Sleep
Top athletes wouldn’t dream of not getting a good night’s sleep before a big game or competition. But how many times have you gotten too little sleep before a presentation? If you want your body and mind to work optimally during your speech, you’ve got to make sure to get at least 7 hours of restful sleep the night before.
Many top athletes train with their team or, as in solo sports, their trainer finds them a training partner. This helps them feel accountable to someone else and offers a competitive atmosphere.
Practicing your presentation in a bubble, all by yourself, won’t help you know if there is room there for improvement. Ask a friend, coworker or family member to watch you give your presentation so they can give you some honest feedback. You can also film yourself if you find it hard to get volunteers to help.
Top athletes and their trainers know that proper hydration is critical for muscles to function optimally during sports. That’s why Gatorade came onto the scene, to make sure that athletes were properly hydrated.
It’s just as important for public speakers to be properly hydrated before a presentation. Your mind and vocal cords are depending on hydration to work well, so be sure to hydrate before and during your presentation.
By now most of us realize that the biggest athletes are not only in excellent physical shape but also mentally in shape as well. That’s because it doesn’t matter how much you’ve practiced getting a ball into a hoop or into the endzone, come game day, if athletes can’t handle their nerves, all of that physical training goes out the window. “The more important an event is to the athlete, the more psychological factors can influence the outcome,” says Dr Victor Thompson, a clinically trained psychologist who works with athletes and is himself a competitive triathlete.
Public speaking is a nerve-wracking event. And you don’t even have teammates to help you out up there. It’s just you with your thoughts and passion in front of a crowd of dozens, hundreds and sometimes even thousands of people. And no matter how well you know your presentation or how many times you’ve practiced, it’s easy for nerves to set in.
Take a page out of a top athlete handbook and use visualization techniques. In the days leading up to your presentation, spend time each day visualizing yourself giving your presentation. Visualize yourself feeling energetic and confident, visualize the crowd being engaged and entertained, and visualize the entire presentation going flawlessly. Studies have shown that your brain tries to bring about situations that you expect to happen. This is why if you expect to fail at something, you usually do. Your brain causes it. But when you expect to throw a winning touchdown, make the hole in one on the 18th hole, or give a flawless presentation, you DO.
Nothing goes in an athlete’s mouth that shouldn’t, particularly in the days leading up to a big event. While you don’t have to be as strict with your diet, you should think about how certain foods make you feel and perform. If you eat a sugary breakfast of cereal and toast, do you tend to have an energy crash later? If so, you might want to focus on eggs and bacon for breakfast to give you energy all day. If you know a giant latte is going to have you needing to use the restroom 3 times within the following hour and you’re going on stage soon, you probably shouldn’t drink too much coffee – or too much of any beverage – period.
While public speakers don’t exert quite as much physical effort or sweat, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to be in top shape for a presentation. If you follow these tactics from the world of top athletes, you will ensure that your time on stage will always be a gold-winning event.