A Lesson from Germany's World Cup Victory

World Cup Football

One month, 64 games and 171 goals, including Mario Götze’s brilliant effort in the dying minutes of extra time to give Germany a 1-0 win over Argentina in the World Cup. The tournament, hosted by Brazil, was thrilling from start to finish, and captured the imagination of hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

There are many lessons that can be learned from the games played over the past 32 days. But one in particular struck me as relevant for public speakers. It has to do with the long path that the Germans took en route to the championship.

Today, Germany is, without question, a football powerhouse. But reaching the pinnacle of the sport did not happen overnight. In fact, before last night, it had been 24 years since Germany had won the World Cup (as West Germany in 1990 when, coincidentally, they also beat Argentina 1-0). And, as recently as 2000 and 2004, Germany failed to get past the group stage at the European Championships. So how did the Germans do it?

Quite simply, they worked at it. In the early 2000’s, Germany began a long-term programme to find and develop football talent and build the strongest national team possible. Years of effort began to pay dividends. From 2006 to 2012, Germany made it to at least the semi-finals in the previous two World Cups and European Championships. But the ultimate prize still eluded them. Until last night.

When asked about Germany’s success, here’s what their coach, Joachim Löw said:

We’ve been together now for 55 days, but this is a project we started 10 years ago. So this is the result of many years’ work, beginning with Jürgen Klinsmann [his predecessor as coach].

Our biggest strength is that we improved throughout the years even if we missed taking that last step at tournaments. We knew we would take that last step and believed in it and today it finally worked.

We were disappointed at times in the past but today there was only a deserved winner. This team. It is a special moment because it was not just these days here but the entire 10 years.

It has been a long journey with setbacks and disappointments. It has been countless hours of focus and practice and adjustment and more practice. It has been a steady and consistent process. It has been a decade of work. And it has all been worth it.

It is exactly the same with public speaking (or any skill). If you want to become a better speaker, you have to speak. Not once. Not a few times. But many times over a long period. You have to get feedback, make adjustments and practice. You have to speak in front of different audiences: big; small; colleagues; strangers; in different venues; on different topics. And you have to keep at it.

Becoming a good speaker is possible but only if you commit to the process 100%. And only if you are prepared to go the distance. That’s what Germany did and now they are enjoying the payoff for all that hard work. You can too.

Embed from Getty Images

Like the article? Help and spread the word!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

5 Replies to “A Lesson from Germany's World Cup Victory”

  1. Well said, John. It reminds me of an old saying that goes something like ‘Talent is pursued interest. In other words anything you are willing to work at, you can do.’ Which is not to say that at my age and weight I could ever be a professional footballer, but the point is made that you have to put in the time, the practice and the dedication to achieve. It’s the holy trinity of Bernard Moitessier of things required for accomplishment: thought, faith and sweat.
    Good post, well done.

  2. Hi John,

    The football analogy wherein it takes years to reach a goal, no pun intended, is a good one applied to public speaking. How best in the long run to improve our public speaking skills? I believe we are awash on a veritable sea of rhetoric, the study of which could only help to improve not only our public speaking skills but our speech evaluation skills as well.

    If they don’t have them already, I would like to suggest Toastmasters publish two advanced manuals the use of which could acquaint our Toastmasters first with the history of rhetoric, then with the rhetoric of politics, advertising, comedy, literature, theater, debate, sports, religion, music, etc. Should such initial exposure, however brief, lead to further exploration in the field of rhetoric, so much the better. It very well may take ten years to produce a championship, but in what better way or ways might we be spending our time? What do you and your readers think?

    John A. Miller, VPE, Jim Hammitt Toastmasters

    Washington, DC

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks very much for the comment and the suggestion. I think that a manual devoted to rhetoric would be a welcome thing in Toastmasters. Much attention is given to vocal variety and body language—and those things are important—but at the end of the day, it is our words and the structure of our speeches that matter most. A study of rhetoric, even briefly, would add punch to many a speech.

      In fact, I recently wrote a book review on The Elements of Eloquence, a book that is devoted to the analysis of rhetorical devices. I suspect that you would enjoy it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International