I'm a speech coach by day and a football fan by night.

Great football and great communication have a lot in common. The ancient Greeks gathered at Olympus every four years to witness the divine spark in man. Like you, they enjoyed hooting and hollering during the competition.

But underneath their exuberance was the desire to witness something transcendent, a moment of such intensity that it could stand for the greatness of man.

They considered mankind to have four faculties: Will, Emotion, Intellect, and Imagination.

Most of the time, in everyday life, these four brothers work independently, or one or two at a time. But when all four work together, you have something special. You have the State of Flow, athletes moving in the zone of peak performance.

Great communicators do best when they achieve the State of Flow, and they display the same four attributes that great teams display:

  1. They have the strength of will to fight for their cause.
  2. They arouse emotion in themselves and their audience.
  3. They have game plans.
  4. They come up with novel, surprising, and unexpected ways to win.

Here's how you can put the attributes to work for you:

Challenge your Opponent

How the teams do it:

The Super Bowl is a contest of will. Players who have cultivated their strength in weight rooms since high school have fixed their minds on battle.

The defensive linemen will push through resistance over and over again until they cannot catch their breath and their bodies fatigue.

Offensive linemen will brace themselves for the onslaught, like sumo wrestlers, using their legs, backs and arms to repel the attack.

When both teams are capable of winning, and both are running on fumes, the game becomes a test of wills.

How communicators do it:

Great communicators know when and how to walk the fine line between challenging an audience and being seen as a radical.

Remember that, above all, you want your message to persuade listeners to think the same way you do about an issue, person, or event. Keep the focus on that aim to hit your mark.

Work with Passion

How the teams do it:

The Super Bowl is a game of emotion-of controlled rage.

When I played middle linebacker in high school and played with an attitude, my coach yelled from the sideline, "Way to go Simmie. Keep ya Irish up."

Running backs like to run angry, determined to bruise and intimidate anything that gets in their way, while quarterbacks try to keep an even keel, like the pilot of an airliner in the midst of turbulence.

Defensive backs, threatened by six points of disaster every time the ball is thrown, abandon all doubt and play with defiant confidence. The game is a game of emotion.

How communicators do it:

The same should be true of you when you communicate. Keep enough energy and passion in your content and delivery to grab and hold your audience's attention. But don't let that energy or passion get away from you.

Be Clear and Compelling

How the teams do it:

The Super Bowl is an intellectual puzzle.

Coaches watch reams of video tape to detect patterns in opponents' behaviors. Believe me, big data is alive and well at the Super Bowl.

Quarterbacks look for any favorable match up of receiver vs. defender.

Offensive coaches probe one side of the defense, then the other, to pressure test the line, looking for opportunity. And of course, the defense is probing too, trying to find a tiny advantage that could crack the game open.

How communicators do it:

You, too, should look for your opening-literally. How you start your communication will decide the structure and power of your whole message.

Plan how you would like your listeners to feel and think at the end of your talk, and use that to set the right tone-right from the start.

Capture Attention

How the teams do it:

Finally, the Super Bowl requires imagination.

Deflating the balls when playing on a cold wet day is resourceful, if not fair.

Making complex substitutions of eligible and ineligible receivers is creative, and confusing to defenders.

Bringing in offensive players who usually participate in running plays, and then throwing a pass to an eligible tackle is out of the box.

And of course, designing blitzes, deceptive coverage, and trick plays in do or die moments is creative, risky, and thrilling.

How communicators do it:

You don't have to resort to tricks or theatrics to capture the attention of your listeners. Rely on the tried and true:

  • good eye contact
  • a well-structured, story-like message
  • clear, easy-to-follow visuals
  • a strong and interesting voice
  • solid delivery skills that draw attention to your message and away from distracting habits

A good speech coach can help you with all of these. Plus, like a great athlete, that coach will practice with you and point out exactly where you need to alter your performance to excel.

Let the games begin. Let the artists of the gridiron (and the artists of the presentation platform) ignite the divine spark that's in us all, when we align our will, emotion, intellect, and imagination.