Athletes Speaking the Speech
Athletes Speaking the Speech
by James Skitt - 25.05.11
Whether it be presenting awards at a local school or entertaining with an after dinner speech, successful sports men and women have always been in demand as public speakers, but with the London 2012 Olympics set to put them in the spotlight like never before, athletes at Bisham Abbey are set to be well prepared thanks to a series of Public Speaking and Presenting Skills Workshops.
A pilot, funded by the English Institute of Sport (EIS) earlier this year, proved so successful that a course combining a set of three workshops is now set to be rolled out on a regular basis by the EIS Performance Lifestyle team.
EIS Performance Lifestyle (PL) advisers based throughout the country provide support to athletes by giving them the necessary skills to cope with the special demands of being an elite performer and better prepare them for life after sport.
Melanie Chowns, an EIS PL Adviser working with Rowing, explained, “Athletes are often in demand to speak at schools, clubs and award ceremonies, whilst after dinner and motivational speaking is a potential livelihood for many either to support their careers or in their retirement, so looking to develop the skills required is really important.”
In developing a format that would suit the athletes, Chowns and EIS colleague Emma Mitchell met with Jonathan Bacon from executive coaching company Speak the Speech.
“Jonathan ran a session with a leadership group from GB Hockey and the feedback was excellent,” Chowns explains.
“But we also wanted someone who had been in the position of the athletes, which led us to former Olympic swimmer Adam Whitehead, who is experienced in exactly the type of public speaking that athletes do.”
Ten athletes from Rowing and Hockey signed up to the pilot in March with the first session, delivered by Whitehead, covering how the athlete tells their story, and a further two sessions, delivered by Bacon, covering the core presentation skills.
“The workshops covered aspects such as their lifeline, the key messages they would look to get across, how to tweak their presentation for different audiences, how to get work and what to charge” Chowns explains.
“All the athletes were filmed to give feedback and were also set tasks such as delivering extracts from famous speeches.”
England and Great Britain women’s Hockey international, Anne Panter, was among those on the course, she said: “Outside of training, it’s the most worthwhile 9 hours I’ve spent in a long time.”
“Many good techniques were explained well and although it was a really good friendly atmosphere, it was good to have people there that I didn’t know and get some really honest feedback.”
Following the positive feedback of Panter and others on the course, Chowns too is sure of its benefits.
“The improvement they showed from beginning to end was unbelievable” she says.
“We knew we had to keep it to a workable group, so kept the group down to ten but combined athletes from different sports, which was important in order to take them out of their comfort zone.”
“The good news is many of them have already gone on to apply what they’ve learnt by doing more presenting” she adds.
“The more they can do now and get good testimonials the better position they will be in after the Olympics.”
The Performance Lifestyle team are set to roll out the workshops on a regular basis, only this time funded through the athletes’ own Personal Development Awards (PDA’s). These awards, available to all Podium level athletes, are part of the significant investment that UK Sport makes in support of athletes professional development facilitated by the Performance Lifestyle teams across the Home Country Sports Institutes
For more information on Performance Lifestyle
Photography © Getty Images