By now, you've heard about Olympian Ryan Lochte's face-off with Michael Phelps in the 400-meter medley. You've heard how he dominated the race to win the gold. But you may be wondering, "What does a sports rivalry have to do with my presentation skills?"
When you present, you are up against a competitor who's been on your tail for years. A competitor who can get inside your head and bring you down. You are competing against YOU. Is it finally time to conquer your own demon?
Let's take a lesson from Lochte.
Ryan Lochte says he conquered his Phelps demon by visualizing the perfect race. You can conquer your presentation demon by visualizing your perfect presentation and applying three tips.
Here's what Lochte told NBC News that he visualized, prior to his win:
"You are at the Olympics, it's pretty much your time to shine. Time to prove to the world who's best. The starter says, 'Swimmers, step up'. I look over at Phelps and we have a little stare off. We're just staring at each other like, 'Who wants it more?' And then the starter says 'Take your marks,' and boom, we take off."
"I head off into the water like a rocket. And I'm not looking back. I swim my own race. I don't swim off anyone else. Going into the last turn, we both go underwater and we look at each other because we're dead even. It's a close race and I destroy everyone off the last wall."
"Going into the home stretch, I touch that wall and I know. I'm like, 'Yeah!' My muscles are bulging, I'm flexing, I'm going nuts. I get out. I have my whole family right there in the stands cheering for me. They have Lochte T-shirts and they're all going nuts, all twenty or thirty of them. And to me, that is the best way I can put a race."
Whether you're anxious about presenting or a seasoned pro, here are three ways to apply Lochte's lessons:
1. Identify your ideal outcome. What do you want to happen as a result of your presentation? This outcome is your metric. It should never be something as generic as "I just want them to understand." Make it concrete. Identify a specific, ideal outcome. Is it a sale, approval of an idea, or perhaps a next meeting with the elusive decision-maker? In order to win, you must identify your own version of "touching the wall."
2. Untether confidence and self-esteem. Confidence is the expectation of a positive outcome in a specific situation; self-esteem goes much deeper. Don't allow your mind to race back to an old presentation where you were anxious or ill-prepared -- that's your self-esteem hijacking your brain. Untether confidence from self-esteem. Like Lotche, visualize a positive outcome in a specific situation.
3. Swim your own race. Perhaps you don't feel charismatic enough as a presenter. Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. Authenticity is the courage to show up as yourself. You're most influential when people feel they've experienced the real you, not your presentation stunt double. You can and should add energy to your performance like an athlete, but don't completely alter your game when you step on the starting blocks.
Turns out, your toughest competitor isn't standing next to you. It's inside of you. If you will step out of your own shadow, you will be the presenter you want to be -- and you'll create a must-see moment for any audience.