10 Traits of Highly Successful Public Speakers and Presenters

man presenting to an audience

Highly successful speakers spend a great deal of time learning their craft and having spoken and worked with many of them here is what I’ve learned. 

1. They focus on the opportunity

Successful speakers feel nervous too but they make a conscious choice to reframe their thinking. They focus on how they can help their audience, the difference they can make to their professional lives and that nervous energy is channelled into excitement. 

To them it’s not about fear it’s about impact.

2. They fine tune their voice 

In the same way that a professional musician will tune their piano or guitar the successful speaker tunes their voice. They understand that one of the greatest gifts they have as a speaker is their voice and acknowledge the enormous potential it gives them in terms of vocal variety. 

Before every presentation or speech they warm up and stretch their voice with vocal exercises. Take a random chapter from your favourite book and read it out aloud several times. Each time, change the volume, pitch, pace and emotion and have some fun seeing just what your voice can do for you.

3. They make people smile 

Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be deadly serious all of the time. The successful speaker knows how to lighten the mood and make their audience smile and laugh where appropriate. That doesn’t mean they tell them jokes, they just get them to relax and see the funny side of things where they can.

4. They practice with people not a mirror 

It’s one thing to stand in front a mirror to practice your speech but the great presenter’s use people not glass. If they have an important presentation to give they do whatever it takes to run through it with friends and family first and then they do the same with people in the know. 

Whether its fellow colleagues or people who have some knowledge of the topic they get others in the know to listen to what they have to say and give them honest feedback.

5. They hold an image

Imagination is the successful speaker’s best friend and one of the tools the great speakers use is to imagine they are speaking to a group of friends. They know that the secret of highly effective communication is to have a conversation rather than give a presentation and so that’s exactly what they do, they imagine themselves having a conversation. 

That allows them to stay calm, confident and focus on their message. 

6. They look forward to questions

Many presenters live in dread of the Q&A but the successful presenters sees that differently too. They see questions as a reflection of their audience listening, being interested and involved in the conversation. 

Before the presentation they prepare thoroughly for every conceivable question they can imagine and then if one is presented that they didn’t anticipate they see it as an opportunity to learn. 

7. They think like a designer 

When it comes to using visual aids and crafting slides they think just like a designer. They use colour, contrast and stunningly simple images to help bring their message to life. They present one idea per slide, avoid the obvious and make it big and bold. 

8. They are always on the look out 

‘In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.’ Eric Hoffer

Successful presenters know that we live in a world of change and they are constantly looking to improve their speaking skills. They attend seminars and conferences, watch all of the best TED talks and do everything they can to raise the bar on their own speaking skills.

9. They don’t do boring 

They grab their audience’s attention from the very start. They tell them stories, ask them questions and help them to use their imagination. Successful presenters know that there really is nothing worse than a monotone presenter with boring content so they make it their purpose to keep their audience interested, curious and fully engaged. 

10. They have far more than an objective 

All good presenters have very clear objectives from the outset and they craft and deliver their entire presentation with absolute clarity of what they want from their audience.

The great presenters go much further, they have an intention. They build and deliver every element of their presentation knowing exactly how they want their audience to feel. That’s their intention and they do everything possible to fulfill it. 

Adopting these 10 traits will go a very long way to helping you to dramatically improve your public speaking and presentation skills ensuring that you too become a highly successful speaker.

It takes time and effort but it’s a process all successful speakers go through so the same opportunity is available to all of us if we have the desire and courage to pursue these traits.

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Image: Courtesy of istockphoto.com




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  • Katharine
    Posted on 23rd January 2016 at 9:52 pm

    If a person were to deliver one 45-minute speech every week, and not have time for every step above, every week, would you suggest skipping one or two of the steps? or five?
    Or maybe would it be good to work on a few every week, and rotate through them as often as possible?
    Thanks for a great essay!

    • Maurice Decastro
      Posted on 8th March 2016 at 12:22 pm

      Hi Katharine, personally I wouldn’t recommend skipping anything and just do my best to build in as much as i can. Best wishes, Maurice

  • Evelyn Lopez Cuevas
    Posted on 25th January 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Successful speakers also build this skill by devoting quality time to read and write. The speaker will then depart from a mental scheme engrained in his brain formed by habit.

  • Civilla
    Posted on 26th January 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Great article, and timely! I have my 10th Toastmasters speech coming up this Saturday, and wanted to present in a different way. This is confirmation that I should. By the way, as a blogger myself, I liked the layout of your post. It made me want to read the whole thing! Thank you!

  • Christene tang
    Posted on 27th January 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Point 5 is the most important for most people as it is not something technical, rather it’s a emotional state. I was afraid on stage until I learnt this. Great sharing.


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