8 traits of powerful public speakers (and how to develop them)

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If you’re anything like me, just the thought of public speaking is enough to send shivers down your spine. 

Yet, for some, speaking in front of large groups is a breeze. They command the stage with ease, leaving audiences hanging on their every word. 

So what’s their secret? How do they manage to captivate a room effortlessly? And most importantly, how can we become better public speakers ourselves?

In this article, we’ll look at eight traits present in powerful public speakers and what we can do to develop them.

1) They are confident

Confidence is the cornerstone of effective public speaking. 

It’s not about being egoistic but believing in your message and your ability to deliver it.

Think about it.

If you don’t fully believe in what you’re saying, how can you expect anyone else to?

People can sense our confidence level through our actions, words, and body language. And the more confident we appear, the more competent and credible we seem.

Science supports this, too. 

A 2016 study by psychologist Dr Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn from the University of Sussex examined the brains of 23 participants and discovered this…

Our brains automatically assign higher value to the opinions of people who appear confident than those who lack self-assurance.

This is why the standard advice of ‘fake it until you make it’ doesn’t work.

Instead of faking it, do the practices below to build your self-assurance.

Developing confidence

  • Visualization – Every day, close your eyes and picture yourself acing your presentation. Visualize this scenario in as much detail as possible, feeling the rush of triumph and seeing your audience in awe. 
  • Sit with your anxiety – Rather than push your nerves down or try to ignore them, take some time to sit with them. By sitting with our feelings, we become more comfortable with them; thus, things no longer seem so scary.

2) They demonstrate passion

When someone is passionate about what they’re discussing, you can’t help but be interested – even if it’s a topic that doesn’t usually spark your attention.

In public speaking, passion is the flare that turns a dull talk into a fiery performance. 

Passion is contagious. When you’re passionate, your audience can’t help but get swept up in the excitement. 

As a result, they are more likely to listen attentively and believe what you are saying, making your words more memorable and impactful.

Developing passion

Passion is not something to develop but something to find and tap into. 

The best way to come across as passionate is to choose topics you love. Your passion shines through naturally when you speak about things that genuinely ignite your enthusiasm. 

I also share personal stories whenever I find it difficult to connect to my passion. Talking about our experiences typically sparks our enthusiasm and makes us sound relatable and authentic.

And talking about stories…

3) They are storytellers

It’s not just children who love storytime. Stories engage the senses of an adult just as much as a child.

Science explains why.

When we hear a story that we resonate with, our brains produce the love hormone oxytocin. This makes us feel more trusting and empathic towards the speaker.

Moreover, neuroscience has found that our brains synchronize with the storyteller’s brain when we listen to a story. 

This phenomenon, called neural coupling, explains why we become so emotionally invested in the characters of a story and often feel as though we are part of it.

So, if you want to capture your audience’s attention and leave a mark, be sure to include a story or two in your speech.

Developing storytelling skills

But what if you’re not a natural storyteller who can think up compelling narratives on the spot?

Well, as mentioned previously, the best stories you can tell are personal ones. 

Think about your personal experiences around the topic you’re speaking about. 

Can you turn that experience into an engaging story with conflict, tension, and a satisfying conclusion/lesson?

4) They are authentic

In a world filled with filters and facades, people seek authenticity more and more. 

But what does an authentic speaker look like?

Authentic speakers aren’t afraid to show their true selves. They don’t try to appear perfect; they embrace and show off their flaws and quirks.

By being authentic, public speakers appear sincere and genuine; thus, they build trust and connection with the audience. 

Developing authenticity

Becoming more authentic is about letting your guard down. 

Remember that no human is perfect, so don’t try to be. It’s perfectly okay to make mistakes, so why not own them and share how you learned from them?

Moreover, don’t try to speak in a way that feels unnatural to you. 

As well as using language and anecdotes that resonate with your audience, ensure they resonate with you. If not, your speech will sound forced and fake.

Another way you can come across as authentic is by being vulnerable, which we’ll discuss next.

5) They embrace vulnerability 

In public speaking, vulnerability is not about laying your soul bare but showing your humanity. 

In her book ‘Daring Greatly,’ Brene Brown says that vulnerability is not a weakness but a measure of courage. 

What she means by this is that when we embrace vulnerability, we step outside our comfort zone. 

Sharing our struggles and challenges creates a bridge of empathy between us and the audience. It also shows that we’re not trying too hard, making our words more powerful and resonant.

Developing vulnerability

You can embrace vulnerability in public speaking by sharing personal anecdotes. Don’t be afraid to open up and talk about your journey, including the bumps in the road.

Of course, your struggles should always have a positive spin – you want to leave your audience moved and inspired, not depressed.

So, talk about your challenges, but also share:

  • The turning point
  • The lessons you learned along the way
  • Key moments of your personal growth

6) They are clear and concise

On the subject of storytelling, I want to stress the importance of keeping things clear and concise

It’s easy to ramble on when telling a story or delivering a speech, especially if you are nervous. 

You might also think you must explain things in detail to sound knowledgeable.

However, talking too much will leave your audience more confused than inspired. 

The most memorable message you can give is a concise one. This is true in public speaking and writing!

Developing clarity and conciseness

  • Stick to the point – Avoid digressing and going off on tangents.
  • Edit ruthlessly – When planning your speech, write it down and trim ALL unnecessary words and phrases to get to the essence of your message.
  • Focus on key points – Identify a few core messages you want your audience to take away. If you try to deliver too many ‘takeaways,’ you’ll leave your audience confused.

7) They read the room

When I first started teaching yoga, there was one thing I realized they didn’t teach in yoga school – how to read the room and adapt to your audience’s needs.

I would spend a lot of time planning the class beforehand. But most often, I would have to adjust or change my plan. Here are a few examples.

  • The students were more advanced than I expected
  • I sensed they wanted to get straight into movement rather than sit and meditate
  • The energy of my students meant they needed a more restorative practice rather than the fast-paced flow I had planned

While this is a crucial skill of any teacher, it is also a common trait of powerful public speakers. 

A skilled speaker reads the room as soon as they step on stage and continues to do so throughout their talk.

They are constantly gauging the audience’s reactions, adjusting their tone, and flexing their approach accordingly. 

This level of attunement to your audience ensures your message lands effectively and doesn’t fall flat.

Developing room-reading skills

  • Pay attention to their body language – Observe the non-verbal cues your audience is giving you. For example, do they look bored or engaged?
  • Adjust your pace – Speed up or slow down based on your audience’s engagement level.
  • Be flexible – Your speech might sound great to you, but if certain points aren’t resonating, be ready to pivot.

8) They are self-aware

Self-awareness is just as critical as audience awareness.

The more self-aware you are, the more you understand your strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to play to your strengths and navigate potential pitfalls.

What’s more, no one is born a powerful public speaker. 

Self-awareness allows you to improve your game continuously. The best speakers are always seeking ways to make their presentations more engaging and powerful.

Developing self-awareness

  • Seek feedback – Before getting on stage, deliver your speech to a small group of people you trust to give your truthful, constructive criticism.
  • Reflect on your performance – Analyze what worked well and what you can improve after each speaking event.
  • Know your triggers – Be aware of situations or topics that might throw you off balance, and develop strategies to handle them.

Final thoughts

Sure, some people are naturally skilled at the art of public speaking. But it’s important to remember that anyone can learn the above traits.

So, if you have a speaking event looming, sip some chamomile tea to calm your nerves and get working on the strategies above!

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Gemma Clarke

I am a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher and an experienced content writer in the spirituality and personal growth space.
I’m passionate about sharing my expertise through the power of
words to inspire and guide others along the path of personal and spiritual development.

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