5 Things Running a Marathon Can Teach You About Presenting
Tobias Schelle September 22, 2014

I recently had a conversation with a good friend from runrepeat.com about what things running and presenting have in common. He’s passionate about running, I’m passionate about presentations. There are some surprising things that are true to running as they are to presenting.

Basic RGB

Don’t expect to nail it the first time. Think about the time you first started joining marathons or even simply set a goal in running. Did everything go smoothly as planned or as expected? I wouldn’t think so. You’d most likely encounter few glitches you didn’t anticipate while preparing. And you’d only experience these once you’ve actually done it.

As with many other skills like running, mastering the art of presentation takes time. You might have a goal which is great but it’s also inevitable to come across few blunders the first few times and well, they’re worth it because you can easily take them as learning experience and grow from these until you’ve reached your ultimate goal.

Energy is everything. When running marathons, you can’t expect to perform your peak without supplying your body and mind with enough energy. More than developing your skill or technique, a huge part of preparing yourself is being adequately nourished with the right diet for physical and mental power. Being well nourished is prerequisite to propel you to keep running with enough endurance and stamina.

This same energy in running can be translated to the passion you convey during presentation. Just imagine being invited to listen to a presentation topic you’re thrilled about only to discover how dull and lifeless the presenter is. On the other hand, even the most boring topics can be made exciting by a highly enthusiastic and energetic speaker. Being passionate about your performance easily shows and is also highly contagious while presenting; when you display enthusiasm in your tone of voice and gestures, your audience also eventually resonate this same eagerness.

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Steady pace is the most effective. It’s tempting for many first time runners to go all out the moment the race starts. They give it their all only to find themselves losing pace somewhere in the middle or towards the end—visibly drained of their energy and stamina.

Likewise, while it’s important to make a good start during the first few minutes of your presentation, keep in mind to maintain your pace. Don’t go hard in the beginning lest you end up losing focus or direction later on.

Practice, practice, practice.No one is born a natural winner in running marathons. It takes hours of practice to get your body used to running a distance of 42 km at a steady pace. And if you want to become one of the best, you need to push yourself in training to learn how your body reacts – learnings you can use on the day of your marathon.

And since you don’t expect to nail it for the first (or even second and third times), you also need to keep practicing to be good at presenting. Practicing not only improves your skill, it also raises your confidence and helps you avoid unexpected blunders (like many people bonk in their first marathon).

Enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Some people join marathons to win. Others simply want the thrill of the experience. Many people continue to participate in marathons even if they hardly win because of the people they meet, the new places they get to explore or how it makes them more disciplined.

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If you ask the most seasoned, so called ” presenting masters” on what’s the most memorable thing about presenting, it’s unlikely they’ll mention things like “realizing how awesome Keynote is” or winning this and that award. Most likely, you’ll find that the greatest achievements in presentations are related to what they or their audience have become because of it. Think about how more confident or how more focused you have become because of the so many “trial and error” presentations you’ve done.

So when “running” towards a great presentation, keep your eye on the goal but also consider what you can enjoy and learn from it in the process.

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