How to speak like a champion — literally
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Five-star approach

What star athletes can teach us about public speaking.

Prioritise audience interests and experience.
Be open, direct and honest.
Practise the art, skill and willingness to be kind-hearted, fair and polite.
Always a crowd-pleaser.
The unprepared speaker is often long-winded and unfocused.

With all that time in front of microphones, you’d think high-profile sports stars would be eloquent public speakers. Sadly, this is not always the case.

But while very few get it down to a fine art, those who do command both the stage and the playing field. US fighter Muhammad Ali, who vowed to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” is as renowned for his dazzling utterances as he is for his boxing prowess.

The most well-spoken athletes can, and should be, inspiration for business leaders, says Beth Noymer Levine, a communications coach and the author of Jock Talk, 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World.

Athletes are “often unfairly underestimated intellectually” but in many cases are “smart, quick-thinking decision-makers”, she said.

After all, a team will play more than eighty games during a typical US basketball season, offering numerous opportunities for top players to face the press.

“That’s far more frequently than most CEOs address any type of audience,” Levine said.

Levine analysed the quotes of some of sports’ greatest stars for BBC Capital. Click on the arrow above to see the communication tricks used by Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Jürgen Klinsmann and others. What can the rest of us learn about public speaking from these hugely successful and markedly different icons? 

In your opinion, which sports star is the best public speaker? Tell us on our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

Video produced by Peter Bowes (@peterbowes)

Filmed and edited by Tim Myers.

Additional images and video: Getty Images and Shutterstock

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