Call me maybe. US Olympic Swim Team show presenters the way to go gold

Gaining success is as much about enjoyment as pain as the swimmers prove

by Peter Watts

What is more dedicated than an Olympic athlete? Training, working, sacrificing. Their goal: the Olympics.

And now here they are. And it’s this moment. And it’s going to play out in front of their families, their communities, their countries, and the world.

And they are bopping up and down on the team bus, lip-synching to “Call me maybe”, and making fun of themselves for all the world to see.

The members of the US Olympic Swim Team have given us an aquatic masterclass in:

  • How to be distinctive
  • How to be Social Media visible
  • How to have a life


Presenters can be a dime a dozen, and like the President staring back out of those dimes, they look pretty damned serious. They are taking their presentation and themselves oh so very seriously, and for their audiences, it’s oh so very boring.

I believe it’s important for audiences to enjoy presentations. In the vast majority of cases when we present, we are seeking to persuade, and as the ancient Chinese proverb states:

“A man without a smiling face should never open a shop”

Taking ourselves too seriously kills first our own smile, and then the audience’s. When we take ourselves too seriously we become rigid. Rigid leads to conservative. Conservative is seldom distinctive.

Mixing it: Being social media visible as a presenter:

Take a look at Brad Smith’s article in Social Media Today about the three biggest lessons big business can learn from small business.

Brad’s number one lesson is to “Have a voice”, and he explains how brand-meisters are muzzled by forces of conservatism. Playing it safe means playing it mute.

Which Olympic team is getting the most coverage? The one that’s not taking itself too seriously.

Having a life, as a presenter:

If you move into the type of occupation where presenting becomes the major part of your work, then taking yourself too seriously is a rapid route to a joyless existence. Your mistakes will magnify, and your stress levels sore.

The US Olympic Swim Team are exactly the type of people General Colin Powell described when he said he likes to surround himself “with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves.”

Not taking yourself too seriously, means you’re going to be limber enough to find triumph on the day.

Two golds, three silvers, and three bronzes are already testimony to that!


  1. I love General Powell’s approach. The people, products, and businesses we are most drawn to are the unique – the ones that stand out (in a good way), but we seem to forget that when it comes to how we present ourselves to the world. Hyperseriousness is not charismatic, it’s not attractive, and I’ve yet to see any proof that it gets better results. Getting great results and having big fun do not have to be mutually exclusive and it’s great to see a team showing a little personality.

    • The worlds of business have been through such radical change in the past 20 years, that I think leaders who were insecure to begin with have responded by clamping-down with an iron-fist of self-control. It’s the classic management-by-presence that still continues to hold some businesses back from embracing flexible work patterns. I think there is a correlation between unwillingness to embrace fun and unwillingness to embrace change. Change happens. Here’s to more people having fun! 🙂

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