Last week I delivered 7 presentations in 3 days.
Pre-COVID delivering 7 presentations was considered a big month, let alone a big week.
However, now with a blend of live and virtual events my productivity and output levels have gone to another level.
One of the things I love most about my role as a speaker/keynote presenter is the diversity in skillset and extreme focus that every presentation requires. I might be presenting in a board room one day for a CEO of a top 50 ASX company and their exec team discussing operating rhythm and business strategy; talking to a bunch of testosterone-charged athletes about mental skills the next; and delivering a virtual presentation to thousands of people literally all around the world later that night.
Every presentation is different.
Every presentation requires an understanding of context-specific information for that group.
Every presentation I need to be totally on my game.
To stay present and energised for intense periods of delivery I have learnt to pull a stack of Performance Levers to get me ready for presentations (Up Regulate), and as importantly several rituals to switch off and psychologically detach after (Down Regulate). Here is a snapshot of what the 3 days looked like.
#1: Let’s look at the 7 Presentations
- Tues 9am: VIRTUAL LAUNCH – Executive Performance Program (Abbvie)
During the Launch with the Immunology Leadership team, we explored ways to ensure work practices are optimised and explained what is ahead for the next 10 weeks including our Human Performance Academy, webinars, coaching sessions, support staff program, and a resource-rich digital platform.
- Tues 10:30am: VIRTUAL KEYNOTE – MatchFit and Survival of the Fittest (Suncorp)
I discussed being ‘MatchFit’ is playing and competing at a consistently high level and performing at your best in an ever-changing environment. It is also about negating the biological decline of the body and brain post 40 years of age. There has never been a more important to be physically and psychologically MatchFit.
- Tues 3:15pm: LIVE KEYNOTE – Executive Performance and Burnout Proof (Ramsay Health Care)
Dr Tom Buckley and I delivered a 2-hour workshop for the top 50 leaders. In this evidence-based presentation we discussed maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness, strong immunity and healthy psychological wellbeing are critical areas for leaders to focus on. We also covered 5 factors that make executives Burnout Proof.
- Wed 9am: ½ DAY LIVE WORKSHOP: Operating Rhythm and Mental Skills (Large Bank)
During this offsite we explored how we need to establish new operating rhythms that find a blend between working at home, in hubs and hybrid. Central to this is establishing optimum individual and team operating rhythms. When individual and team rhythms align, productivity goes to another level.
- Wed 3pm: VIRTUAL CELEBRATION: 30 Day Boost Program (Telstra)
The virtual celebration included a summary of the team’s improvements and results, trivia, an award ceremony and reflecting back on the previous 30 Days.
- Thu 10:30am: LIVE KEYNOTE: High Performance Reset (Zurich)
Presenting my latest keynote High Performance Reset to 100 of Zurich’s national team. We spoke about how to Recharge, refresh and recalibrate and create the framework for a successful year
- Thu 3:30pm: GROUP COACHING: Exec Performance Program – Better Week (Frasers Property)
The focus was Executive Productivity and Better Week. Working as an executive requires a shift from being tactical to being strategic. We explored working with support staff/delegation, communications and influence, learning how to say no, aligning activities with personal purpose and sticking to the Better Week.
#2 Let’s Look at Active Recovery Strategies and Down Regulating
From a science perspective, Dr Tom Buckley and I refer to down regulating as a combination of switching off the brain (psychological detachment) and relaxing the body (parasympathetic activation). Throughout the 3-day block I consciously chose activities that helps me Down Regulate, including:
- Low Intensity Swim with Mikaela (Tuesday night)
On Tuesday after school, I drove my eldest daughter Miki to Andrew Boy Charlton Pool for swim training. While Miki was doing her laps I jumped in and did an easy 700m. No trying to smash myself or get my heart rate racing. Just a nice, easy relaxed swim (for the physiology buffs I was at the lower level of Zone 2 training). I find swimming provides a great opportunity for stillness and self-reflection.
