Several years ago, a very interesting experiment was conducted.
In the off-season, a basketball team was split into 3 groups for a month. The first group practiced shooting free throws for 30 minutes per day. The second group didn't practice shooting free throws at all. The third group also didn't physically practice shooting free throws at all, but this group spent 5 minutes per day visualizing themselves shooting free throws and getting them in the basket.
The results: The first group improved their free throw shooting by 24%. As one might expect, 30-minutes a day of practice led to improved performance. The second group had a 0% average improvement. Once again, as you would expect, by not practicing, the players didn't improve their performance.
The most interesting result was the third group, who increased their free throw shooting by 23%. This group improved performance by virtually the same amount as group one. And they didn't even take a single practice shot. And, they only spent 16% of the time (5 minutes visualizing vs. group one's 30 minutes of actual practice) trying to improve.
Now, I'm not saying that people should never physically practice things to get better at them. No, real practice is essential to success. But, when you add visualization, your success can go through the roof.
Visualizing yourself achieving success is also known as "mental rehearsal." And mental rehearsal has been proven to improve performance in a variety of situations from job interviews to presentations to sales calls to athletic performance.
And the big one I want to focus on is presentations. Contrary to what most entrepreneurs want to believe (most want to believe they can simply send an email to an investor and receive a funding check in return), no one is going to invest in your company without first meeting with you.
And when you meet with them, you want to go through a well thought-out and delivered presentation that explains what your company is, why it's exciting, and why they should invest now.
To succeed in this endeavor, the entrepreneur must first create a compelling slide presentation. Then, they must practice giving the presentation over and over to increase their fluency and comfort giving the presentation.
And finally, as we learned with the free throw shooting experiment, the entrepreneur must mentally rehearse the presentation. They must visualize themselves giving the presentation, and having the investors nodding in agreement, and ending the meeting with the desired outcome (e.g., the investor writing a check to you).
The mind works in funny ways. It seems odd that visualizing yourself successfully giving a presentation would make a difference. But it definitely does. And it is often the difference between an entrepreneur receiving a big check that funds their business, and going home empty-handed.