Serena Williams Talks Preparedness (Which is Really Just Another Word for Training) at IOD 2013

SerenaIODI’m typically not the kind of girl who gets starstruck, and I’m usually not susceptible to motivational speaking. I’m a marketer… rhetoric is what we do. ☺ But I have to say, hearing Serena Williams speak last week in the last general session of IBM’s Information on Demand (IOD) conference kind of made me want to ask for her autograph. She was truly inspiring!

Admittedly, it makes sense that Serena’s message of preparedness and competitive spirit would resonate with me. From the minute she walked out in that sassy black dress and oxford heels (I want those shoes!), I could tell that we have a similar outlook on life. Early on in the Q/A session led by Mark Jeffries (yes that Mark Jeffries, author and communications consultant to some of the world’s largest organizations), she said, “I always strive to be better… Moving forward in everything that I do… I always have this drive to do more.”

But before I get off topic, the premise of Serena’s session was to discuss how she uses data to prepare for each match, and she had some very interesting stuff to share about how IBM statistics help her get ready. She is given data that covers everything from how often her opponent serves from different spots on the court to how often she hits her forehand, making it easy for her to strategize and make better decisions on the court. She even told this charming anecdote about the first time she got an IBM pack on CD and thought it was a recording of her match, when it really was a list of stats. She said, “Where’s my match?! It’s just all these numbers!” Lastly, Serena said that before big tournaments, she likes to clear her mind. She watches shows like Suits and listens to music so that she doesn’t over analyze.

Two funniest quotes of the day:

When asked about what 80s music she listens to, Serena said after she lost Wimbledon, she took a look at the data and “analyzed and figured out I shouldn’t be listening to Irene Cara.”

Then, when Mark asked about her pre-match diet, she said, “I’m not the spokesperson for eating right… Some of my body parts can speak to that.”

In general, you can tell even when sitting rows away that Serena is a fierce competitor, and not only does she value being the best, but she puts in the work required to stay on top. I’m all for the preparation discussion, because that’s what we help people do here at Global Knowledge. It’s always interesting to talk about the different ways to develop skills.

In the end, the case for training is simple. Practice helps you get ready for the real deal. So, in essence, Serena drove home what we already know, saying, “I know if I practice the right things, I’ll get the right results.”

Game. Set. Match.

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