We all face pressure. For golfers it might be a three-foot putt to win the tournament, while for entrepreneurs it might be a presentation to win over a new client. Either way, the mental effects are the same--loss of confidence, concentration, sweaty palms, beating heart, dry mouth.

As the 2018 PGA Championship gets underway this week, many of the players will be mentally prepared to handle the pressure thanks to their mental coaches. One player, Francesco Molinari, gave credit for his British Open win to English mental coach, Dr. Dave Alred. When Molinari met Alred, he was ranked 78th in the world. Molinari enters the PGA Championship in sixth place. 

In Alred's book, The Pressure Principle, he applies the same mental hacks that help professional athletes reach their potential to entrepreneurs and business professionals who are preparing to deliver pressure-packed presentations. Here are four tips to achieve your peak performance. 

1. Synchronize the butterflies.

If you're feeling anxious before a presentation, you're experiencing what psychologists call 'state anxiety.' It's a temporary condition when we perceive a situation as threatening. The key word is perceive. You're not really under a physical threat, but simply by worrying about the situation, your body reacts as if it were.

State anxiety usually occurs when we're experiencing something outside of our comfort zone. For a golfer, it might be the pressure of holding on to a two-stroke lead entering Sunday's final round--and Tiger Woods is in your group. For an entrepreneur, it might be the pressure of pitching to an investor whose backing could make your company. At the core, according to Alred, is "fear of failure."

Alred says the solution is to move toward something and not away from it. Trying not to blow your presentation will make it more likely that you'll do just that. "It is far more effective to visualize yourself successfully completing your exams, presentation or interview," writes Alred.  See your anxiety as "high-octane fuel for elite performance."

Alred quotes Olympic basketball coach, Jack Donohue, who said, "It's not a question of getting rid of the butterflies, it's a question of getting them to fly in formation." Before your next presentation, get your butterflies to fly in formation toward the goal you want to achieve.

2. Reset your posture.

I like this tip because it's so easy--and it works. "Before we enter into a stressful situation it is always worth resetting our posture...set your body shape to the command posture," writes Alred.

Command posture means holding yourself up like you knew success was inevitable. As Alred says, act as if your presentation was certain to end with a standing ovation. If that was the case, you'd hold your head higher, make stronger eye contact, use bigger gestures, have a spring in your step, and enjoy slower, more natural breathing. You'll have an air of confidence because you know you can't lose.

3. Talk to yourself in empowering language.

A no-limit mindset starts with no-limit language. Alred recommends that you reframe the way you perceive a situation by using different words. He uses the example of a business professional waiting in the hall before a client presentation.

Anxious language: I hate doing these things. If I mess up, what on Earth will they think of me?

Excited language: I will have impressive posture and look them straight in the eyes."

Talk to yourself in empowering language and the speaker your audience sees will change.

4. Use 'match training' to practice.

Alred recommends that you try to match the conditions you'll actually face in your presentation as closely as possible. "If you have a speech to deliver, then performing it to just one person is taking it closer to match," he says,

I always try to simulate match play in my speaking opportunities. In one instance, I had to keep the attention of 10,000 people for a one-hour keynote. It was a big stage at the convention center in New Orleans. Clearly, not the type of stage I could replicate in my office. I asked if I could practice the night before on stage. A few conference organizers even sat in. When I walked out on stage the next day for the actual event, I felt like I had been there before because I had.

Nerves get to all of us--from athletes to entrepreneurs. According to Alred, "pressure" is any mental thought that interferes with our performance. Once you harness your anxiety and channel it into positive energy, you will feel less pressure and achieve more than you've ever thought possible.

Published on: Aug 10, 2018