Sunday, February 28, 2010

Presentation Lessons from the Olympic Games

The Olympic Winter Games comes to a close today in Vancouver. Our family loves the Olympics and we’ve pretty much been glued to the great coverage that has been provided. After stepping back and thinking about what we have observed the last two weeks, I have a few lessons that we can apply to our presentations.

The first lesson is the power of a story. The moments we will remember from these Games all revolve around a compelling story. Whether it is adversity faced by an athlete before the competition or a tremendous performance way above expectations, we remember because the story touches us emotionally. The lesson for presenters is to use stories to help our audiences remember our key messages. Learn to create and tell stories well.

The second lesson is in how the stories have been told on TV. Television knows that stories keep viewers glued to the TV, so they produce segments well in advance that tell you the compelling story of the athlete, their background, family and past struggles. This gives you a new context for what is going to happen and you emotionally invest in the outcome of the competition. As presenters, we need to make sure we are giving our audiences the proper context for our message, perhaps showing them an angle they haven’t considered before. And when we explain what it means to them personally, we tap into the emotional investment of each audience member.

The final lesson is an observation of some key factors that contribute to an athlete reaching the podium. Yes, they are talented, but so is everyone else in their sport. The difference is that the winning athletes have a burning desire to win and they have the coaching and support that helps them make it. They can’t do it alone, they need the hours of practice and the advice of experts who can help them get better. As presenters, how often do we think that we can just “wing it”? It never works out well. We need to take a page from the Olympians book and rehearse our presentations so they are the best they can be. We need to seek the advice of those who can help us get better, whether that advice is coaching or through books and videos that teach us new approaches and techniques.

The Olympics are a great demonstration of what it takes to create a great performance and tell that story to the world. Take these lessons and use them to make it to the podium after your next presentation.


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