What a Speaker Can Learn From Golfers
In the world of golf, there are many ways to practice – putting on practice greens, chipping shots out of a sand trap, and hitting balls at the driving range.
If you’re not familiar with the term, a driving range is a place where golfers practice. You typically stand on a mat, and either place your golf ball on the matt or a 2 to 3-inch tee. You can then hit the ball with various clubs. It’s an excellent method of practice, to test your different types of swings, lengths of shots, etc.
My friend David Levy recently observed that a speaker is like a golfer – if you want to improve, it’s best to test different aspects of your talk as much as possible. This includes:
- Vocal delivery
- Physical movement on stage
- Energy shifts
In sports, the term ‘muscle memory’ is used to describe the ability to repeat a bodily movement the same way each time you perform it. Hitting a golf ball from a tee, kicking a soccer ball, or taking a shot with a basketball are just three examples.
The same can be done in speaking. When you practice your speeches, you can train yourself to repeat your delivery the same way each time you perform it. For example, with vocal delivery, what is the tone, volume, and rate throughout your talk?
In your stories, be sure that these match the mood of each scene.I you’re describing an argument with a teenager, speak more intensely, loudly and fast. If you’re describing holding your child or grandchild for the first time, speak in a loving tone, with a lower volume and slower rate.
Your movements and energy should also reflect the mood of these scenes.
This leads us to the question, where can you find a speaker ‘driving range.’
Let’s start with places it’s best not to practice:
In front of a mirror and while driving your car.
The problem with mirrors is that when you’re focused on your movements and expressions in-the-moment, it’s difficult to concentrate on your message and your vocal delivery. It’s also nearly impossible to evaluate yourself while you’re talking. Evaluation is best to be done after you’ve spoken.
Which is where video comes in. The best golfers video record their swings and analyze to determine what is working well, and what isn’t. This is also the best method to review both your physical and vocal delivery. With easy access to video on today’s smart phones, there is no excuse NOT to video record your speeches.
I’m not a fan of practicing in your car because you can’t move as you will on stage. You could create the muscle memory of giving the speech with your hands in front of you (because you’re holding a steering wheel) or staring straight ahead (because you’re watching other cars. I assume you’re watching other cars, right?)
Where are the best places to practice?
Before any live audience you can find.
There are many places to find them:
Toastmasters International – where many speakers got their start – is an organization created to help speakers improve.
Local service organizations – groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, and Chambers of Commerce are often in need of a speaker.
Networking organizations like H7 (formerly TBN) or Business Network International (BNI) offer opportunities to promote your business through short talks.
MEETUP groups have become popular in the U.S. Every day, I receive notice of new groups that are forming. These almost always look for a speaker.
Schools – both primary and secondary. Some learning institutions feature speakers who can give students perspectives on various business issues.
There’s no shortage of places to hone your speeches. The key is developing the habit of speaking as much as possible. It’s the only way to becoming a Stand OUT speaker who resonates and is remembered. In the words of Muhammed Ali, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
Speaking, like any other skill, requires practice if you want to master it. Just like golfers who practice many kinds of swings and approaches to improve their game, you can do the same when you find – and use – your speaking ‘driving range.’
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