What can the sport of Olympic Sailboat Racing teach us about the art of public speaking? Plenty.
In business, as in sailboat racing, you are in constant competition – for customers, for investment dollars, for the minds and support of your employees, directors and shareholders. Whether you are the helmsman of a team or the director of a company, you need to be constantly assessing three things: “Where am I?”; “Where am I going?”; and “How am I going to get there?”
In any competitive endeavor – sports or business – preparation and execution are critical to your success. In sailboat racing, you start with a goal (a mark on the course towards which you and your competitors are all racing). The speed with which you reach the goal will provide an instant assessment of your success. You have the freedom to create your own strategy to navigate you and your team to the goal.
You must carefully and proactively develop your strategy, your team, your equipment and your focus for the race.
Sailing the Course
Once the race begins, your careful preparation is translated into reality as you struggle to gain an advantage over your opponents. The skills you practiced and the strategy you created all must be executed and transformed into performance.
In the heat of the race, you must always be prepared to deal with unexpected windshifts. It’s a reality in sailing, and in business. When faced with changing conditions, you have to make real-time decisions. Should you reinforce or adjust your pre-race strategy? Are you making good tactical decisions? Changes may be necessary to put your team back into contention.
You must be flexible in order to secure success. This means being willing to make decisions under duress, alter your plan or your message to allow for shifting realities, and react appropriately to the changing environment around you.
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