In and Out

A lesson in public speaking from the sports world.

Sports broadcasters are real pros. They are articulate and expressive; words come easily to them. They have a natural talent, and they have spent hours upon hours honing it.

Athletes also have loads of natural talent and thousands of hours of practice behind them. But not usually in talking. There are exceptions (John McEnroe for one), but athletes aren’t nearly as expressive or articulate as those trained to broadcast their games. So athletes are taught to speak in safe soundbites, which they often deliver with flat intonation. My husband, who has produced hockey shows for many years, maintains that this is helpful to the players. I see his point. Their real expertise, the product of their hours and hours of practice, is in playing the game, not talking about it. But still, it is so satisfying when a post-game interviewer gets some novel content delivered with real enthusiasm from an athlete. So refreshing.

It’s also refreshing when sports administrators deliver their speeches in a memorable way. Sports administrators? You know, those guys in suits that we don’t pay much attention to during the season but then are given the microphone at the awards ceremonies. Remember sitting through an International Olympic Committee President’s speech in the opening or closing ceremonies of the games, thinking Man this guy should stop talking really soon. Why does he think we care what he says? Bo-ring.

So I was pleasantly surprised when the Toronto Raptors won the championship game of the NBA finals. Not only that the Raptors won it all. (But wow. What a ride that was.) But pleasantly surprised for the awards ceremony afterwards. You see, when it was all over, I didn’t want to leave the tv. I kept watching and watching, eating up all the post-game interviews with the players, the presentation of the championship trophy and the Larry-O (great nickname Kawhi). In that awards presentation ceremony, one guy stood out. (No, not Kawhi. I think we can all agree that Kawhi Leonard’s strengths aren’t likely to be found in front of a microphone.) It was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

He knows we’re not watching to hear him. So he keeps it short and sweet. One minute exactly. Thank. You. Adam. Silver.

It’s only a minute, but in that short time he does everything he needs to, and does it without rushing. In concise, clear sentences that are obviously prepared and practiced, he does all that’s required, and with class. He acknowledges the runners-up, the host city (for its final game as host), the entire country of Canada—even provides an emotional narrative by referencing basketball’s beginnings in Canada, describing it as coming full circle. Then, the presentation of the championship trophy.

Short and sweet. Clear as a bell. Memorized, but still delivered from the heart.

In and out.

Well done, Adam Silver. Usually in-and-out’s don’t count for points, but for this one you get the MVP of the awards ceremony.

(And a runner-up to Masai Ujiri for his boyish, contagious enthusiasm.)

So consider this performance the next time you are asked to say a few words, but you know you aren’t the main attraction (introducing a speaker, giving a wedding toast, acting as a panel mediator).

Prepare and practice. Keep it short and sweet. It doesn’t have to be long to be memorable. In and out for the win.