3 Powerful Public Speaking Lessons From My Journey of Learning to Run

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September 06, 2022

Recently, I ran for 20 minutes without stopping for the first time in my life. You might find that hard to believe, but it’s true.

I've never been someone who enjoyed running. I'm not hugely into exercise; I’ve never played sports in school or university. So this was a major achievement for me.

In January this year, I decided I wanted to improve my fitness. It was time to give running another try. But instead of just going at it solo, I decided to follow a 12-week program to give me structure, set some goals and help keep me accountable.

And as I was working my way through it, I thought about how the lessons I was learning from my training plan could be applied to improving your communication and public speaking skills.

Maybe you want to deliver more polished and impactful presentations to your clients. You might want to feel more confident about speaking up at meetings. Or perhaps you’re ready to step onto that big stage and deliver your keynote speech.No matter what your speaking goal is, there’s something in my journey from zero to runner that might be able to help you.

 Here are 3 of my most important takeaways.

#1- Find the path that works for you

In the past, I’ve tried Couch to 5k, as well as a couple of other different running programs, and I gave up every single time. It was only when I started this particular plan I realised it wasn’t me that was the problem; the other programs just weren’t the right fit for me.

This one suited me because it was slower-paced, easy to follow and there was a supportive community to keep me motivated on the days when I really wasn’t feeling like it.

There’s so much advice and guidance out there to help you improve your speaking skills. And the most important thing is to choose the resources that work best for you.

If the DIY route appeals to you, have a look at my YouTube channel, Soft Skill Success, where you’ll find a collection of video guides to help you work on all aspects of your communication skills and public speaking.

Maybe you’ll choose a more structured route for your learning, either in the form of individual sessions or a group program. Some of my clients like the tailored approach and additional support of my one-to-one coaching, while others prefer the collaborative setting of the 6-Week Communicate with Confidence program. It really depends on your public speaking goals and your preferred learning style.

Do your research, have a look around and see what’s available, so you can discover the solution that fits. Because when you find what works for you, you're far more likely to stick with it and successfully achieve your speaking goals.

#2 - Put your learning into practice

The French composer, Claude Debussy, said "music is what happens between the notes". The weeks I made great progress in my running (or better progress, at least!) were when I’d worked between runs. That could be doing the leg-strengthening and glute exercises that were part of the program or just going for a brisk walk in between run days.  

To improve your speaking and presentation skills, you can watch videos, read books, work with a communication coach - whatever format you choose for your learning. But if you don't do anything between those learning sessions to put the theory into practice, it will be so much harder for you to make progress.


#3 - Run your own race 

This piece of advice underpins all the rest -  set goals for you. Our local park is right beside me, so that’s where I do my running. And every time I went out, I saw people who were faster, fitter and better than me. But if I had allowed myself to focus on them, I would never have made any progress.

At the start of the plan, I was alternating 30 seconds of running with a minute of walking for 20 minutes. Then, I built that up gradually each week. My latest milestone is running 3k in under 22 minutes -  and now I’ve got 5k firmly in my sights!

The only person you’re in competition with is you. Set targets for yourself so that each time you speak, you're trying to be a step better than the last time. Small, steady progress, all the time. Bit by bit, it adds up.

To help you acknowledge where you’re gaining ground and recognise the areas you need to work on a little, ask for feedback on your speaking from friends and colleagues. (Use my free Feedback Checklist to help you with this.)

Remember, you’re aiming for “good enough” with small incremental gains in your speaking skills - not perfection. 

I’m here to support you on your journey to becoming a confident speaker

If you’d told me 7 months ago that I’d be able to run 3k at all, let alone in less than 22 minutes, there’s no way I would have believed you.Taking it step by step with slow, gradual progress meant I could build on my achievements and not get overwhelmed by trying to do too much too fast. Finally, after all those failed attempts over the years, I’m a runner! And I’m actually enjoying the process -  it feels amazing (some of the time, anyway! ??)

If you have been wanting to boost your speaking confidence for a while, but are feeling daunted or overwhelmed by the whole idea, I’d really love to help you find an approach that’s right for you.

Click here to set up a 15-minute complimentary chat with me to see how we might work together to help you unlock your speaking confidence.

Maureen McCowen, Presentation Skills Specialist
maureen@softskillsuccess.ie, (087) 280-8734