Five Characteristics You Need to Succeed as a Public Speaker

This is a guest post by Arman Sadeghi. Arman is an entrepreneur, professional speaker and founder of Titanium Success. He has a degree in molecular and cell biology from the University of California at Berkeley. Arman has a passion for healthy mind, body, and spirit. He speaks about, and coaches people on, personal development and success.


Great public speakers are not born, they are made. They are not perfect. It is the desire to advance their public speaking skills that draw them closer to perfection. The art of public speaking goes beyond reading from cue cards. Fortunately, if you have the passion, learning about the essential qualities of professional speakers is a great way to becoming one yourself.

Public speaking can be terrifying if you don’t have the qualities or the eloquence to inspire. If your speaking skills are not on par, chances are that your presentation will not effectively relay your message. The following five essential qualities of all public speakers will bolster your presentations to inspire, influence and make a consequential impact on your audience.

Microphone symbolizing public speaking; five characteristics you need to be a good public speaker

1. Confidence

Confidence is the mother of all the other attributes that makes a successful presentation. A public speaker who exudes confidence is viewed as being more confident, accurate, knowledgeable, intelligent and likable than a speaker who is less confident of what they are saying. It’s natural to be nervous, but to excel in public speaking, you have to overcome your nervous jitters.

If you find yourself feeling a little nervous before a presentation, find a way to let it go as the audience will never see it unless you let it loose. Engaging your audience in the presentation is one of the ways of overcoming fear. The key is to practice, practice and practice. If you do a decent job here, confidence will flow naturally.

2. Passion

Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm for something. In order to effectively communicate your speech, you need to have a passion for the subject. If the subject cannot exhilarate you, chances are that it will not excite your audience. Without passion, your speech is meaningless. Passion elicits emotions that flow naturally. Emotions move an audience and effectively convey the message.

Emotions cannot be faked. Raising your voice and using gestures cannot take the place of emotions. You need to radiate a level of sincerity in your emotions that will belch the words out of your mouth in order to move your audience. In order to find passion for subjects that don’t excite you, you will need to dig deeper to find things that interest you.

3. Introspection and Self Awareness

To be a successful public speaker, you must first understand who you are and what your strongest qualities are. Most successful speakers work to capitalize on their strengths. Is it humor that adds taste to your presentation? Or is it that storytelling talent? Understanding your strength as a public speaker will enable you to effectively engage the audience.

Professional public speakers also find ways to improve on their weaknesses. To get started, you should make a list of all your best traits that make you exceptional. Think of how these traits are expressed when making a presentation. You should also make a list of those traits that you think are lacking in your presentations. Then you should devise ways of improving and incorporating the traits in a clear and concise manner that will make your presentation engaging.

4. Being Yourself

Always be yourself and not a duplicate of a “would be”. No one can replicate you better than yourself. No matter how much you have rehearsed for the speech, if you don’t act like yourself, your audience may see you as insincere. They may perceive that your whole idea is to try to capture attention by copying a famous person or trying to take their place.

Think of it this way: If you create a website and overload it with copied or duplicated content, it won’t attract much traffic. Authenticity is very important and goes hand in hand with the perceived credibility of whatever you are marketing. In order to be yourself, you should speak with a natural voice. Practice your speech but don’t memorize it.

5. Engagement with your Audience

A good speech should be conversational in nature. It should engage the audience as much as possible. This helps to eliminate the element of boredom. It ensures that the audiences are not on phone or laptops searching the web as you speak. You can get them to put the phones down by creating an engaging atmosphere. You can achieve this by painting a picture through storytelling, making fun or by conducting some regular body-relaxing activities.


The Muse – 4 Qualities of Amazing Public Speakers

Magnetic Public Speaking – The Top 9 Characteristics of Amazing Pubic Speakers

Ellen Finkelstein – 12 Steps to Becoming a Charismatic Speaker

Inc. – 14 Must-Haves to Be a Great Public Speaker

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  1. You make a great point that if the subject you are speaking on does not excite you then it will not excite the audience. I can imagine that if you are listening to a speaker talks about something and you can tell that they have no passion, that it will be incredibly difficult to be able to hold their attention. I would love to listen to a motivational speaker in person sometime, I feel like that would be a great experience.

  2. Great list John. I would take Passion/Being Yourself/Enganging with the Audience as the Most basic ones to have for any speaker out there. I have watched plenty of speeches where the speaker although confident the content and his ability to really get the audience going with the topic was lacking, and his confidence was solely based on having the knowledge, but there was no passion.

    Thanks for sharing, John!

  3. It stood out to me when you explained that public speakers should treat a speech like a conversation since it fosters engagement. The community organization I’m a part of wants to find a public speaker on tragedy to help motivate us during these troubled times in the world. Thanks for teaching me what skills and qualities to look for as we start reaching out to potential public speakers soon.

  4. I agree with what you said that a good speech should always engage their audience to ensure there wouldn’t be any element of boredom. My dad would benefit from this advice because he’s currently looking for a public speaker for an event he’s hosting. I’ll share this article with him tonight when he gets home from work. Thanks for this.

  5. I totally agree with all the viewpoints . the way of presenting all points was clear and amazing. I remind all points just in one go through. Thank you so much.

  6. It really helped when you talked about how a public speaker must have confidence as their main skill. In my opinion, any company could benefit from the service of a keynote speaker. If I were to run a company and would like to motivate and encourage my employees, I’d definitely look for a speaker’s help. Thanks for the information on the best qualities of a public speaker.

  7. Thank you very much Arman for this beautiful article. This is really great & helpful. I appreciate your writing skills & thoughts. The points are really good. I loved your article. Hope that you will write on a similar topic.

  8. A great article. On the engagement of the audience, I find it abit tricky. There are those audiences who don’t like frequent questions from the speaker which to them seems like the speaker has less knowledge on the subject being presented. There are too part of audience that does not like being engaged much physically. Moderation on these is key, but I feel best of all a story or some fun making is acceptable by a good number audiences…

    1. Thank you for the comment. I agree. That is why the more you know about your audience beforehand, the better you will be able to adapt your speaking and level of interaction. Having said that, and having spoken in 25+ countries around the world, I do not know anyone who is attending a presentation who hopes that it will be boring! So audience interaction (at appropriate levels of depth) is rarely a bad thing.

  9. Thank you to post this useful information. It really a very good article and it will help me to build my confidence to speak fearlessly. Hope you will post these type of articles again.

  10. I totally agree with these 5 points! Reading each one I was able to imagine presentations I’ve seen that made an impression because they had these qualities present. Thank you for putting it into words.

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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