- Twilight Walk with Toby (Wednesday night)
A few nights each week after everyone is in bed or settling with a book, I grab Toby (the dog) and do a 30 to 45 min walk. I was influenced to build in this ‘down regulation practice’ by Aaron Walsh, Mental Skills coach for the Chiefs Rugby team.
- Some nights I listen to a podcast
- Some nights I walk and think deeply about a new product, talk, upcoming podcast interview, etc
- Some nights I just walk and enjoy the stillness, the quiet, the free space
- 5km Parkrun with Mario (7am Sat morn)
Early Saturday morning Mario (best mate from high school) and I did the Mosman Parkrun. While this technically isn’t an activity that fits under the bracket of Down Regulating, especially when my lungs and legs were bathing in a pool of lactic acid at the 4km mark, focusing on a fitness event plus social connection is a great way to detach from work and calm my ‘monkey brain’ that had been revving high all week.
- Play Swim with Sofia and Millie (9am Sat morn)
After the Parkrun, straight home to meet Toni and take our two gorgeous little girls to Lane Cove Pool for a swim. Pretending to be a dolphin, and a dog, and a goldfish for 30 mins with Sofia is a perfect way to bring everything back to a normal baseline. When Toni tagged me and took over the animal play, I snuck outside for a sneaky, super relaxed 500m swim.
Other activities I chose throughout the block to Down Regulate include:
- Alcohol free days (AFD’s): I function much better when I have AFD’s in busy blocks
- Healthy food: Sticking to a diet of primarily plant-based foods and no added sugar
- Restorative sleep: Making sure I focused on quality sleep
- Breathwork: I regularly include breathing activities throughout the day
- Night-time meditation: I love using the Calm app to help me switch off my active mind and drift off
- Stretching: Archie (my son) and I do a 10 to 15 min easy stretch a few nights each week before bed
- Sauna: A few times each week I do a sauna cold water combo
- Play: Having 4 vibrant, active children, play is a big part of the way we connect with each other
#3 Play Life Like an Extreme Sport
I like to think of life like an extreme sport.
At one extreme go super hard. Charge. Squeeze. Push. PERFORM.
This includes work, physical fitness, mental skills and everything life has to offer.
And at the other extreme take it easy. Go slow. Cruise. Chill. RECHARGE.
This is exactly how I have set up our work/operating rhythm at StriveStronger balancing between the In season and the Off Season, which is based around the school semester and the quarterly business reporting season. Think of breaking the year into 4 quarters of 10 to 11-week cycles based on school semesters (In Season) with a 2-week break (Off Season) in between.
I work at a high intensity throughout the year and take the majority of January off. For many people there is a natural oscillation between high intensity and periods of lower intensity throughout the year (and of not – you need to manufacture this!) In my role as a keynote speaker (especially now we are back doing live events again), I know February/March, July/August and October are big months, or what the speaking industry calls ‘Conference Season.’
As an example, I delivered 22 presentations in February and 21 presentations in March (including keynotes, workshops, and part of our 30 Day Boost, MatchFit Leader and Executive Performance Programs) – with a mixture of live, virtual and hybrid events. During this block my primary focus was on delivering keynotes, launching new leadership and wellbeing programs, and keeping the focus on sales. That’s it. I had very little capacity for anything else.
While presenting this much is great for business and I love connecting with large groups of people, if I presented at this intensity throughout the year I would either get stale and fatigue, burnout, or a combination of the two. So, I set my diary up to ‘harvest the crop’ during Conference Season and build in natural breaks around this, where I consciously down regulate and drop the intensity. This also allows me to shift focus to other parts of the business including developing IP for our iStrive digital platform, coaching, writing books, etc.
As I finish writing this blog we are about to pack up and head to the Gold Coast for the school holidays. I follow a similar rhythm throughout the year balancing periods of high intensity with conscious blocks of lower intensity. Having four children helps me find a seasonal rhythm based on the 10-week school term, with a natural break and drop in output with school holidays. Have you tried following a similar rhythm?
Gotta go. Time to Down Regulate!