5 essential attributes of successful public speakers

Putting yourself before an audience time and again, risking rejection or indifference, can be grueling. These key traits can make or break your long-term effectiveness in conveying your overall message.

Five key factors determine success or struggle for a public speaker.

Here they are:

1. Emotional resilience. Not every audience is going to love you, and not every speech is going to be a success, but if you can’t bounce back from the difficult occasions and take the successes in stride without becoming overly confident, you’re going to have a rocky ride.

2. Determination. Closely related to resilience is the ability to stick to it without giving up, even if things don’t go your way. It takes considerable effort and time to develop a successful public speaking career, and anyone expecting quick results and easy wins is bound for disappointment. Hanging in there—without being delusional—is a key emotional success factor.

3. Conscientiousness. Speakers have to sweat the details, from the arcana of their specialty to the little moments of technical and performance felicity that make the difference between doing just OK and outright greatness. Caring about the people who help you along the way is important, too. Successful public speaking is about both the little stuff and the big stuff.

4. Control. Great speakers learn to control the moment, to rise to the occasion and to seize the opportunity for an effective ad lib when it arises. Study the ebb and flow of human emotion and engagement, and identify when to control that flow and when to ride it.

5. Optimism. A life on the road, a life of endless auditions in front of new audiences every night, a life of the ups and downs of venues and technical issues and unexpected delays and problems—all can chip away at the most durable of human psyches. A positive attitude is a must.

I’ve seen these qualities in the speakers I’ve coached over the years, and I’ve seen what can hold a speaker back from success—or propel them to opportunity after opportunity.

What separates the winners from the rest in the end is these qualities, plus one more: a willingness to work harder than the rest and for longer than everyone else.

What are the qualities you see as essential to your success and the triumphs you’ve observed?

A version of this post first appeared on Public Words.


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