This is the time of the year when professional baseball players gather in Florida and Arizona to get ready for the upcoming season, reminding us all that better weather is just around the corner. We mention this not only because we’re baseball fans, but also because the way ballplayers prepare is quite similar to how speakers need to prepare to give great presentations.
Most teams require players to report to camps one or two weeks before they begin to play in games. They spend that time stretching, strength training, warming up, taking batting practice, and running all sorts of drills. (Our favorite is when the pitchers practice covering first base on a ground ball to the right side of the infield.)
In short, spring training is for practicing all the fundamentals of baseball that will help them excel in actual games. See the connection?
If you want to become a better presenter, you can go through your own “spring training” in your own daily life, especially if you have an important presentation coming up. Here are some drills to practice to prepare yourself for game day:
Look out for non-words and other bad habits. If you struggle with overuse of those pesky non-words like UMMMM or UHHHH, invite friends, family members and trusted colleagues to help you out. We suggest asking them to snap their fingers whenever they catch you using one. Most people begin to take notice almost immediately. Once you have that awareness, you can start to replace them with pauses.
Move your arms. Set up an iPad or video camera and talk about a subject that interests you—your kids, your dog, your vacation, your favorite team—and watch closely how your arms, head and body move naturally. If they still don’t move, try forcing your arms into different gestures until you find a few that feel and look natural. You can also watch TED Talks to see how other speakers use gestures, and try a few of them yourself to find one that works for you.
Tell me a story. Seize any opportunity to share a personal story or idea on a topic of interest. Experiment with changing your voice volume, slowing down and speeding up, and using a wider variety of facial expressions, even if they feel strange at first. These are real-life presentation opportunities, and they’ll help you get ready for the real thing, just like batting practice helps Jose Abreu get ready for a big at-bat.
Always look eye, Daniel-san. Practice making purposeful eye connections with people you see on a daily basis. If this is a big challenge for you, work on it in the mirror or ask people to help you by giving you regular feedback.
Get extra coaching. Not finding the magic yet? Ballplayers often ask coaches for advice when something still isn’t feeling right. You’ll find your favorite presentation trainers just around the corner!
That’s today’s lesson. Start practicing the fundamentals now, and we promise you’ll be ready for Opening Day!