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Ten Lessons from China’s Olympics Preparations

Ten Lessons from China’s Olympics Preparations

Ten Lessons from China's Olympics Preparations

    It looks like much of the gold that was brought to China for this year’s Olympics will remain there after the games’ end. Michael Phelps’ legendary 8 gold medals for the US team helped the Americans bring up their count but not nearly enough to keep them in the top spot for winning gold since the fall of the Soviet empire. Even if you discount a few from China for biased judging, they still won this year’s Lycra War. This 29th Olympiad became China’s great coming out party. Everyone was invited and entertained while these enthusiastic hosts met their ambitious goals for the August event.

    There are some important lessons we can learn from what some call China’s great awakening. This relates to Napoleon’s account to his European colleagues that China was a sleeping tiger – one he figured should best be left asleep while his forces agitated in Europe and the New World. Since Napoleon is no longer around, we decided to fill in and take some careful notes from our experience in China these past several days. We have come up with the following ten lessons from China’s Olympic preparations:

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    1.    Plan

    China had a plan that went into high gear from the moment they learned the country won the bid in 2001 to host the 2008 Games. An important aspect was the focus on addressing the approximately 120 sports the country had never achieved any measurable success in such as swimming, track and field and water events.

    The country and organizing host city engaged in massive planning efforts to ensure the infrastructure was in good shape. Fabulous venues, subways, airports, highways and railways were built, dirty factories shut down, and automobiles restricted. The IOC suggested China went a bit too far in its planning that went overboard in some aspects of security and media control. The IOC had to publicly tell the hosts not to obstruct reporters.

    Plan well and start planning far enough in advance to achieve your goals, however lofty your goals may seem when they first start to take shape.

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    2.    Slogans for communicating the strategy

    “China Project 119” was a simple and clear slogan for communicating the strategy for China’s need to concentrate special resources on the 119 events in which the country was the weakest.  “Impossible is nothing” was an Adidas co-sponsor slogan that became one of the main public slogans used for boosting the Games to the general public. Use such slogans if you have a need to communicate ideas to large numbers of people.

    3.    Public buy-in

    Those who suggest that these Olympic Games were primarily a propaganda gimmick that came from a committee located in Beijing do not understand the Chinese people or the country very well. One would need to go deep into the countryside to find someone who did not have an awareness of or interest in this major national undertaking. Even mountain goats in the Tibet region had Olympic rings painted onto them! If that was purely propaganda, it does not explain how traffic patterns in diverse cities changed in response to events in Beijing with crowds gathered around television sets in the cities and around radios on the trains during various events.

    On the other hand, the Hong Kong crowd seemed indifferent in comparison to the mainland Chinese. Olympic flags, T-shirts and paraphernalia are everywhere although it is hard to know how much of it is authentic and from IOC approved suppliers. The Chinese buy-in was huge and you should make sure that you have whatever buy-in you need for your great undertakings.

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    4.    Resources

    There was about $40 billion dollars invested in this year’s Olympic Games by the Chinese. Some claim about $6 million was additionally spent on each medal-winning athlete. The country has only recently become able to afford this level of spending but did not appear to cut corners on costs. Put up the required resources for your project, plus support and reward your key players well is the message here.

    5.    Know yourself and the competitive landscape

    The Chinese Olympic leadership set its sights very high – taking aim at the American gold medal count as being the only target worth beating. The sights were high but the leadership understood its own strengths and weaknesses well enough to know that it was an achievable goal. It also knew the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. The American team had its traditional great individual capabilities which Phelps demonstrated to an extreme. The Chinese were able to overcome this through numbers, sifting through a quarter of the world’s population to create its talent pool.

    6.    Bring in the best

    The country brought in about 50 top coaches from a dozen countries to give their team the edge needed to make it over the top. This comes on top of the 2500 coaches China has sent to over 100 countries beginning in the 1960s. Great planners, architects, engineers, administrators and professionals of all types were brought in or consulted on the myriad aspects of the Games. As an example, China had global accounting powerhouse PricewaterhouseCoopers working on medal count spreadsheets.

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    7.    Great propaganda

    Starting several years ahead of time, a 24-hour national television channel was launched featuring Chinese athletes winning events and preparing for the upcoming Games. It is hard to see how this could not inspire athletes and interest the public. This programming was continually available considering that there are relatively few television channels available in China with about half of them still dedicated to old Chinese martial arts based movies and shows. Currently, the other half are dedicated to the Olympics and news. This is only one example of the positive propaganda used to generate and sustain interest in these events. There are many others. The lesson here is to deploy effective propaganda to support your initiatives.

    8.    Sufficiently developed infrastructure

    Along with new railways, airports and roadways, the whole nation’s plumbing system was reworked as part of the preparations for the Games. Entire river systems were altered with water, sewage and industrial wastewater pollution standards substantially upgraded. Ten years ago, finding a relatively clean western-style toilet complete with paper was a treat to find. Now it is the norm. The lesson here is to ensure you have sufficient infrastructure in place that you won’t find yourself in an uncomfortable place due to lack of suitable facilities for whatever you are trying to accomplish.

    9.    Strong motive

    The Chinese have accomplished amazing things in their recent development into a modern society. The Games represent a great opportunity for individual athletes, communities and the country as a whole to show off in a constructive way. This strong motivation is reinforced by the clearly aligned need to continue promoting Chinese interests internally and abroad. Whether your primary motive is showing off or something else, make sure it is a strong one that is clearly aligned with your interests.

    10.    Selection, screening and training process

    CBS News correspondent Barry Peterson recently reported that “Nine-year-old Zhang Huiman is on the lonely road to Olympic gold, running 20 miles a day preparing for the games of 2020.” Peterson also reported that the nation is “so obsessed with Olympic gold that it is training 200,000 handpicked kids in state-run sports boarding schools. It’s the same system the Soviets used to train gold medalists like Maria Filatova in their Cold-War sports duel with the United States.” The systems and processes are robust. When Chinese star athlete Liu Xiang failed to clear his first hurdle in Beijing, the massive selection, screening and training process ensured that China’s Olympic aspirations were not dashed. China’s numerous gold-winning weightlifters, divers and gymnasts were more than able to compensate. Have a similarly reliable process for achieving your goals.

    We’ll need to see how much of the gold China ends up with at the end of the Games. We already know it will be more than the Americans, who have been dominant since the former Soviet team divided into multiple countries. If you’ve learned any other lessons from China’s Olympic preparations, please share them in the comments.

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    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

    10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

    Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

    You have to work hard to develop the right skills

    If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

    1. Make your presentation short and sweet

    With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

    JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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    2. Open up with a good ice breaker

    At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

    • Joking
    • Tugging on their heart strings
    • Dropping a bombastic statement
    • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
    • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

    You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

    3. Keep things simple and to the point

    Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

    4. Use a healthy dose of humor

    Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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    It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

    5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

    Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

    6. Practice your delivery

    Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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    7. Move around and use your hands

    Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

    8. Engage the audience by making them relate

    Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

    9. Use funny images in your slides

    Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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    10. End on a more serious note

    When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

    As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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