With 8 million weekly viewers and primetime positioning, “Shark Tank” is often referred to as the entrepreneur’s Super Bowl. It is a 6-9 minute spot worth millions of impressions and web traffic, that can paint your company as one that can swim or one that will sink. Prepping for such exposure for your company (not to mention yourself) isn’t easy especially as you are bombarded with insecurities, self-doubt, and sometimes a case of stage fright.
Below are four age-old traditions that I broke to help me personally prepare to hold my own in the tank.
Dress to Impress…For the Second Time
Dressing up for special occasions is a widely accepted practice, whether it means putting on a new tie or a new blouse. However, I purposely committed the ultimate fashion faux pas on “Shark Tank”: I wore a dress I had previously worn on camera. Not only had I worn it on camera for this highly rated segment for Entrepreneur, but I was also photographed in it at the United Nations. While some may balk, I used this as an advantage to settle my nerves.
Whether it is a big meeting, media appearance or public speaking opportunity, your mind can begin racing. “Is this wrinkling in a strange way?” “Is this color too muted?” “Am I sweating visibly?” Having already worn this look on camera, I was able to reference some historical facts. I knew exactly what I was going to look like in the Tank and exactly how I would photograph for the ABC promo shots. Having this reference point allowed my appearance fears to vanish pre-taping.
Eat and Hydrate in Moderation
Whether you are on “Shark Tank” or presenting to a room full of people, nothing sends more panic signals to your brain than your bladder and your stomach. Yet the day of our taping, the only thing I ate was a GoMacro bar I had packed. Vegan, gluten-free and high in protein, I knew my GoMacro could — in special circumstances such as this — last me until dinner.
I also knew I had eaten them a thousand times. This way, when my stomach was tangling in knots, I didn’t have to wonder whether the tuna salad I had at craft services was bad or if the pizza just didn’t settle well. In addition to having a few cups of water the day of the taping, I also gave my body a boost of caffeine by consuming half a cup of Coke 30 minutes before going to the sound stage. The extra jolt, paired with my excitement, gave me just enough punch to make sure I didn’t come off as soft-spoken or intimidated.
Prepare to Be Uncomfortable
I knew everything about the “Shark Tank” experience was going to be new and slightly uncomfortable. Brittany and I had to block off 25 potential tape days in our calendar to be on call and ready to fly to LA within five days. We were going to be staying at a hotel we didn’t choose, around people we didn’t know. We had no planned schedule and very little information about what to expect.
To prepare for all of the unknowns, I decided a few weeks prior to our hold dates I would begin making myself uncomfortable on purpose. Whether it was signing up for a new exercise class and positioning myself at the front or talking to someone in the elevator, I tried to put myself in places and positions that made me cringe. The great news is by the time we got to LA I had put myself in so many uncomfortable positions that everything we experienced seemed relatively tame. Never understatement the power of conquering small fears!
Skip Over-Practicing and Meditate Instead
You often hear differing views on the mindset you should have when going into the Tank. The first: Practice makes perfect. Practice until you can do it in your sleep. The second: Get out there, get loose and have fun. While I tried to do both of these things, I also made the wise decision of downloading Headspace, an easy to use and novice friendly app that leads you on daily 10-minute guided meditations. Andy Puddicombe, Headspace’s fearless captain of the mind, advises to think of your mind as an airplane in which you have experienced turbulence in the form of anxiousness or nervousness for most of the journey. If you can find perspective, you will be able to see that if you climb higher, there will be blue skies above the turbulence. I meditated in the weeks leading up to “Shark Tank” to train my mind to try to find that blue sky whenever possible.
While there are countless things you can do for your business leading into a “Shark Tank” appearance or any major presentation or event, you can’t forget about the most important part of any business: the founder. Preparing yourself mentally and physically is just as important as knowing your numbers and where your future growth will come from. Never forget that beyond the business, people are investing in you. No one wants a fast horse without a terrific jockey.