5 Things Great Speakers Always Do, and Don’t

1. Always earn the gift of the audience’s time and attention.

Make eye contact. Smile. Captivate by having confidence. (Which comes from relentless rehearsing.)

Let your ideas flow through you.

Focus on earning the gift of the audience’s time and attention and they’ll want to earn yours.

And then you both win.

2. Always find a idea you’re passionate about — but also make sure you’re credible.

If you want to take a big stage, the most important thing is to have an idea you are passionate about — and credible about.

For example, I’m passionate about the Food Network… but I would not call myself a chef.

If you have an idea you love talking about, it’s important that you are credible. Caring is not enough. You must be able to establish your authority as a person we should listen to. Maybe that’s education. Or research. Or your unique experience.

Whatever it is, you must be credible — otherwise why should we give you our attention?

3. Before you choose a topic, always answer two key questions: Why it matters to you… and why it matters to the world.

If your topic only matters to you, we won’t be able to relate to it.

For example, the mother and brother of one of my speakers from TEDx Lincoln Square were murdered one Christmas Eve. Her talk was about forgiveness. It was important to her.

While most of us can’t relate to having a family member murdered… we can all relate to needing to forgive someone. Her talk connected the dots between her unique experience and a broader experience we all share: How we can all transform our lives through forgiveness.

Your audience must be able to see themselves in your talk; otherwise your words will be just be information… information without impact.

4. Always rehearse the experience you will have.
The worst thing you can do is rehearse alone in front of a mirror. You’ll think you have your presentation down cold… but the moment you get in front of an audience your body will betray you: Your palms will get sweaty, the butterflies will hit, you’ll start thinking about anything and everything else… and you’ll forget what you plan to say.

Start by exposing yourself to mild stress. Give your talk to your family. Then increase the stress a little; give it to some friends. Then give your talk to colleagues.

You simply cannot rehearse too often and for too many people.

Why? The more you rehearse, the more things that will go wrong… and the more prepared you’ll be when you’re onstage to deal with what might go wrong. And the less nervous you will be, because you will have adapted to the stress of speaking in front of people.

Think of it this way: The audience doesn’t want to see you practice your speech. They want to see the result of the countless hours of practice you put in ahead of time.

5. Always craft your speech as a conversation.

If your talk sounds like a script, or a book… your audience can just read it. Your presentation must be a conversation: One with your point of view and your style.

So infuse your personality. Infuse your voice. If you’re funny, use humor. If you’re not funny, don’t try to be.

If you speak in slang… that’s how your talk should sound. If you speak in the King’s English in real life, that’s how your talk should sound.

Commit to being you. Don’t try to “speak like a “speaker.” Speak like you.

6. Always harness the power of movement.

Words matter, but so does movement.

Video yourself. Or rehearse in front of people who will be honest about what you’re doing right — and doing wrong. If you tend to flap your arms, you need to know that — and you need to break that habit.

5 Things Great Speakers Never Do

1. Never apologize.

If your slides don’t come up right away, don’t apologize. We’ll wait. If your mic doesn’t come up immediately, don’t apologize. We’ll wait.

If you need to pause for a moment because you’ve lost track of what you want to say next, don’t apologize. Just pause. We won’t know you lost track. We’ll think your pause is planned. We’ll wait.

If you’re comfortable with silence or stillness… your audience will become comfortable with silence or stillness.

2. Never take a stage without knowing your audience.

Because if you do, they’ll realize it immediately. And you’ll lose them.

The audience’s attention is a gift. It’s your job to be prepared to earn that gift.

3. Never pitch from the stage.

You can and should inspire… but you should never pitch. Or sell.

If you inspire people from the stage, they will want to spend more time with you. And that will ultimately drive them to your business. (If that’s your goal.)

That’s why it’s so important to infuse your talk with your personality and your point of view. Show us who you are and if we like you, we’ll want to spend more time with you — and do business with you.

But if you hard sell… we won’t.

4. Never confuse anger with passion.

Passion that comes across as anger shuts an audience down.

Global warming is bad, but yelling, “Turn your lights off!” at an audience doesn’t work. Explaining why, showing why it matters, showing why you care and therefore why we might want to care… we’ll be inspired by your passion.

But not your anger.

And one last thing…

5. Never use air quotes.

They work for Dr. Evil.

They don’t work for you. Or me.

Or anyone else.


Here are seven of the top reasons why highly emotionally intelligent candidates are so valuable.

1. They Can Handle Pressure Healthily

Dealing with workplace pressures and functioning well under stress demands an ability to manage our emotions. People with higher levels of emotional intelligence are more aware of their internal thermometer and therefore better able to manage their stress levels. They tend to have better-developed coping mechanisms and healthy support systems that keep working effectively even in tough situations. The increasing rate of change in the workplace is likely to increase work-related stress and boost the value of those who can manage it.

2. They Understand and Cooperate With Others

“People with highly developed emotional intelligence are less defensive and more open to feedback, especially when it involves areas of improvement.”

As teamwork becomes increasingly important in the workplace, people who are able to understand and get along with others will become ever more sought after. Highly emotionally intelligent people have well-developed people skills that let them build relationships with a diverse range of people across many cultures and backgrounds. That’s an asset in an increasingly globalized workplace.

3. They’re Good Listeners

Everyone wants to be heard and understood. The ability to listen well and respond to others is crucial for developing strong working relationships. Many of us, though, aren’t as good as we could be at really listening to what others are saying. Because of their ability to understand others, highly emotionally intelligent people are in a better position to put their own emotions and desires aside and take others into account. Their ability to pick up on people’s emotions, through tone of voice and body language, come in handy in team settings.

4. They’re More Open To Feedback

Open, timely, and honest feedback is essential to job performance–especially at a time when annual performance reviews are in decline. People with highly developed emotional intelligence are less defensive and more open to feedback, especially when it involves areas of improvement. Their high level of self-regard lets them look positively at areas where they can do better, rather than taking feedback personally.

5. They’re Empathetic

“Highly emotionally intelligent people are in a better position to put their own emotions and desires aside and take others’ into account.”

Collaboration doesn’t just present logistical issues–it also comes down to responding to teammates’ feelings. People with high emotional intelligence are able to use their sensitivity to where others are coming from to build trust and cohesiveness. This allows teams to focus on the task at hand rather than become embroiled in internal bickering and politics. Their sensitivity to the needs of others acts as a lubricant that helps team members work together.

6. They Set an Example for Others to Follow

Highly emotionally intelligent people don’t get easily flustered when things don’t go according to plan. And their knack for getting along with others makes it more likely that others will take note and try to emulate them. That’s why high emotional intelligence is a key to influencing people in an organization regardless of official title. An ability to rise above daily irritations earns people with high emotional intelligence the respect from those above them as well as from their colleagues.

7. They Make More Thoughtful and Thorough Decisions

Because of their ability to see things clearly from another’s point of view, highly emotionally intelligent people are able to make better judgements about how their decisions will impact others. Not only does this result in better decision making overall, but it also helps manage damage control when certain decisions lead to negative consequences. Being able to judge the outcomes of their choices lets highly emotionally intelligent people behave more proactively.

People who show an enhanced ability to adapt to change, manage their emotions, and work well with a diverse range of people are already valuable in most workplaces. But with the rates of change and pressures in the workplace rising, they’ll become even more sought after than ever.

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com.

<ore from Fast Company

This article was originally published on May 4, 2016, by Fast Company, and is republished here with permission.