The many hours I’ve spent watching Wimbledon over the last fortnight have not been wasted. Much of the commentary and debate has been about preparation, confidence and mind set – topics close to my heart, as you know, in the context of communication skills.
From the moment I was lucky enough to work with Olympic superstars, I recognised the parallels between sporting endeavour and excellence in face to face communication. Events in SW19 this year reinforced those parallels for me, in three key areas.
- Respect your opponent/your audience
Top players respect lower-ranked opponents. They don’t just turn up. They prepare thoroughly and tailor their game to their foe. Likewise, respect is a key factor when we’re anticipating a presentation/pitch/meeting. And during it. Let’s never be the speaker who just turns up without having tailored our content and our style of delivery/language/tone. That would be love fifteen.
- Meticulous preparation
During one of Jo Konta’s excellent matches, Tim Henman discussed how she focuses on ‘process not outcome’. This is one of my favourite mantras, learned from Dr Steve Peters in his Chimp Paradox. I know several Olympians who follow it too. It’s a simple but effective approach which also works brilliantly for those of us more likely to present to an audience than step out onto centre court – concentrate on the preparation (audience mapping, key messages, story telling, slides) rather than stressing about the presentation itself. Just like Jo Konta, I believe the key to growing your own confidence is putting the hard work in before you approach the base line. So does Boris Becker. He talked about methodical preparation as the basis for confidence and success. Fifteen all.
- Mind set
We know that matches are not won on the racquet strings but in the head. So too with communication. At a point when Konta was struggling, Becker talked about on-court mind set and the danger of expecting too much of yourself; trying too hard; wanting it too desperately. His antidote to that – to simply “do what you’re supposed to do”. I found this comment fascinating, and anticipate that it will be useful to the people I train who often put too much pressure on themselves. Implicit in this phrase too is the concept of rehearsal: having practised the shots/said the words out loud so that muscle memory can kick in at moments of stress and anxiety. Thirty fifteen.
But of course the glorious embodiment of all this is Federer who talked about having a dream, which turned into belief and became reality through hard work and preparation. Game, set, match to the GOAT!