Follow the Football Fan’s Guide to Winning Presentations

The Business Journal of Phoenix – December 22, 2006

‘Tis the season — football season. Ahhh, the college bowl games are about to be played and — just around the corner — the Super Bowl!

I admit it. I am a successful professional woman with a weakness: I love my college football. Every year, in the middle of August, I get a glimmer in my eye, quickness in my step and a joy in my heart because football season is on the horizon.

What does football have to with winning presentations? A lot actually.



Let me clarify what I mean by a winning presentation. Not all winning presentations are related to sales or getting that lucrative contract your company might be going after.

A winning presentation is one that gets you the results that you want. Those results might include new clients, a boost in company morale, employees who have a clear sense of the organization’s vision, goals, and have the direction and motivation to make it happen.

Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers football coach, once said: “Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing – the result.”

Winning does not equate to perfection. In reality, few football teams have a perfect season (not losing a single game). Even those that have perfect seasons can’t say every game was perfectly executed. Skillfully executed? Yes. Perfectly executed? No.

And here are a just few of my favorite bits of football wisdom to help you more skillfully execute your presentations:

Don’t rely on one player to for the win. In group presentations, you may have a skilled and dynamic star player — the one you always count on when you need a big play. Yet in football as well as business, unexpected events can take your star player out of the game.

I’ve begun working with an architectural firm whose principal is a wonderful presenter. He has been the star player. Recently, however, the firm was notified that it had been short-listed on two municipal projects and both interviews were scheduled for the same day and time. The firm didn’t have an experienced backup quarterback to take the helm.

The result? The company lost one of the jobs. The good news is that it now is working to elevate the skill set of the rest of the team. In the future, it won’t have to rely so heavily on one team member to carry the presentation.

Be in the moment. When football players focus on the last play, it reduces their ability to effectively react to the next play. In football, that can hurt, literally! For presenters, thinking about what’s next or what just happened can keep you from truly connecting with your audience. It also can prevent you from getting back on track if you somehow get off.

I worked with one fellow who was part of a group presentation. He insisted that he had to memorize every word of his two-minute segment. The problem with that approach was that when the words did not come out exactly as he wanted, he would get frustrated with himself and lose his ability to concentrate on what was next.

Like athletes, presenters have to shake it off, let it go, trust in their abilities and enthusiastically move on to what’s next.

Practice. Football teams practice plays over and over again. What happens in practice enables them to more accurately execute during the pressure of an actual game. The same is true for presenters.

A skilled coach can help you accomplish what you never thought possible.

Lombardi is considered by many to be the greatest football coach who ever lived. He transformed the Green Bay Packers from perennial losers to back to back Super Bowl champions in the 1960s.

A lesser coach can not only lead to a losing season, but also can bring down a ball club.

There are many skilled business coaches out there. There are many talented speakers. There are many skilled business coaches who also are talented speakers. While some may offer valuable feedback, don’t automatically assume they have the required skills or training to coach speakers.

Your last win or loss doesn’t matter. New day, new game!

The last five great presentations you gave don’t matter to the audience you have before you. Nor did this audience see the presentation disaster you had last week. Fresh start, clean slate.

Give them all you’ve got!