Today, the U.S. Open tennis tournament begins at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, NY.
Last week, I visited the tennis center to watch the qualifying matches for players who didn’t make the main draw and also watch some of the superstars (like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) practice.
I love watching tennis - and I think there are lessons from tennis that can apply to presentation skills:
|Rafael Nadal practicing his serve|
PRACTICE IS REQUIRED
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are two of the best tennis players in the world and they practice for several hours a day. They never say, "I'm good enough, I don't need to practice anymore." I watched each of them on court practice their serving, forehand and backhand shots and movement.
|Roger Federer practicing his forehand|
MENTAL ATTITUDE IS KEY
During a match, what the player tells himself or herself is important, especially when they're down a set and facing a tough opponent. If a player thinks, "I can't beat this opponent; I'm going to lose," it will be very difficult to overcome that mindset and win. Instead, when a player uses positive self-talk, "Yes, I can do this!" along with an energetic fist pump in the air, he or she is better able to access their skills, step up their game and have a shot at winning.
|Jo-Wilfried Tsonga practicing on court|
Likewise, what you tell yourself when you present is also important. If you drown out the negative voice in your head and instead, use a positive phrase or mantra, you'll be able to present more effectively and confidently.
BODY LANGUAGE MATTERS
Two of my favorite tennis commentators, John and Patrick McEnroe, are always pointing out the players' body language – how players act between points, how they walk to the other side of the court, how they respond when they lose a point, etc. Negative body language sends a message to their opponent that they are giving up and don't believe they can win.
|Roger Federer practicing his backhand shot|
When you're presenting, your body language also sends a message to the audience – it should match the words you're saying and convey confidence and competence. For example, make eye contact with the audience, use appropriate gestures to illustrate your points, speak loudly enough to be heard and avoid nervous pacing.
The next time you have to give a presentation, remember these lessons from tennis to help you ace it.
|Richard Gasquet returning a shot in mid-air|