Why I want to be an AWESOME public speaker

Aug 20, 2014  ·  Sandy Mamoli

My goal for the next couple of years is to become an awesome public speaker.

And here’s why:


This is handball, and this is what I used to do. First, on a competitive level from when I was 12 and then, when I grew older, as a professional player representing Austria at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games.

When I look back I realise it’s professional sports that has shaped who I am today - it has had a huge influence on how I think, how I approach challenges, how I work as part of a team, how I achieve my goals, and how I approach life as a whole. And to be honest, I miss it!

But what does handball have to do with public speaking? Well, the connection might not be immediately obvious but public speaking is the closest to professional sports one can get:

Putting in the work

Both professional sports and public speaking require a huge amount of practice. Sports requires months and months, actually years of preparation. It’s hard work and a lot of energy, in fact a whole life to be in a world-class shape.

I’m talking about the kind of shape where you feel in control of every single of your muscle fibres, where you tap the ground to stand in the air and watch the gaps around the goal keeper before steering the ball with your little finger. I’m talking about being at the top of your game and the culmination of years of practice.

The same can be said about public speaking; it’s years of practice and hard work to get to a level where you’re truly awesome.

Delivering real time

Both require you to deliver in real time, this one moment is all you've got, really. It doesn’t matter what happens afterwards, it doesn’t matter what happened before. Nobody cares if you nailed it in practice, or if you can pull it off one hour later. You have that one moment to deliver and if you have put in the work and it comes out well then it’s the most awesome feeling you can imagine.

In sports and in public speaking it’s the feeling of being on, of being in control and of being able to fine tune what happens on the court or in the room. The feeling of being able to push or pull back, of speeding up or slowing down or changing tack. It’s being in the zone, in a state of flow, that makes sports and public speaking addictive.

Controlling your mental state

Believe me, when you're playing in front of 3000 people or more and the TV cameras are there you’re nervous. It’s freaky. When you’re speaking in front of 50 or 500 people, many of whom are your peers, you’re nervous. It’s also freaky.

But you need to put that out of your mind, you need to control your thoughts and the level of adrenaline flowing and just focus. You need to stop your brain from even thinking about failure and get that tunnel vision that makes you focus 100%. It’s this absolute mental control, this complete focus where nothing else matters that is one of the most interesting challenges in both sports and speaking.

So, overall I miss professional sports but I’ve found that public speaking is the closest I can ever get to it. I loved presenting at Agile Australia and Agile 2014 in Orlando this year and while I’m still at an amateur level I hope one day I’ll be really bloody good at it!

Categories: Agile Coaching.