Prepare to Speak Like a Champion Athlete

Being an athlete and a motivational speaker I find there are many similarities between the training and preparation for an event or performance.  I might be biased, but I think there is something to learn from what it takes to succeed in sport, to what it takes to perform well in speaking.Eindhoven Trofee

With the Winter Olympics in full swing in Sochi, I thought it a good time to share the preparation tips of champions and how that might help you as a speaker.

1. Champions are made in training – athletes practice their technique over and over again.  They do different drills to handle different conditions including pressure situations.  Speakers need to pay the same attention to training and practicing their craft with a desire for constant improvement.  Athletes are always looking to be their best and to find the small distinctions that can make the difference.

How much attention are you paying to improving your skills as a speaker?

2. Fitness can play a factor – speakers do not have to be as fit as athletes, and yet a certain level of health and fitness is required, especially if traveling regularly or spending lengthy time on stage.  At one time, I was teaching 7 day trainings, with each day around 10 hours long.

Exercising, good sleep and eating well can provide much needed energy to perform your best throughout your time in front of an audience.

3. Plan your performance – alpine skiers, lugers, figure skaters, and more….they all know ahead of time what they are doing.  They have their performance completely mapped out – where to turn, what the body must do, how to finish.  The more prepared as a speaker you are, the easier your performance will be.

Put as much time to preparing how you are going to present and express yourself, as you do with what you are speaking about.  Plan the different phases – the start, the middle and the all important finish.

4. Get into the right headspace – most athletes will have a pre-competition routine to get them into the right headspace to compete at their best.  You see a lot of athletes listening to music or audio through headphones prior to their event – whether to relax, to distract or to help them focus.  I saw at least one of the half-pipe snowboarders competing with his earphones on.

I advise speakers to have a pre-performance routine that helps them be ready to perform.  It could be something physical – I like to dance around to loosen up the body or you could stretch; and it can be mental.  What do you say to yourself as you are getting ready?  Telling yourself positive things are going to be much more helpful than focusing on being nervous, or that the audience is really big, or anything negative.

5. Get support – athletes have a whole entourage of coaches and support team, to help them with the various areas of their performance.  A coach is most important for providing the technical feedback that will help the athlete improve.  A speaking coach can do the same for your speaking – teaching and refining your skills, getting the juice out of your stories, giving you feedback and helping you get the results you want as a speaker.

I liken a speaker coach to a specialty coach on a football team.  The specialty coach focuses on their specialty (e.g. kicking), allowing the team coach to focus on the whole team and the big picture.

Consider what kind of coaching, support and preparation can help you kick your speaking goals.

Did I miss something out?  What other ways are the performances of athletes and speakers similar?