The Secret to Great Public Speaking

Learn how a little passion leads to more effective communication.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #36

When I was in high school, my boyfriend Michael and I were offered 8th row tickets for a Bob Seger concert. I didn't know anything about Bob Seger's music, but I was really into concert photography, so I wanted to go. (Yes, back then you were allowed to bring your camera into a concert!)

The Importance of Passion

Anyway, that night I became a huge fan and not particularly because of the music. I still remember it vividly in my mind. Bob and his band were having so much fun on stage: it seemed as if they were just a bunch of high school boys enthusiastically horsing around and as if they were practicing in someone’s basement. It didn't seem to matter that over 40,000 eyes were watching them.

They were so full of energy and excitement for the music. I still remember how Bob kept changing into the same shirt, just in different colors: a red one, a blue one, a green one.

On the way home in the car, I said to Michael, “I want to be like Bob Seger.” He said, "You want to be in a band?" I said, "No, I want to enjoy whatever it is that I end up doing so much that other people around me can just feel it ... just like Bob Seger." 

Are You Following Your Passion?

This week I was reminded about that experience. I was on the phone with Marc A. Wolfe, one of the listeners of this show. We were talking about how important it is to follow your passion. I mentioned that I had once written a chapter about important life lessons. The chapter was published in a book and it was something I'd always wanted to share with others. He said, "What's the book called?" I felt stupid when I realized I had no idea, and that I had given away my only copy. Not only that, since I wrote it in 1996, I wasn't even sure that I still had an electronic copy. Marc said, "Ok, let me get this right, you wrote down things that were important to you, your life's manifesto, things you are passionate about and yet, you don't even have a copy? Now that's funny!"

Be honest. Be genuine. Be your authentic self when you communicate. Making that change will have the single biggest positive impact on how people perceive your communication skills.

I was laughing, but it was also sobering. Here I thought I had become Bob Seger (in my own way). I thought I was living my life with passion and enthusiasm, and inspiring others around me. But, talking with Marc reminded me that deep down I've always wanted to do more, and clearly, I’d lost focus of that. The honest truth is that I was reluctant and somewhat uncomfortable to share my deeper, more personal passions.

What Does Passion Have to Do with Public Speaking?

So you're probably wondering why I am telling you this and what exactly this has to do with public speaking? Let me explain.

Many times people ask me, “What’s the single most important thing I can do to improve my communication skills?” I always say the same thing. Share and show your natural passion. Be honest. Be genuine. Be your authentic self when you communicate with other people. Making that change will have the single biggest positive impact on how people perceive your communication skills.

I think we all have instinctive radar that draws us to people who are real, who are honest, and who are able to share their passions. Yet I think we all feel somewhat reluctant and somewhat uncomfortable about sharing our passions publicly. In addition, many science, technology, and business professionals are often trained to communicate about their work in a dispassionate and objective manner.

The Secret to Great Public Speaking

Certainly there’s need for objective, dispassionate analytical study. But when you communicate face-to-face about your work, audiences want to feel your intensity; we want to hear your story; we want to hear the passion in your voice and see the excitement in your eyes. We want the "Bob Seger" experience.

Yes, audiences do come to listen to content--to listen to music, so to speak--but more importantly, they want speakers who have an energy and excitement that will create a lasting impact.

Donald Trump put it this way, "If you don't have passion, you don't have energy, and if you don't have energy, you have nothing." Think about the people who have had the most impact in your own life--the ones who have inspired you. Think about how they made you feel when they talked. I'll bet you can still remember that feeling and perhaps even the words that they said. I’ll bet you’ve even heard people speak about a topic that you weren’t particularly interested in, but when they were done, suddenly, you wanted to learn more.

How to Become a Great Communicator

Great communicators give us not only solid content, but they make us feel good, they inspire us. Great communicators share and show their natural passion.

[[AdMiddle]So today’s quick and dirty tip is to move from being a good communicator to being a great communicator, an inspirational communicator. It’s to remind you to think about your passion, to encourage you to move out of your day-to-day comfort zone and find the courage to share your passion in a public way, even if only at your own dinner table. To think about not only what you want to communicate to the people around you, but also how you want to communicate it. To think about the impact you want to make. To remind you how important it is let others feel your passion, energy, and enthusiasm.

Thanks Marc for reminding me.

If you haven’t already connected, I’d love for you to join my networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). Oh, and thanks for the recent flurry of five star iTunes reviews! Really, thanks so much! I really appreciate it and it helps the show out.


If you have a question, send email to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.


Photos from the Bob Seger concert many, many years ago


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.