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Why You Can't Think and Speak At the Same Time

Why You Can't Think and Speak At the Same Time

Does your brain race ahead of what you're trying to say? No wonder! Here's why you can't think and speak at the same time. 

Would you like to be a master at responding quickly when you speak? A speaker or presenter who is lightning-fast when questioned or challenged? Someone brilliant at what we call "thinking on your feet?"

If you'd like to be those things, here's a place to start: by learning how to focus like a major league baseball player.

Can you achieve that amazing level of focus? Sure, you can! Learn how in my Free cheat sheet, "10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused When Speaking." Download it now!

Would You Like to Speak . . . Or Think About It?

I'm speaking specifically of Yogi Berra. 

Yes, that Yogi Berra, the New York Yankees Baseball Hall of Fame catcher and home-grown philosopher. The man who uttered these immortal words of advice (among many other famous sayings): "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." And, "You can observe a lot by just watching." And also, "The future ain't what it used to be."

The Yogi-ism that concerns us today, though, is this one: "You can't think and hit at the same time." 

Discover 101 Tips for mastering the art of speaking for business in the Public Speaking Handbook, How to Give a Speech. Click on the image below to learn more!

Dr. Gary Genard's Public Speaking Handbook, How to Give a Speech.

How Much Focus Do You Need? To tease out the meaning of Yogi's advice, consider a major league player's job at the plate. That's to hit pitches coming at you at 90+ miles per hour (sometimes aimed at your head), or seeming to drop out of the sky, or curving away from you mysteriously just when you try to hit itor going dead at the moment when you do manage to connect with it (as in a knuckleball).

Would you say that a batter needs a sufficient level of focus between the time a baseball leaves the pitcher's hand and reaches the plate? The answer is actually, "No." The batter doesn't need a sufficient level of focus. Or even a superior level. He needs an all-consuming, "Get your head back here now, bubba!" kind of focus. The same is true for you as a speaker or presenter.

How important is your performance to public speaking success? Find out in my Free resource, "Great Speaking? It's About Performance Over Content." Click on the link!

The Performance Is the Time to Perform, Not Think!

There is a vast difference between the time you think about, prepare, and practice a presentation, and the time you perform it. The latter is all-important, and the earlier stages are just you getting ready for the performance.

It's really the heart of public speaking, isn't it? The audience needs you to convey whatever you're sellinginformation, inspiration, motivation, problem-solving, you understand and embody the data or intention. Therefore, it's not going too far to say that you bring the subject to life; and if you ain't there . . . that ain't happening.

You see, it's really your whole life and career that you're bringing to your pitches, remarks, panel appearances, or whatever. Can you think about all of that at the moment you're speaking? Of course not. You are always performing "you" as much as the material, and it has to start the moment you step on stage (or join the virtual meeting). In addition, You've prepared your talk in advance, and you should have practiced it beforehand. So what is there to think about? The moment's here, the curtain has just gone up . . . now get out there and bring down the house!

Wondering how to reach audiences at that level? Learn the key techniques in my Free Tips and Tricks Guide, 20 Ways to Connect With An Audience For Lasting Influence.

So, What Was Yogi Really Saying?

Let's go back for a moment to Yogi Berra's baseball, a time when the sport was only baseball,  unpolluted by MLB's politics. He wasn't saying that you can't bring your mind to the game. Or that strategizing with regard to an opposing pitcher or manager was a useless pastime. Baseball has always been a strategic game, sometimes subtly and beautifully so. 

What I believe he was saying, is that the at-bat moment is not the time to be wondering how you'll get out of the slump you've been in for the past two weeks. Or how many hits you need each game to bring your batting average up. Or how anybody like that person sitting near third base could wear an outfit like that to a baseball stadium? 

See the ball, hit the ball.

That's the batter's task—one that we already know requires almost superhuman concentration. Letting other things intrude into this tiny window of time and opportunity he has to see and hit the ball?


You as speaker, neither.

You should follow me on Twitter here.


Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking and overcoming speaking fear. His company, The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. His latest book is Speak for Leadership: An Executive Speech Coach's Secrets for Developing Leadership PresenceContact Gary here.

Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash.


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