Fit to Speak

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on December 29, 2008

When you pitch yourself, your company, or your product, you need to exhibit more energy than your audience, not less. If you walk into a room and your listener thinks you look out of shape, frumpy, or tired, you will leave a negative impression before saying a word.

In my career as a journalist and communications coach, I have learned that the best speakers are usually the most fit. They have more energy and it comes across in the way they present themselves. I experienced this in 2003 when as a journalist for CBS I covered the Arnold Schwarzenegger administration in California. One morning, a group of us were waiting for Schwarzenegger to speak at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He had just returned from a four-day trip to the Middle East and arrived at 5 a.m., looking tan, rested, youthful, and more energetic than most people in the room. Later, a staff member told me that although Schwarzenegger was long past his bodybuilding days, he understood the importance of exercise to fuel his grueling schedule. Schwarzenegger was committed to working out 1.5 hours a day, six days a week (45 minutes of cardio in the morning/45 minutes of weights in the afternoon). The result: He had more energy than most of his much younger staffers.

I also learned that Schwarzenegger was (and I assume still is) fond of reviewing speeches and material while on a treadmill. He might not have thought about it, but there is a scientific foundation for doing so. According to brain scientist John Medina, primitive man walked 12 miles a day. Our brains did not evolve by sitting in cubicles eight hours a day. "That means we need a comeback. Removing ourselves from inactivity is a first step. I am convinced that integrating exercise into those 8 hours at work will not make us smarter. It will make us normal," writes Medina in Brain Rules.

Remember, first impressions are generally set in the first 90 seconds of meeting someone. That leaves little time for what you say to make an impact. People are forming judgments about you based on how you talk, walk, and look. Resolve to make exercise a priority—for health reasons and to improve your public speaking skills. Better yet, don’t wait until next year. Do it this week and get a jump on the competition.

Carmine Gallo
President and Founder
Gallo Communications
Pleasanton, Calif.

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