Learn the six qualities of a great public speaker

12 October 2015 -


Public speaking is difficult to master, but by focusing on these six key traits you can start your journey to becoming a better presenter

Sarah Lloyd-Hughes, guest blogger

Public speaking is terrifying, we all know that. More than 70% of the population admit to having some form of communication anxiety, according to researcher James McCroskey. But the way that most public speaking training works can make us more nervous rather than more natural.

Most public speaking training focuses almost entirely on the behaviours of a speaker:

“Put your feet here.”

“Stand up straight.”

“Wear black so your sweat marks don’t show.”

“Use these 7 power stances.”

I’ve even heard one trainer advise, “Don’t pick your nose”. Yes, really! Is that the best we can do? It’s this low bar that leads to mechanical, disconnected public speaking.

It gets worse when speaking gurus show you “how to be an awesome speaker… just like me”, because what usually follows is a list of reasons why your personality isn’t quite good enough and needs a steep price tag to change it.


It’s little surprise that most public speaking is so unimpressive.

Here’s where a different approach makes sense – one that focuses on an individual’s qualities rather than their behaviours.

So here’s six qualities every inspiring speaker needs as a basis for confident and powerful public speaking as featured in my book How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking (published by Pearson).


The best speakers are natural. If you look at most politicians and business leaders, authentic is what they are not. So it’s little wonder that the public are switched off from listening. Audiences want real humans on stage, warts and all.

Whether or not you like Jeremy Corbyn’s politics, his authentic style has captured the ear of many disillusioned Labour supporters.


Rather than making rules about what you should and shouldn’t do when you’re speaking, the quality of awareness gives you perspective on how well you’re doing. With awareness you can pick up the behaviours that connect you to the audience and drop the weird itches and fiddles.


Great speakers think more of their audience than they do of themselves. If you can understand the needs of your audience, you can deliver a talk that will resonate and impress. And a great side effect – if you think more of them you’ll have less space to worry about yourself, which helps your nerves to slide away.


Every great speaker has an instinct for how to build a journey for their audience. They don’t over-fill the plate, but rather understand how to balance facts vs story; silence vs pace; serious vs light.


With so much information filling our minds, it’s difficult to stand out as a speaker and have people remember your message. Freshness is the quality that allows you to be spontaneous and different with your speaking. When a speaker does something different we are much more likely to remember it.


The difference between pedestrian speakers and those who are world-class is that the best of the best go beyond their own limitations and fears to give all they can to their audience. I call this Fearlessness. Speakers who are fearless are able to be vulnerable, funny, assertive or passionate – whatever it takes to serve the audience.

Read more tips in how to become a better public speaker here

When you take on these qualities, the behaviours like body language and nervous vocal quirks take care of themselves.

You find that you are able to connect better with an audience, without feeling self conscious. Instead of comparing yourself to some guru, you’ll start to develop your own unique style of speaking that’s confident and inspiring.

And you might just start to love it.


Sarah Lloyd-Hughes works at Ginger Public Speaking and uses these six qualities as the basis for her public speaking training sessions.

How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking by Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is out now, priced £12.99.

Powered by Professional Manager