Public Speaking: What makes a good speaker great?

September is Public Speaking month for the Lifetime Networks Employment Workshop group. This month we will be learning what it takes to be a great public speaker. At the end of the month, each participant will give a short speech to the group to demonstrate what they’ve learned!

To kick off our first lesson on public speaking, we watched a few examples of great contemporary public speakers and discussed what we can learn from them. You can check out some of our thoughts on these examples below.


Conveying emotion

The most common goal of public speaking is to persuade the audience. Whether you are encouraging them to act a certain way, or offering them new knowledge to consider, it is imperative that you connect to your audience. The most effective way to do this is through emotion; through conveying emotion in your speech, and having the effect of changing the emotion of your audience.

In the following clips, taken from YouTube, we see Michelle Obama and Stephen Colbert giving very heartfelt and emotionally driven speeches. The group reflected that these speakers were so powerful precisely because of the emotion conveyed in their speeches. They made us feel something, and feel it strongly. They went beyond the mechanics of a good speech and connected with their audience on a much deeper, genuine, personal level.

ž Michelle Obama

Stephen Colbert


The mechanics of good speaking

Of course, an emotional speech wont be effective without first mastering the basics of public speaking – speaking confidently, clearly, and conversationally are all important qualities of good speakers.

In the first example below, we see how one speaker, Margaret Thatcher, put a lot of time and effort into honing her speaking voice. Over time, she learned to modify the pitch of her voice, her tone, her speed and enunciation. She did this because it was thought that these qualities made her a better speaker. To contrast Thatcher’s efforts to change her voice, we watched a clip of comedian Drew Lynch, who speaks with a stutter. Not only is he unable to do anything to change his stutter (nor should he), he has found a way to embrace it so positively that his comedy routine is actually enhanced by his way of speaking.

Margaret Thatcher

Drew Lynch


There is no single quality that makes someone a great public speaker. It is a combination of personality and confidence, mastering the basic mechanics of giving a speech (voice, body language, presentation), and being able to connect with your audience. A good speech also needs to be well written and well rehearsed.

If you’d like more information on public speaking, check out Toastmasters!



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