March Madness, the college basketball chase for a National Championship, is an American Rite of Spring. In the annals of this annual attraction, there is no basketball coach whose record of success begins to match that of the legendary “Wizard of Westwood,” the late John Wooden.
Between 1964 and 1975, Wooden’s UCLA teams won 10 of 12 NCAA championships, including seven in a row. No team or coach has since come close to this extraordinary record. Wooden’s success was built on his ability as a teacher, but his teachings were not basketball-specific. For example, here are three eminently adaptable sayings of the “Wizard” to help you succeed when you give a presentation, meet with the media or speak to any audience.
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
This might be Wooden’s best-known aphorism. The message as it applies to speaking or being interviewed is simple enough: If you think you can “wing it,” you’re wrong. Some of the biggest career and reputation damaging mistakes have come from off-the-cuff remarks that could have been avoided with proper preparation.
“Listen if you want to be heard.”
There is no question that the best speakers are the best listeners. They know that effective communications has two sides: the “send” side and the “receive” side. The best communicators are also the best “receivers,” i.e. listeners.
The process of listening begins with learning about your audience in advance of any speaking engagement. Who are the listeners? What are their hopes, dreams, needs and concerns? Understanding your audience and paying attention to their needs is, in fact, the single most important criterion in deciding what you are going to tell it. Your obligation is provide information and an experience from which your listeners derive benefit.
“Tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember a story.”
Need we say more?