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

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  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.

    1. 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.

        1. Exactly, Soren. A similar saying is: Your audience doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but they so expect you to be present.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International