Joe Torre gives us a tough lesson in public speaking

The day before Joe Torre, former Manager of the New York Yankees, entered the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame he gave baseball fans a little insight into the speech he would be making at his induction ceremony; it would be unprepared and unscripted. “I don’t do rehearsed” Torre said and added that he planned to “speak straight from the heart.”

As a result Torre taught us a valuable lesson in the dangers of extemporaneous speaking.

It was the late George Steinbrenner, longtime owner of the New York Yankees, who hired Torre to manage the team in 1996. Torre therefore considers Steinbrenner to be pivotal to his career as the man who provided him the opportunity to win four world championships with the most storied franchise in American sports.

Which is why Torre was so upset with himself after the ceremony was over. During his speech, though he mentioned Steinbrenner, he did not feel that he gave Steinbrenner his due and that he failed to say as much about his former boss as he should have.

After the ceremony Torre faced the press with a face described as “ashen.” According to one reporter Torre was “visibly shaken” and “crestfallen.”

What a shame.

The most important individual accomplishment of his professional career, a moment that should be a wonderful memory for him is now damaged and tarnished. And all because he did not plan and practice his speech.

Torre is not alone of course. Many business people like to speak off the cuff. Some are even good enough to pull it off most of the time. But you can never be your best unless you take the time to plan and practice your presentation.

Joe Torre is a high profile example of why the first time you deliver a presentation out loud it should be in an empty room and never in front of a live audience.   

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