Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Price of Not Being There

In last week's Washington Post Sports section, Amy Shipley recounts swimmer Katie Hoff's surprisingly disappointing race, "more than 10 seconds off her personal best."

The article groups together a number unfortunate circumstance including her recent illness, missed training time, and the fact that she is working on her stroke.

But at the end of this list, she quotes Hoff's coach, Bob Bowman. (who incidentally is also Michael Phelps coach)

"Physical problems are not her only ones," he said, "She was just not there, probably psychologically and physically."

What can speakers learn from this?

No matter what baggage you bring to the table, take a few moments before you speak to get yourself present.

Do your Green Room Trigger.
Take deep breaths.
Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground.

Do whatever it takes for you to get in the here and now.

Simply being there - being present - can be the difference between stumbling over your stumbling blocks, or as the saying goes, using them as stepping stones - and thus reaching to even greater heights.


Anonymous said...

Have you had any experience with more extended meditation techniques for getting present? I see the value of the trigger but imagine that serious psychological distraction might require something more.

Sarah Gershman said...

Meditation is a skill like any other, and the more time and energy you devote to it, the better able you are to tap into its benefits. I definitely recommend regular meditation practice as a tool for being more fully present in all daily activities, including public speaking.

Jake said...

Two notes about two of "the greatest".

1. Bob Bowman, whom you mentioned in your post, is also Michael Phelps' coach. So he knows a lot about blocking out distractions to perform at the highest level.

2. On one of the Michael Jackson specials that I have seen several times lately (don't judge) they talked about how he was so present in the moment. He put so much energy into every move every gesture on stage that it kept the audience on their toes and connected to him.

Sarah's advice rings true. Being present in the moment applies to public speaking as well as daily activities - even if your daily activity is changing the landscape of your chosen profession forever.

Sarah Gershman said...

Thanks Jake. I did not know about Bowman and now am eager to go out and learn how he helps his swimmers get present.

I agree with you about Michael Jackson. His ability to be in the moment was electifying.

Anonymous said...

...if you have to give a speech and can't find a way to be "100% present" it would be better to let someone else do the job--or at least keep it short. If you can't "be" there it is pretty close to insulting to expect people to spend time listening to you.

Thanks Sarah.


Sarah Gershman said...

Thanks for writing in, Justin. Often people have trouble being present because they are mired in the past (did I prepare enough) or anxious about the future (will they like me). I think it's something that just takes work. That being said, I am always in favor of keeping it short!