I never paid attention to basketball until my hometown team, the Toronto Raptors, had their brief but glorious run in the NBA playoffs. There was so much excitement in the city that I had to watch a game. And, somewhat to my surprise, once I started watching I couldn’t stop. It was so fascinating to see these guys play: the lightening-quick maneuvers, the way they faced both physical and mental challenges, the strategizing signaled by subtle eye contact between players. I didn’t want to turn off the TV!
Alas, the Raptors were knocked out and did not make it to the finals. But watching them play not only opened my eyes to the game of basketball, it also made me realize the parallels between professional basketball and professional presentations. In fact, delivering presentations with a real “wow” factor depends on many of the same skills on which professional basketball players rely. If you aren’t sure what I mean, consider the following points of comparison.
Three Keys to Delivering a “Slam Dunk” Presentation
Some of the top players and their coaches will tell you that basketball is as much mental, as it is physical. Like basketball, presentations have a physical aspect too — body language, eye contact, facial expressions, etc. And the mental side of a good presentation is key. A well conceived presentation requires a good deal of forethought, of strategizing and planning. It has to be carefully thought through, well designed, with a logical flow.
When Raptors center, Jonas Valanciunas, suffered a badly sprained ankle during the playoffs with Cleveland, fans were crushed. Yet, mere weeks later, he was able to return to play, in game five of the series. Not only can his remarkable return be attributed to his high level of fitness, but also to his dedicated, consistent practice. In spite of his injury, Valanciunas made sure he was fully prepared — practicing, practicing, practicing. You might not have to worry about overcoming an ankle injury in order to make a presentation, but you do want to “put in the time,” preparing and rehearsing. Confidence and mental strength come from preparation.
What impressed most about these high-performing athletes is the way that they are able to instantly adapt to any circumstance or challenging situation that arises, during play on the court. They respond with remarkable agility and quick action to their teammates’ needs. Even with your mental plan in place while presenting, you also have to be as agile, as ready to respond to your audience’s needs, as a player on the court, at that crucial moment. You need to watch your audience, to observe their non-verbal cues, then adapt to their expectations.
Of course, making a business presentation does not require being over six feet tall and possessing a seemingly super-human combination of athleticism and mental agility. But it can’t hurt to aspire to the equivalent level of professionalism if you intend to make your own impressive impact with a “slam dunk” presentation.
If you need help making a “slam dunk” presentation, contact me at The Language Lab.