GoldWhen Pat Williams @OrlandoMagicPat – a long-time legend in the NBA, most recently as co-founder and SVP of the Orlando Magic – interviewed me about Jock Talk for his radio show on WORL in Orlando, “Inside the Game,” I didn’t know that he too had written a book on public speaking from the vantage point of sports figures.

He told me after the interview that he wanted to send me something. What he sent was his book. As I read through it, I came across a lot of values and concepts he and I held in common.

Because of my work with professional and world-class athletes – and most recently with a medal-winning Olympian – one passage in particular caught my attention:

“There are many retired athletes from various sports who have a lot to offer on the convention and corporate lecture circuit. They could command five-figure speaking fees, but what are they doing? They’re earning a fraction of that, signing autographs at sports memorabilia shows. Nothing wrong with that, but why not take their game to the next level? Why not share the real wisdom that they have to offer? Why not organize their stories and ideas into a presentation that would change lives – including their own?

It’s essentially a matter of organization, planning, and preparation. The only confident, influential speaker is a prepared speaker. Organization and preparation are vital to your success as a communicator.“

Pat has it right. Many retired athletes do miss a great opportunity to tell their story and offer concrete value to corporate audiences.

For any speaker, it can seem daunting to figure out what that value is, but, with a little organization, planning and preparation, it’s definitely doable. Even if you’re not a gold-medal Olympian – but you’re an engineer or a scientist or an entrepreneur – you will still benefit from taking the time and focus to identify your valuable lesson(s) before you speak.

To find your valuable lesson(s), it might help to imagine a Venn diagram: The first circle represents you, your knowledge and expertise, and the second represents your audience and their interests. You have to figure out what’s in the shaded area where the circles intersect. For you, it is an insight or lesson you can offer. For your audience, it is what they want or need. The third circle of the Venn diagram makes it more challenging – it represents what other experts or speakers have to offer.

If you really want to stand out as a speaker, you will spend some time fine-tuning the area of the diagram where you intersect with the audience but other speakers don’t. In other words, given your expertise, what can you talk about that is of interest to your audience that no one else can offer?

For retired athletes, this exercise should be a layup, so to speak. For the rest of us, admittedly it’s more challenging … but it’s well within reach and very worthwhile.

Beth Levine