10 Traits of Highly Successful Speakers and Presenters

young boy with megaphone

Highly successful speakers spend a great deal of time learning their craft. 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. With a clear intention to make a difference, that nervous energy is channelled into excitement. 

To them it’s not about fear, it’s about impact. Rather than setting out to impress, they focus all of their energy into mindfully connecting with their audience. Successful speakers see the opportunity to lead, influence and inspire change.

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.  The mindful presenter acknowledges and harnesses the enormous potential it gives them in terms of vocal  range, energy and 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 you read a paragraph change the volume, pitch, pace and emotion of your voice. Change the pace, practicing pausing and play around with the way you emphasise key words. 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.

Smiling calms your mind and body and helps you to connect with your audience in a way that nothing else can. A smile tells your audience that you are a nice person, you’re comfortable up there and they can relax.

Smiles are contagious.

4. They practice with people not a mirror 

It’s one thing to stand in front a mirror to practice your speech but the successful speakers use people not glass. If you have an important presentation to give, practice it with friends and family first.  With the courage to accept their honesty, then practice with people who will be conversant with your content,

Whether its fellow colleagues or people who have some knowledge of the topic, get others to give you honest feedback.

Ask them how you sounded, how you looked and moved; whether you made eye contact.

Find out how you made them feel, what they remember and  how relevant and valuable the information was to them.

Far to many presenters don’t prepare effectively; successful speakers prepare extensively. It’s one thing getting feedback from friends, family and colleagues but don’t leave yourself out of the loop. ‘The most valuable practice tool you have fits right in your pocket: your smartphone. Set your phone on a tripod or prop it up against a book, press record, deliver your talk, and then play it back.’ Carmine Gallo 

5. They hold an image

“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Albert Einstein 

Imagination is the successful speaker’s best friend. They know that the secret of highly effective communication is to have a conversation rather than give a presentation. That’s exactly what they do, they imagine themselves having a conversation. 

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

Before you speak, sit quietly, take a few deep breaths and gently close your eyes. Imagine your audience  smiling at you and nodding in agreement. Picture your your confident posture, the words flowing easily from you and you enjoying connecting with your audience.

Imagery is one of the greatest tools used in sport psychology to enhance performance.” Steven Roy

Successful speakers tap into this potential too.

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. 

Please don’t make the same mistake that many presenters do in responding to a question by saying, ‘that’s a good question’.

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. Mindful presenters present one idea per slide, avoid the obvious and make visuals big and bold. 

Whilst most business presenters have little or no design experience there is still plenty you can do; these 21 powerful tips will serve you extremely well. Successful speakers  are clear that there is nothing wrong with PowerPoint

Visual aids can be your most trusted  friend or meanest foe depending on how you use them. Used mindfully they can enhance your presentations in many ways; use them wisely.

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.

Successful speakers learn their craft, developing their public speaking skills by adopting a growth mindset.

One of the best ways to develop your public speaking skills is to join a workshop or invest in one to one coaching.

9. They don’t do boring 

They grab their audience’s attention, interest and curiosity from the very start. Great presenters tell their audience 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. 

If you’d like to craft and deliver a high impact presentation that keeps your audience captivated follow this advice: 16 presentation tips to make you stand out from the crowd.

Boredom is of course something we all experience from time to time but when it comes to presenting and public speaking it’s inexcusable. I have a feeling that every successful speaker has read, ‘Never Be Boring Again’, by Doug Stevenson.

10. They have far more than an objective 

Successful speakers have very clear objectives from the outset. They craft and deliver their entire presentation with absolute clarity of what they want from their audience.

The really good 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.

If you need help with your presentation skills:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training





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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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