8 Things All Impactful Speakers Do

When you read the words “public speaking,” you may go back to a high school classroom, armed with a small stack of notecards and sweaty palms. For many of us, stepping in front of the mic still feels intimidating. And yet, we’re all captivated by those who can stand on the stage and draw us in with charisma and connection. 

Learning how to make an impact as a speaker is not a skill that can be acquired overnight. It requires effort, skill, and the ability to connect. The late Andrew Grove, a successful engineer and CEO, may have said it best: “How well we communicate is not determined by how well we say things but how well we are understood.”

To be a keynote speaker that stands out in the audience’s mind long after the event doors have locked and everyone’s gone home, you need more than simple tips and tricks for public speaking. You may be able to enunciate clearly, refrain from fidgeting, and relay information clearly — but to leave a message that lasts, you must move from being a good speaker to an impactful one. 

Good communication leads to impact, of course, but it’s not the only part of the equation. Their messages may differ in style and content, but there are a few things all impactful speakers have in common. 

1. Use the power of story.

According to Oprah, “Great communication begins with connection.” And we agree! Just like the example at the beginning of this blog evoked a memory for some of you, even the smallest bit of storytelling can draw a connection between you and your audience. Impactful speakers know that sharing a little bit of their story will draw their audience in from the beginning. 

2. Pay attention to their body language.

We are all communicating even when we aren’t speaking. And even when we do get a microphone in our hands, we’re communicating with more than just our words. 60-70% of communication is nonverbal, according to a recent study. Impactful speakers leverage body language to become more compelling. This doesn’t have to be overt – eye contact, good posture, and movement rather than standing frozen behind a podium all communicate confidence and a willingness to connect with the crowd. 

3. Know their audience. 

To become an impactful speaker, you have to know who you’re speaking to! No two audiences are exactly alike, so even if you’re sharing the same content often, personalize it to your audience whenever and however possible. Unfamiliar with your audience? That’s okay – try to connect with them at the event, both before and after you’re on the stage. If you can mingle with attendees before you speak, you can make personal connections and learn more about your crowd. And afterward, you can build on the connections you made in your keynote. 

4. Engage the senses.

We all connect to the world through sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. When you’re speaking, you’re inherently engaging the listening response in your audience – but build on it if you can. Visuals are an easy way to elevate your speaking experience. Neuroscience has shown that the more senses an experience evokes, the more likely we are to remember what we’ve experienced. Impactful speakers know that engaged audiences do more than just listen!

5. Master their subject matter. 

Here’s the simple truth: you’ll never become an impactful speaker if you’re glued to your notes or panicked about remembering your next point. To engage with your audience well, make sure you are the expert on your own presentation. This means practicing your speech until it feels comfortable to you, so that in the moment, you can focus on other characteristics of a good speaker that will help your audience engage with you. 

6. Consider resistance points. 

When you speak to an audience, it’s inevitable that you’ll have common ground. However, there are also areas you may disagree, or thoughts you’ve spent years with that they’ve never considered. Because of this, impactful speakers start with shared phrases and metaphors, building a solid foundation. From there, they build their message one increment at a time, introducing new information, or potential points of resistance from the audience, as they go. You can’t assume the crowd will be on board with you – you have to lead them where you’d like them to go.

7. Include an emotional appeal.

Just like storytelling, emotional engagement is more likely to draw an audience in than hard data or dry facts. You were likely tapped to speak on your subject because it matters to you. Your expertise and passion should shine through when you talk, and you should invite the audience to feel what you feel. Doing this will make them more passionate about your topic, too! 

8. Prepare for the event.

Once you’ve prepared your subject matter and rehearsed your keynote, expand into preparing for the event itself. Ask questions ahead of time, like: 

  • When will I need to arrive? 
  • When do you need slides from me?
  • Will I have a test run or sound check? 
  • What types of technology will be in the room for me to use? 
  • Is there anything else I’m responsible for? 

On the day of the event, arrive early and settle in. Nearly every event has some small hiccup, from scheduling delays to technical difficulties. But if you take into consideration the 8 things we shared above, you will be able to relax knowing you’re prepared to share passionately, engage with your audience, and make an impact with your message. 

If you're ready to learn more on how to captivate in-person attendees and an online audience that provides a lasting impact for both groups, download Your Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Engaging Speaker to get started! 

Download Your Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Engaging Speaker