Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 163) – Richard Branson

Richard Branson - English Entrepreneur and Founder of Virgin Group

Richard Branson – English Entrepreneur, Founder of Virgin Group

“To be an impressive public speaker, you have to believe in what you are saying. And if you speak with conviction and you’re passionate about your subject, your audience will be far more forgiving of your mistakes because they’ll have faith that you are telling the truth. My answers aren’t always smooth and immediate, and often include a fair few ‘erms’ and ‘ahs’. But most audiences are far happier with a hesitant, sincere response than a speedy but superficial answer. Prepare, then take your time and relax. Speak from the heart.”

— Richard Branson

Photo courtesy of David Shankbone

About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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7 Responses to Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 163) – Richard Branson

  1. There’s an interesting contrast between Richard’s advice in this quote and the common approach, where verbal fillers are usually very much frowned upon.

    It seems one takeaway from the quote is that when you’re as persuasive and impassioned a speaker a Mr Branson, fillers are much less important than they are for the average speaker. Is that unfair, or should we all concentrate more on achieving persuasiveness and passion, and not worry about fillers so much? (I suppose people are more willing to listen to him because he’s become rich doing what he does, so he’s got a bit more appeal than most of us!)

    This reminds me of a video by speech coach Connie Dieken that I posted on my blog recently. She says speaking boldly and from the heart helps you to avoid mental blanks. It’s all a fascinating area.

    How did you go in the recent contests, John? I’ve not been in Toastmasters long enough to enter a speech contest – which is appropriate and maybe fortunate! But I entered the evaluation contest and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, on the night I forgot about the lights (d’oh!) so was disqualified. I’m really keen to give it another go next time, though. I seem to enjoy evaluation more than just speaking, and the quality of the test speakers seems great, which is inspiring.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Hi Craig,

      Thanks for the comment. I do think it a good idea if people can reduce or eliminate the filler words from their talk. It makes them look much more polished. Having said that, I also tell people not to become obsessed if the occasional “um” or “ah” slips in. It is more important to speak from the heart and connect with the audience than being perfectly polished with a weak message.

      The TM contest season is going well. In fact, I am posting this reply from Antwerp, Belgium at our District Conference. I am competing in the International Speech Contest (English) and the Evaluation Contest (French). The Semi-Finals for the International were yesterday and I am through to the Finals. The Evaluation Contest was held yesterday. All results will be announced at the dinner tonight. I’m having a great time and am very Zen about the contests. I just try to give the best speech I can and let the judges sort out the rest.



  2. Conor Neill says:

    Reblogged this on Moving People to Action and commented:
    Wise words from Richard Branson: “to be an impressive public speaker, you have to believe in what you are saying…”

  3. Adrienne McLean says:

    Great advice – thanks for sharing, John.

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