3 Presentation Lessons from Sochi

It is the inspiration of the Olympic Games that drives people not only to compete but to improve, and to bring lasting spiritual and moral benefits to the athlete and inspiration to those lucky enough to witness the athletic dedication.“- Herb Elliott, Australian runner.

In some ways, the Olympics are the world’s biggest presentation, especially for the host country that has the opportunity to show off their past, present and future through the artistry of the ceremonies. I’ve been watching the good and bad from the Sochi Winter Olympics, and have garnered a few tips from this monumental worldwide presentation.

Go Big With Design

No matter where the Olympics are held, the show holds nothing back. This year in Sochi, the main stadium, called the “Fisht Olympic Stadium,” cost $603.5 million to build.  This is not a reasonable budget for a presentation, but the principle is that if you put your best forward, you will receive the best possible response. Make sure your presentation design “goes big” by not relying on cookie cutter templates, using high-quality images and making sure the design looks professional (and expensive)!

Tip: Presentation design matters. Be bold. Take risks. Kill the status quo by choosing striking imagery and avoiding anything that is pre-packaged.

Technical Perfection

Perhaps the best moment of Sochi was figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia’s technical masterpiece on the ice. Her performance success was in the details: perfect landings, spins and triple-triples. It is precisely a dedication to the small things that makes a performance — and presentation — great. Review your content thoroughly, practice at least 7-8 times before a presentation, and make sure your nonverbal communication is strong in order to be as technically perfect on stage as Julia Lipnitskaia was on ice.

Tip: Everything surrounding your presentation is your responsibility. Obsess over perfection.

Fully Prepare

Great moments aside, Sochi has also had some legendary mistakes. They had an Olympic ring malfunction during the opening ceremony when one did not appear, as well as some embarrassing issues with unfinished hotels. Preparation doesn’t just include content, design and delivery. This can include things like remembering your device charger, ensuring that you have the right file format and making sure all technical details are accounted for at your venue.

Tip: Rehearse often. You can never have too much practice.

Keeping an eye on the details, preparing for the event and focusing on dramatic design are all ways to make your next presentation as exciting as the Sochi Olympics. Or at least, almost as exciting.

About the Author

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki.

If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.

4 Responses to “3 Presentation Lessons from Sochi”

  1. Tom Kadala

    Scott, I see your point with the need to practice but my experience has shown that over preparation can stifle the natural fluidity of a presentation and especially the ability to improvise. My best presentations earned a standing applause because at the spur of the moment, I chose to change my approach to better match the audience’s temperament. I even surprised myself. As for Sochi, the athletes that impressed me most (i.e. Sage Kotsenburg in snowboarding) were loose, ready, and daring.

    In my opinion, too much hard core practice can kill the potential moment for extraordinary creativity.

    …just some counter thoughts to ponder.

  2. tawnybill

    I learnt ‘basic salesmanship’ something like this;

    1) – “You need to believe in your product”
    [if you don't ... you can't 'honestly' sell it]

    2) – “Show it by owning it”
    [ be in position to say "I do ... or; ... I own ... and I believe]

    3) – With #1&2 entrenched you can then ‘speak from the heart’ in terms of conviction and feeling; so ‘off the cuff’ questions or responses to questions are/remain congruent to your ‘honest’ reference and so come across as very convincing in building attractive attention to your ‘product’.

  3. Muhammad Iqbal

    Scott,I disagree the views of Tom Kadala as practice makes a man perfect. Practice means regularity. further one should keep one’s senses on while presenting,but should not criticize practice.