A lesson from the Toronto Raptors

Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors! “We the North!” They are the 2019 NBA Champions. I am delighted for Toronto — where I lived for over 15 years — and for all of Canada.

Toronto Raptors

In a thrilling Final, the Raptors defeated the defending Champion Golden State Warriors 4 games to 2. For the Warriors, it was their fifth straight appearance in the Finals and they had won three of the past four years.

There are many reasons for Toronto’s success, but without a doubt, the biggest was Kawhi Leonard. One year ago, the Raptor’s organization made a bold move. In a blockbuster trade, they sent DeMar DeRozan — a fan favourite in Toronto and arguably the best player in the history of the franchise to that point — to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Leonard. (Other players and a draft pick were involved but Leonard and DeRozan were the centrepieces.)

A Bold Move

It was a big risk for the Raptors. DeRozan is an excellent player and was popular in Toronto. By contrast, Leonard had only played nine games the previous season because of an injury. Plus, he only had one year left on his contract and could be lost to the Raptors in free agency; indeed, the Raptors might still lose him this summer. And, there were rumours that he was not easy to get along with in San Antonio. So in a very real way, the Raptors were taking an enormous gamble for a shot at the title.

The gamble paid off.

Leonard shone. He had an incredible season and was a powerhouse throughout the playoffs. Other members of the Raptors played terrific basketball, but Leonard was the best. He won the NBA Finals MVP – the second time he has done so – and he led the Raptors to their first title.
Before the trade for Leonard, the Raptors were a good team. After the trade, they became a Championship team. They took a chance on Leonard and it was a massive success.

The Lesson

The lesson in all of this for public speakers? Sometimes, you have to take a risk if you want to take your speaking to the next level.

Taking risks isn’t easy. It’s not comfortable. But that is precisely where your biggest opportunities for growth are: beyond our comfort zone. So if you’ve been playing it safe with your speeches and presentations, maybe it’s time to take a chance and do something different.

For example:

  • Speak to an audience that is different from your usual audience.
  • Give a presentation without slides.
  • Be more vulnerable on stage.
  • Tell more stories.
  • Interact with the audience.

These are just suggestions. What feels risky for one speaker will feel fine for another. You know what feels like a risk for you. That’s the direction you should go.

So once more, congratulations to the Toronto Raptors! I will drink a toast in your honour. Now, if only the Toronto Maple Leafs can do the same thing in hockey!

Toronto Raptors Logo

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4 Replies to “A lesson from the Toronto Raptors”

  1. It’s poetic justice!! We lost the Stanley Cup AGAIN!!! to the US. So it’s great we won the NBA. By the way, the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup with 14 Canadian players playing and with a full roster of 25 Canadians. In fairness the Raptors were almost all Americans. As a side note basketball was invented by a Canadian as well as hockey. Canada rocks!!!


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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.

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