HubSpot Toastmasters Blog


5 Things All Great Speakers Know (and You Should Too)

Posted by Sarah Bedrick

Mar 4, 2014, 8:01 AM

Have you ever seen a speaker where everything seems to be going in their favor? The crowd is captivated and hanging on the speaker's every word. They bring you on a enjoyabale journey with their speech that is easy to digest. And afterward, you realize they've done one of the hardest feats of them all, moved you in some way. These are the end results of what makes great speakers so effective and powerful.


During our last ToastSpot meeting I had an epiphany. The veteran speakers of the group spoke with such ease, confidence and poise. Their stories were interesting and impactful. And this made me think, "how do they do that?" And that's when the differences that separated the good speakers from the became clear.  Here, I'd like to share some of those traits that great speakers exhibit.

And remember, the speakers who look effortless on stage are usually the ones who have spent the most time crafting this talent.  It's usually not a question of "when will this stuff become natural" but rather "how will this stuff become natural." Developing the plan to success is the first step toward action.

With that being said, let's talk about some of the qualities that expert speakers exhibit:


They have found their voice.


Have you ever witnessed a person that has great content, but when watching them something just doesn't seem right? Most people have. And that can be indicative that the presenter is still working to find their own voice. 

It's not uncommon for a presenter who is just getting started to emulate the speakers they admire. They copy their language, movement or storytelling style - and this why some presenters just don't seem natural, because it's someone elses and not their own. 

I fell victim to this in the beginning. Every time i would stand-up in front of others, I was visibly nervous. So much so, that I'm sure I made those who were watching me nervous as well (oops). But, as soon as I got less nervous (not quite "comfortable" yet) , I began trying to find and develop my "voice" or style. I wondered what would I look, sound and move like - and how would I build my own stories. After watching some incredible speakers like Susan Cain (former Toastmaster), Zig Ziglar and many TED speakers, I admired them so much, I began to emulate them. While this may have seemed like a great idea at the time, it resulted in many speeches feeling like patchwork quilts of expression. And not to mention, they was something just not completely right about them. After realizing something about this wasn't quite right, I was able to embrace who I am and my style of presenting.

While I may not be the epitome of quiet strength with poise and femininity, like Susan Cain - I did learn how to be true to myself when presenting, and that to me is priceless. 

Want to learn how to develop your own style? Check out BigFish Presentations' blog for more tips developing charisma on stage


They're fantastic storytellers.


Dale Carnegie once said, "When we are dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity."

Seasoned speakers understand this and fill their presentation with passion, emotion and stories that are relatable and moving. 

Whether you follow the "why, how, what" framework from Simon Sinek or Nancy Duarte's "what it is now, and what it can be" - or maybe one you've developed yourself, you use words to paint a beautiful picture in HD that moves your audience.  


They have full control over their body, and use it as a tool to enhance the presentation.


We all know the basics of fantastic body language on stage. We should always make eye contact, stand tall, use the entire stage, project our voice, pause in the right spots and use our body to enhance our presentation.

body language in presentations

The truth is, no matter how much we hear these, they're still difficult to master. We won't get on stage one day with a new ability to be flawlessly natural while using our body as a tool. These come with practice. 

Most of the great speakers use their body so well that most people watching their delivery never even think about it. And truth be told, great speakers don't have to give too much thought to it like they once did in the beginning. When you learn to use your body as a tool - it becomes natural. The most advanced presenters work much more on the presentation story (slides, examples, quotes, statistics, story arc, etc.) than they focus on what to do with their hands or exactly how they'll make eye contact in the crowd. 

Protip: Your body language shapes who you are. Watch Amy Cuddy's TED talk on this topic to learn a great tip about power poses to help you prepare for your next speech. 


They're more comfortable and confident on stage. 


They've already found their voice and know how to use their body - two large elements that lead to being comfortable on stage. Beyond that, they're so comfortable and confident that they can roll with the punches. Things that would throw most beginners for a loop - they can easily manage. The microphone broke? No problem, they project their voice with poise until it's fixed. Now the slide presentation clicker breaks? No problem, they've memorized their presentation or have a quick anecdote to tell while it gets fixed. A member of the audience is distracting in some capacity - no problem, they can still maintain focus and command the stage. The point is - they're confident and comfortable to a point that they're cabable of overcoming any obstacle.

And to take this a step further, the best presenters are so comfortable and confident, that they don't mind getting a bit weird or doing something different. 

Ever heard of Marcus Sheridan? He is a business owner that regularly presents at tech conferences on the power of inbound marketing. While most presenters at conferences take the stage and may rock it - he gets off the stage and gets into the crowd. He even gets the crowd involved by asking them questions - this I have never seen done before. And Marcus - does it and does it well. 


They know when to stop.


A great speaker whether delivering  a prepared speech or an extemporaneous one will always leave on a high note.

In a prepared speech, it's all in the presentation's story arc. The speaker builds an easy-to-follow story and presents it in a delightful way. They build toward the climax, deliver it and then tie the nice bow on it and end.  For the off-the-cuff extemporaneous speeches, great speakers may take a minute to find the path they're about to lay out for their speech and some build it as they go, but once they deliver the highest note - where the crowd is laughing or thinking deeply - they'll tie the bow and end it there. 

Knowing when to end a presentation is a more advanced art.

Becoming an elite speaker takes hard work. And the elite speakers don't speak because they have to, they speak because they choose to. If you're looking to become a presentation master, join a local public speaking group to learn from others who are also practicing. Find a local Toastmaster club here


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