Olympic hockey wins hold lessons for speakers

by Halina St James

What can sophisticated public speakers learn from the rough and tumble of international hockey? At least three clear lessons came to my mind as I revelled in the hockey finals at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

From the nail-biting women’s final between Canada and the US the lesson was obvious: never give up. Canada were trailing until 55 seconds before the end of regulation time. But they never panicked. They trusted themselves and their game plan – and it paid off with that late equalizer and a win in overtime.

Use that calm-in-adversity approach when you are speaking. No matter what happens in the room, no matter what little mistakes you may make, never give up on yourself. If you’ve followed the TalkitOut advice for building a presentation, if you’ve clearly defined your message, don’t start second-guessing your game plan. You may stumble over a sentence. A slide may pop up out of sequence. It feels like a disaster at the time. Just take a breath, re-focus, and go for gold.

Give it all you’ve got right to the every end. Audiences will remember the way you begin and the way you end. Stay strong and stay passionate until you’ve achieved your purpose.

Talking of passion, remember that’s the secret sauce that can make the difference between silver and gold. That was the second lesson for me.

In the men’s competition the Canadians jumped on to the ice at every line change as if their lives depended on it. They wanted to play. Martin St Louis and PK Subban didn’t get as much ice time as they would have liked. (St Louis only got to Sochi because of injury to a teammate). But they accepted their roles with grace. They channeled their passion for the game – and for Team Canada – into supporting their colleagues in practice and off the ice.

As a speaker, never be afraid to show your passion for your topic. Your enthusiasm will help you really connect with your audience.

The third lesson is about being focussed. At one point in the gold medal game against Sweden, a Canadian player was trapped on the boards by two big Swedes. The Canadian had the puck between his skates. One Swede was trying to get the puck out with his stick while the other Swede was busy pummelling the Canadian’s body. The Canadian stayed calm. He knew exactly what he had to do, even when it was hurting.

When you speak, you need that kind of laser focus. Don’t focus on nerves. Don’t focus on anything except the moment. Your only job is to deliver the best performance you possibly can.

With passion, focus and determination to never give up, you’ve a good chance of being golden.

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