Public Speaking like football?? A skill that needs to be practised.…

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Just yesterday, I read yet another article listing the skills of public speaking.  There are countless such articles constantly being shared on the internet and on social media.

Why is it that when we think of other skills-based activities, we rarely see lists of the skills circulated at such a rate.  Rather, people are out there practising those skills because we all know that it’s through practise, practise and more practise that skills are acquired, developed and purposefully cultivated.

For example, take football.  Would you honestly sit down and read an article, or maybe 2, or maybe 25 about the skills of football if you wanted to become a great footballer?  Well, if you are that way inclined, here you are:


  • Get comfortable with the feel of the ball at your feet.
  • Trap, stop and control the ball. Dribble / Run / Move with the ball under control.
  • Get the ball off a player on the opposing team or receive the ball from a tip off, kick out or pass.
  • Don’t handle the ball.
  • Practise marking your opponent.
  • Shake hands with your opponents at the beginning and end of the match.
  • Don’t smile at your marker (this may be perceived as weakness)
  • Practise dodging your opponent with the ball.
  • Pass the ball to a team player.
  • Practise passing with the inside of your foot, with the outside of your foot, with your head.
  • Control the ball with your chest.
  • Practise sprinting, jumping and manoeuvring around the field with explosive power.
  • Don’t foul your opponent.
  • Practise heading the ball.
  • Stay onside.
  • Shoot from a variety of different angles.
  • Practise attacking.
  • Practise defending.
  • Practise being a goalkeeper.
  • Practising passing the ball.
  • Practise taking corners.
  • Practise taking penalties.
  • Practise keeping your nerve under pressure.
  • Practise playing your best game in front of spectators.
  • Run around the field with your hands in the air to celebrate your goal and finish this move with a dab.
  • Don’t spend too long celebrating or the game will have restarted without you.
  • Oh and by the way, don’t be nervous or if you are nervous, yes actually a little bit of nerves are good, turn your nerves into excited and positive energy.
  • One more thing to remember, enjoy yourself and have fun.

So, after all that, I trust that you are now ready to go out and take your rightful position on one of the premiership teams.  After all, you’ve read all the skills so why shouldn’t you be ready.  If you’re in any doubt, perhaps you should read a book on the topic.  Yes, a book about the skills of football!!

Is there not something bizarre about all of this?  I feel exhausted reading back over that list myself.  It certainly doesn’t motivate me to be a football player. Honestly, I can’t actually remember what some of the skills I listed are already but thankfully, I did play some football in my youth.  I actually played long before I ever read about it.  In fact, I never read about football.  Having 5 brothers, I played every day for many years of my childhood and guess what, as I practised the skills of football and watched others practise them, a strange thing happened.  I got better at them and became more confident when it came to playing in front of a crowd.  Is it possible that the same might be true of Public Speaking and the skills of speaking clearly, competently and confidently in front of a group?

Now, if someone threw me a soccer ball and set up the conditions on the pitch for me to begin practising these skills again, well, I’d be off in a shot.  I’d perform the many skills of football without even thinking because practising those skills again and again in my youth ensured that they were committed to procedural memory.

Surely, this is the same approach we should take with public speaking.  Learn by doing.  Learn by regular practise.  Learn by watching others practise.  Learn by watching, listening to and evaluating speakers we admire.

While reading about the stories of some of our football legends may inspire us and motivate us to move beyond our comfort zones, no amount of reading about the skills of being a good footballer will make you a better player.  We have to get in the game and play!


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