Exceptional speakers have 7 behaviours in common

Maurice DeCastro
8 min readJun 26, 2018

Exceptional speakers are suprisingly difficult to find in many organisations today although you will know them when you see them because they have a great deal in common.

I’ve often heard it said that ‘perception is more important than reality’. Whether you agree with such an assertion or not I think it’s reasonable to at least accept the premise that we all see things differently. Every day at Mindful Presenter we help people from all walks of life to become more powerful and effective speakers and to achieve that we need to know what it is they believe it takes to be a great presenter.

Each time we ask our delegates that question we end up with an entire wall filled with post it notes each containing a single competency or characteristic which tells us that most people believe it takes a great deal to be an exceptional presenter.

This article isn’t about what our delegates write on those post its; it’s about what most of them don’t write. Below are 7 behaviours that we at Mindfful Presenter believe exceptional presenters rely on each time they speak.

More importantly, we know that they are within the reach of all of us.

1. Courage

It’s risky business standing in front of any audience as we can never be certain they will like us, agree with us or even believe what it is we have to say. That means we should give credit to anyone who has the courage to stand and speak. That said, it’s not enough to simply stand and tell your story, it takes even greater courage to dare to be different, take people on a journey and help them to feel something.

That courage comes from a belief that it’s simply not good enough to stand and deliver; to do what everyone else does when they speak. The courageous presenter will challenge the status quo, admonish mediocrity and do whatever it takes to engage and inspire their audience.

Courage is a gift that we are all born with and despite popular belief we can summon with a thought because it’s already with each of us. Whilst it is something we are born with it is worth noting that it is a mental and emotional muscle which needs to be exercised if we are to truly enjoy it’s benefits.

The route to courage is:

– Trust in yourself that if you step into the fear with faith and frequency it will pass

– Focus and clarity on what you want and why you want it

– A little less procrastination and a lot more action

– Believing in what you know and the difference it will make sharing that knowledge

– Not doing what you always do; trying new things in every area of life

Many presentations involve hoping for a little courage from our audience in terms of them changing a thought, belief or action based on what we’ve shared so we owe it to them to lead with courage first.

2. Presence

Have you ever met someone for the first time and at the end of your exchange you said to yourself or others ‘that person has real presence’? If you have then you’ll know what I mean although you’ll also know that it’s not so easy to explain. At Mindful Presenter we believe that presence lies in the speaker being in the room with their audience and not in their heads.

That means they know how to breathe, focus and give the whole of themselves to their audience. They command the space they have, they consciously use their emotions and they seek to have a conversation rather than tell people things.

Presence is about being in the room in the moment with your audience.

Arrive at least an hour early before you speak and take a good few minutes to just be in the room. Don’t do anything but just stand there and become a part of the room before your audience arrives.

The route to presence is:

– Spending a few minutes each day sitting in silence, breathing and becoming aware of your thoughts

– Slowing down and noticing; the taste of your food, how you feel and the world around you

– Being with someone in a conversation; that means listening and not waiting to speak

– Doing one thing at a time with your full awareness and attention

– Doing less not more

If you don’t know how to be with yourself first its unlikely you will be fully present with your audience when it counts the most.

3. Humility

The exceptional presenter cares far more about their audience than they do themselves. They don’t allow the fact that they have the platform and ears of the audience to make them feel they are better than anyone else. They take their message seriously but don’t take themselves too seriously.

The Mindful Presenter believes that it’s always an honour and privilege to have the attention of any audience and they demonstrate that with appreciation and respect. Each week we see two different extremes inpresenting. Firstly, we see the nervous presenter who struggles to communicate effectively because their anxiety gets the better of them. Then we see also see the arrogant presenter where it’s all about bravado, self- promotion, how much they know and how hard they’ve worked.

Audiences don’t want to see either of those.

What they want is someone who values them, genuinely wants to make a difference to their lives and will help them to feel something.

The route to humility is:

– Not being afraid to let your audience into your world by being yourself and opening up to them

– Being prepared to let them know you don’t have all the answers and asking for help

– Taking responsibility rather than blaming others

– Putting them first

– Leaving your ego at the door

4. Emotional Intelligence

Exceptional presenters have a high degree of emotional intelligence. That means they have a high level of awareness of the impact they have on themselves and other people each time they speak. The exceptional presenters know exactly where their strengths are and they play to those strengths.

At the same time they are always trying to understand and correct their weaknesses and find other opportunities to connect with their audience whilst retaining their authenticity. For the presenter emotional intelligence is also about having the ability and taking the time to step back to understand exactly what it is that drives both you and your audience emotionally.

It’s extremely difficult to claim to know others and put yourself in their shoes if you haven’t taken the time and effort to consciously reflect on who you are as a speaker.

The route to emotional intelligence is:

– Managing our own negative emotions; being aware of how we feel and changing our thoughts as appropriate

– Being able to express how we feel in a constructive way when we need to

– Staying calm and collected when under stress and knowing how to handle stressful situations

– Knowing how our behaviour affects others

– Choosing to respond rather than instinctively react

– Having the ability to understand and manage others emotions as well as our own

5. Creativity

If you were to put aside the reality that far too many presenters read their slides, lack energy and passion the only other problem is that most business presentations are largely the same. You can’t just present the facts, data and logic and call yourself an engaging speaker, it doesn’t work that way. You can send your audience an email if that’s all it really takes to communicate.

The fact is that the spoken word elicits a far greater effect than the written word especially when communicated differently and the exceptional presenters know that creativity is the key.

Tell them stories, something they haven’t heard before, use props, videos or volunteers, do whatever it takes to engage their right brain as well as their left. People like surprises, suspense and drama, they enjoy good humour and love metaphors so take advantage of their need to connect with you and dare to be different.

The route to creativity is:

– Creating the best environment to allow it to come through; how, where and when do you get your best ideas?

– Doing things you’ve never done before and breaking your own habitual patterns

– Questioning everything; although start by asking some new questions

– Being open to everything and closed to nothing

– Surrounding yourself with creativity; people, books, places and anything that stretches your thinking

6. Generosity

The exceptional presenter is generous to a fault; they give everything to their audience including themselves.

I really do mean everything:








The route to generosity is:

– Making a list of things you are grateful for and focusing on it regularly

– Spending time with generous people; people who know how to give more than money

– Making it personal by understanding the impact and difference you can make

– Believing that the world may not be perfect but that you can help make it a better place

7. Value

Let’s look at value a little closer after all that really has to be what it’s all about. Why would any presenter take 10 minutes or 2 hours of an audience’s precious time to address them unless they had something to say of significant value to them?

In our experience one of the greatest mistakes presenters make is in believing that their job is to simply impart knowledge or information. It’s not only a big mistake, it’s at the heart of the considerable problem we still see in business presenting today.

It seems acceptable to continue the trend business presenters initiated following the advent of Power Point some 30 years ago; to simply shares slides showing how much they know on a subject. You will never see such a thing on the exceptional presenter’s agenda.

For them it’s all about value and difference.

The biggest thing they have on their agenda is how what they have to say will really help and make a tangible difference to their audience.

The route to adding value is:

– Setting the intention to do so as your first priority

– Defining exactly what that value looks and feels like

– Crafting everything you say and do with that intention at the forefront of your mind

What value do you add each time you speak?

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Image: Courtesy of flickr.com



Maurice DeCastro

Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.