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Why you CHOKE & what to DO about it

 In Delivery, Learning from Luminaries, Luminary, Mindset, News, Sports people, The Winning Voice, Voice, What not to do

Let’s agree – athletes choke.

Business people choke too. Perhaps not in the same way that athletes do. For example, a professional tennis player’s choke, could be a double fault in a crucial game.

Business people choke, for example, by projecting timidity or tension through their face, body language carriage and movement, vocal tone and/or speaking cadence and fluency.

One choking behaviour of business people – that is similar to the choking of athletes is – rushing

In this superb article Under pressure: why athletes choke professional athletes describe their views and experience of choking.

Here are thoughts from Annika Sörenstam and Gareth Southgate.

‘For Sörenstam, (professional golfer Annika Sorenstam) keeping that belief over 18 holes meant sticking to her routine – the 24 seconds she liked to take for each shot – as far as possible,

fighting her impulse to speed up.

Under pressure, golfers approach shots differently, reducing the range of movement for the head of the golf club and applying greater force to the ball. They rush. In baseball, pitchers who flounder under pressure seem to rush their foot movements and speed up the way they flex their elbows.

Gareth Southgate (English football manager and former player) spent 22 years looking back at his part in England’s defeat by Germany in a penalty shootout at Euro 96, trying to work out what had gone wrong. His conclusion was that he had rushed. Before he took his sudden-death penalty against Germany, “All I wanted was the ball: put it on the spot, get it over and done with,” he later wrote.

Rushing penalties under pressure damages the chances of scoring: a study found that when players started their run-up less than one second after the referee blew the whistle, the success rate was a paltry 58%. As England manager in 2018, Southgate encouraged the players to take more time from the spot, and led England to their first-ever World Cup penalty shootout win.

There is a concept in presenting, that I’ve named,

‘the presenter’s misperception of time’. 

The presenter’s misperception of time is when a presenter (generally novice presenters) panics while speaking – and time, as they perceive it, seems to speed up, which prompts them to rush their speaking cadence. In effect, they don’t perceive the passage of time, correctly.

A presenter who rushes signals junior behaviour to an audience.

Own the Conversation

I suggest you do this:

  • In the next seven days, for a specific meeting in your calendar, make a note to yourself to speak in a slower, more measured cadence for the first 10 seconds of your speaking in the meeting. (then resume your normal speaking cadence).
  • Reflect on the effect of doing this – on yourself and on your audience.

Many of my clients report speaking in a slower, measured cadence – calms them.

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p.s. Here’s a message from a top performer  I know, Mousa Sharifi.

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Thank you
Mousa Sharifi
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