With the Olympics being held here in Vancouver, there has been much talk and analysis about the pursuit of excellence in sports and what, if any, lessons we can take to our daily endeavors.
One of the more interesting training methods being discussed is mental preparation. Elite athletes claim positive visualization and mental preparation are almost as important as their physical training regime. That’s also something I’ve noticed in my many years as a public speaking coach.
I’ll admit that I used to be skeptical of the “power of positive thinking”. On the other hand, I’ve always believed in avoiding negative thoughts. That goes back to my days of riding motorcycles. If you encounter a road hazard on a bike, you must avoid thinking about it or looking at it. If you look at a patch of gravel on the road you will steer the motorcycle towards it with disastrous results.
Every day, people do the same thing when they face their fear of public speaking. If you believe you will suck when you give your presentation before the board tomorrow, believe me you will, just as surely as I saw my motorcycle slide out from under me when I noticed some gravel on the road.
Olympic athletes do more than avoid negative thoughts. They visualize their performance before it happens. A downhill skier will mentally preview every gate and every inch of a run – in real time – over and over until she is confident of a winning performance.
It’s hard work but there is an easy way to get started. Try this before your next presentation. Prepare yourself as you normally would but the night before you present think about how well you’re going to do. Visualize your audience and the first few minutes of your speech.
If you can eliminate the negativity from your mind and see only a positive result you are on the way to the top of the presentation podium.