Are you competing when you should be training?

Our clients have a strong desire to improve their public speaking skills, but they often wait until a big presentation is scheduled to think about it. This means the only time they flex their presentation muscles is when it really matters. That’s a gamble. What’s needed is a strategy.

I train in CrossFit. I love the community, the loud music, the smashing barbells, and even the sweating. CrossFit teaches me about setting goals and creating a strategy to get there. In his podcast, Chasing Excellence, Ben Bergeron, a prominent coach in the CrossFit community, describes three different mindsets one can have when participating in the sport of CrossFit: practicing, training, and competing. This got me thinking: how can we apply these mindsets to our work with clients who working on their public speaking skills?

First, distinguishing between PRACTICING, TRAINING, and COMPETING (according to Ben)

PRACTICE: In CrossFit, this is when you SLOW DOWN and think about your FORM. No (or very little) weight is used. Lots of repetitions. This is unglamorous, tedious work— picture Rocky Balboa hitting a speed bag and running all over Philadelphia.

TRAIN: In CrossFit, this is the workout of the day (WOD). Intensity and load is increased. You are putting your skills to the test, but you are still free to make mistakes, and you are still putting a great deal of thought into form.

COMPETE: This is when you are working to WIN. In CrossFit, you might be trying to beat your personal best time or you might be on an actual competition floor. Either way, the hallmark to competing is that it is full out— your focus is on winning, not on your form.  Competition is NOT when you get better, it’s when you go for it, by any means necessary.

It’s easy to imagine these modes in sports, but what does it look like in PUBLIC SPEAKING?

PRACTICE by working on breathing exercises and vocal exercises. Read your newsfeed out loud to get better at your articulation. Record yourself and listening back. Stand in line at the grocery with both feet grounded beneath you. Play the Rocky theme song, dig in, and do the unglamorous work.

TRAIN in meetings with lower stakes, on conference calls, or in small group work. Other people will add to the pressure, but mistakes can be made without repercussion. While it is tempting to sit back and relax in these moments, they are the perfect training grounds to really hone the skills you have been practicing.

COMPETE when it really matters. This is why you’re here! You compete in board meetings, critical presentations, interviews, and keynotes. If you have been practicing and training, you will compete with excellence. All you have to do is let er rip.

To get to your goal of becoming an amazing presenter, make sure you have a STRATEGY:

FIND the time to PRACTICE. It will take conscious effort to make the incremental improvements that will elevate your public speaking.

UTILIZE your opportunities to TRAIN. The more often you use your skills in real situations the more second nature your skills will become.

Remember, if you want to WIN at PUBLIC SPEAKING, you gotta put in the work. Don’t walk onto the COMPETITION floor unprepared.