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In the business world, things move fast. You write a business proposal, seek approval, and move on to your next project. Efficiency is key in business. Move fast. Waste little time. Produce as much output as possible.

I recently had a wonderful opportunity to share my personal career story at a TEDx event in Worthington Ohio. Giving a TEDx Talk was a huge honor, but also a big responsibility. I wanted to be prepared. And, not the kind of prepared that I’ve been in the past when I’ve delivered some sort of PowerPoint presentation I whipped up for an executive meeting.

But, what does being prepared for something like TED mean? Fortunately, I had a great team of folks around me to serve as advisors, including a professional speaking coach, a professional speech writer, and a great TEDx team. I honestly couldn’t have felt more proud to have such a great group working with me that I could put my trust in.

What I quickly found was that preparing for a fifteen minute memorized talk was an entirely different animal all together. For the first time, I had a script. And, I didn’t just write the script once. I wrote and revised it ten times. Each time, the team would have feedback. Perhaps one word didn’t sound quite right. Or, maybe another sentence was needed to bridge two thoughts.

Then came practicing. Memorizing eight pages of text is not easy for anyone. That was the first giant hill to conquer. Once the memorization was under control, I focused on my delivery. Even tiny details like the regional pronunciation of words was on the table for discussion. I’ll be honest. At times, this level of commitment felt tough.

Then, one day, I bumped into a professional ballet dancer at the theatre where I was practicing. He was there, by himself, practicing his dance skills. You might think this was a sign that he had a big production just around the corner. But, it wasn’t. He was there practicing because he wanted to be his best at all times. He didn’t have a show around the corner. He had discipline.

It really hit home with me in that moment how hard actors and athletes work when we’re not looking. They are dedicated to be the best at one specific thing, for the fifteen minutes when we are watching. But, it’s not random that they’re at their best for those fifteen minutes. Hours of tiring practice have gone into that perfect moment; practice that nobody else sees.

This experience makes me wonder how much more effective, and efficient, we all might be as business leaders if we set aside a little more time to practice. Rather than planning to give a presentation once with no rehearsal, what if we took the time to hone our message? I hope to take my newfound respect for performers and athletes with me as I go back to my projects in the fast paced business world.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.


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