November 30, 2021

How's your mental game?

Athletes know that a major component of being successful in sports is having the right mental attitude or mindset. Presenting is a lot like playing a sport both in the physical and mental preparation aspects, but a lot of presenters' mental game is not up to the challenge.

What do I mean by "mental game?"

1. Anticipate, plan and prepare for anything that might go wrong

What happens if your computer crashes while you're showing slides? What happens if you lose your place? What happens if someone challenges your facts during Q&A?

Sometimes you're prepared to speak for an hour, but the meeting before you goes long and your time gets cut. Sometimes you expect an audience of fifty and you get an audience of five.

Having a strong mental game means being able to shift gears at a moment's notice, take what you're given, and run with it.

2. Reframe nervousness into positive attitude and energy

There's no difference between "bad" and "good" adrenaline - your thoughts assign adrenaline negative or positive value. Thought stopping, positive self-talk, relaxation and other mental and physical tools can get you in a calmer state to face your audience.

3. Visualize yourself relaxed and connecting with the audience

Envision yourself nailing your presentation in front of a satisfied and smiling audience. Elite athletes use visualization and mental rehearsal both to imagine a successful outcome of an event and to rest and relax.

4. Give 100% when you only feel 50%

I've presented with a 104-degree fever. I've given a training on two hours of sleep. I've delivered workshops while dealing with grief and loss. Your audience deserves your very best. If you can't reschedule (and I would've if I could've!), give them what they came for and recover later.

5. Accept that mishaps will happen, and handle them with grace and humor

Everyone makes mistakes, and most of the time your audience doesn't even know you've messed up. Suck it up, laugh it off, and move on!

The mental game of speaking parallels the mental game of sports, and speakers can learn a lot from athletes who use these tools.

What else would you add to my list? Please share!

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