Spark's Presentation & Public Speaking Blog

World Cup 2014: Why Public Speaking is Like Soccer (OK, Football)


June 25, 2014

by Andy Saks

Like most Americans, I’m an idiot when it comes to soccer (OK, fine: “football”).

I’ve been following FIFA World Cup 2014 results and trying to get excited. But it’s hard to warm up to a game in which scores are low, touching the ball with your hands isn’t allowed, and (as I just learned) FIFA rules apparently let the referee end a game at his whim.

Then yesterday I stumbled on an old Lanzera poster (they make soccer stuff, who knew?) that explained it to me just right. The poster said:


In soccer,

There are no time outs.

There are no helmets,

no shoulder pads,

no commercial breaks,

no warm dugouts,

no halftime extravaganzas.

So if that’s what you need,

play another sport.

You big wuss.


Now I get it.

My first thought after reading this was, hey, that’s just like public speaking and giving presentations.

(Weird, I know, but that’s my thing.)

FIFA World Cup 2014

Which scares you more: playing in the World Cup 2014 or public speaking?

You already know you don’t wear a helmet when you give a speech (unless you’re speaking about helmets.) That’s true metaphorically too. If you screw up in front of an audience you’ll feel as exposed and vulnerable as you’ve ever felt, with no protection.

When that happens, generally there’s no private “dugout” (backstage area, green room, hallway) to which you can run, and no time outs or commercial breaks during which to run there.

U2 and Janet Jackson never play presentation halftime shows (not that I haven’t invited them). If you’re the speaker, you’re the halftime show.

Public speaking, in other words, can be just as terrifying, as challenging, as unrelenting as a sport like soccer (football).

You take the stage alone and that’s it. You sink or swim. You win or lose your audience. No instant replays. No coach’s challenge. Just you.

In fact, I’d bet most soccer players, for all the courage it takes to play, would pick playing soccer over giving a speech any day.

Should this realization put you off speaking (or soccer) altogether?

Quite the contrary.

Because the places that hold the greatest challenge and the greatest risk always bring the greatest rewards.

They’re where the glory lies.

The adoration. The fans. The opportunities. The immense feeling of accomplishment.

If you don’t believe me, ask a World Cup 2014 football player representing his country in front of the planet in a World Cup game how it feels to score a goal.

So the next time you see a stage, take it. Make it yours. Seize the opportunity. Find your glory.

You big wuss.



Andy Saks, Spark Presentations

Andy Saks can’t play soccer to save his life, but man, can he speak

Spark Presentations is a private company founded in 1998 that provides presentation skills training and speech coaching for executives, salespeople, marketers and other businesspeople, plus booth staff training for trade show exhibitors.

Spark also books professional presenters and public speakers to represent its clients at high-profile events as keynote speakers, trade show booth presenters, masters of ceremonies (emcee) and live auctioneers.

Spark’s owner, Andy Saks, is also the author of The Presentation Playbook Series: Be a Most Valuable Presenter (MVP), a three-volume series of books that help businesspeople master common presentation situations by building and running speaking “plays” like a coach or player calls a key play in a game. Volume 1 is available now in print and PDF formats on Spark’s website and at these online retailers and formats: Amazon print, Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble print and Nook.



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