What the Olympics can teach us about public speaking

Gymnast overcoming adversityEvery two years we watch the many inspiring stories that come out of the Olympics.   In watching the Olympics, I’m always struck by how many similarities there are between top athletes and top speakers.  All participants demonstrate a grit, determination, and dedication to get out there and “strut their stuff.”

Determination and Persistence Pay Off

It takes preparation and practice, sometimes mixed with disappointment, to produce a champion.  After all, we’re human, and part of the human experience means that we falter from time to time.  But what makes a true champion is the determination and persistence to pick oneself up and commit to the hard work.

Don’t Give Up

You never know when a stumble will derail you, but keep going. When it seems like you can’t, have courage, and don’t give up.  At the Sochi Olympics, Japanese figure skater Mau Asada, finished a disastrous short program, only to go and give the long program performance of her life.

British gymnast Ellie Downie took a frightening fall on her head during a floor routine at the Rio Olympics.  Despite calls for her to sit out the following routines, she picked herself up and finished the vault exercises with shining colors, as her team came in third in the Olympics qualifications.

And then there is American swimmer, Michael Phelps, who retired from the Olympics, and, who, after a disappointing showing in the London Olympics, came back to swim the 400-meter relay in Rio.  He not only won a 19th gold medal, but catapulted his team to a first-place finish.  It wasn’t only skill, but practice and determination that helped him make a comeback.

Ten Essential Qualities

So, here is my list of ten essential qualities that all top performers share, whether in athletics or speaking.

  • It takes focus, dedication, and determination to triumph
  • Failure can lead to success. Skiers and snowboarders crash, gymnasts have accidents.  Wipe yourself off, and start again
  • Even if you’re rusty, there’s no time like the present to jump back in and start practicing
  • learn to take risks, as many successful athletes do. Leave your comfort zone and challenge yourself
  • Be courageous
  • Be authoritative
  • Don’t be a quitter; never give up
  • Go out there with focus and concentration
  • If you falter, you can recover and make a comeback
  • It takes practice, practice, practice

Remember, always hold your head high, go out there with confidence, and with the can-do attitude: “I have something to say that’s worth listening to!”

2 thoughts on “What the Olympics can teach us about public speaking

  1. Thanks for the great article!

    Personally, I think “Don’t be a quitter; never give up” is the most important quality for public speakers.

    Firstly, it helps speakers keep going after not-so-stellar performances.

    Also, it helps speakers take the Japanese “Kaizen” approach to their speeches. The approach of constantly refining and improving a speech.

    Cheers,
    Dave!

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