Powerful Presentation Lesson from Stanley Cup Final

June 4, 2008

As a speech coach in Pittsburgh, I’m doing what everyone else in Pittsburgh is doing on June 2nd in 2008:  cheering for the Pittsburgh Penguins in their unlikely fight for the Stanley Cup.  Commentators are saying the Pens Game 5 performance (winning in the third round of overtime) is one of the most inspiring performances in the finals’ history. 

One example involves Ryan Malone, who was playing this critical game with a broken nose.  During the game, Malone got a puck-shot to the face that could have killed him.  After a brief absence, Malone returned to the game! 

As a speech coach watching an inspiring performance, I found a lesson in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ situation for myself and my clients.

A winning goal in a third round of overtime means the Pens battled through nearly two full games back-to-back, finally winning in the wee hours of the morning.  They have a mere 43 hours to recover before game 6 back in Pittsburgh.  While the physical preparation is daunting, it’s the mental preparation that interests me as a speech coach. 

According to Al Green, chairperson of the National Athletic Trainers Association public-relations committee, both the mind and the body have to be ready for the challenging game 6.  Here’s a quote by Green from today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  “The athletes need to get in that zone.  If you can get mentally ready to play, the endorphins and all those fun chemicals can kick in and get an athlete [physically] ready to play the game.  That becomes a big factor because your mental really controls your physical.”

Obviously, playing in a Stanley Cup final is an experience outside of the ordinary.  Given that speaking in public is consistently voted people’s #1 fear, giving a presentation is outside the ordinary as well.  Power speaking has its physical elements:  voice projection, quick adjustments and responses, embracing gestures, and moving across a stage.  To speak with true power, a person must be mentally ready. 

Professional speakers seek the jitters that amateur presenters try to avoid.  Those jitters are the endorphins and other fun chemicals we need to be ready to present with power.  The mental controls the physical.

Be careful with your jitters.  Don’t seek to get rid of them.  Seek to learn the skill of mentally managing your endorphins so you are ready to play your best game.