Your favorite speakers – revealed!

A few months ago, I asked my newsletter readers to tell me who their favorite speakers were (and if YOU’RE one of my newsletter readers, then I’m talkin’ to you!). It was so interesting to learn WHO is inspiring them, and why. There were some “big name” speakers who were mentioned multiple times, some less faspeakerdudemiliar names, and some extremely talented people who we shouldn’t forget about simply because they’re not with us anymore.

What I thought was the coolest part of this survey was understanding WHY they (or can I just say “you” at this
point?) thought these speakers were so talented or inspiring. Because once we can look beyond their celebrity status, famous speeches and inspiring messages, understanding exactly what it was about these speakers that moved you….well, that’s where the magic lies. Because if you can figure out what about them moves you the most, then why couldn’t you emulate that into your own speaking style, and apply that power to your own presentations?

So first, I’ll share the “winners”– and by that I mean, the favorite speakers who were mentioned in the survey, starting with the ones who got the most votes, along with any comments that accompanied the votes explaining these choices:

Tied for first place: Brene Brown and Barack Obama

  • On Brene Brown: “Speaks so naturally without notes, they say so many powerful things using few words and little or no slides’: Knowledgeable, compassionate and genuine”; Watch her TED Talks on vulnerability & shame. Love the way she weaves stories, research, humour, facts.”Obama
  • On Barack Obama: “He speaks thoughtfully, clearly and engagingly. If he is speaking from a script, it is sometimes hard to tell.” “Excellent speaker.”

Tied for 2nd place: Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer

  • On Tony Robbins: “His tone, vitality and presence are all elements that make him captivating to me;” “Motivational.”
  • On Wayne Dyer: “He was so real and thoughtful with his words, not rushed in his thoughts;” “Very motivational.”

Notable mentions:

  • Marianne Williamson & Elizabeth Gilbert. “They speak so naturally without notes, they say so many powerful things using few words and little or no slides.”
  • Lisa Nicholson. “She is dynamic, funny and inspiring. She can tell a story that moves you.”
  • ReaganRonald Regan.He wrote most of his own speeches in very simple English and was so engaging. He also was a tremendous impromtu speaker who challenged situations and served as a catalyst to many world wide changes.”
  • Patrice Roy (RDI news). “He appears transparent with how he feels without betraying the message.”
  • TrudeauJustin Trudeau. “An excellent speaker.”
  • Bill Clinton
  • Darren LaCroix

And finally:  “Nobody in particular, but the characteristics I like are down to earth, real, relaxed and fun.”

Wanna know MY Favorites?

It’s always really tough to narrow down my favorite speakers, because I’ve been equally inspired by the “celebrity” speakers (and by that I mean the Seth Godin’s, Sheryl Sandberg’s and Tony Robbins’ of the world, not the Kardashians!), the TED speakers, the professional speakers who are experts in their relative fields who have crafted engaging and fascinating presentations, and by the ‘regular’ people – entrepreneurs, business professionals, artists, authors, creators of cool stuff, and other random deep thinkers – giving memorable presentations at a local level.

Last year, while being interviewed on a local radio station in Montreal on How to be an Engaging Speaker, a listener asked me to pick my 3 favorite speakers, on the spot. Well, it wasn’t really on-the-spot, because the question came right before the commercial break, so I had me two minutes to come up with my answers. The good news is, my 3 favorite speakers came to mind quite quickly. The bad news is, one of the listeners wasn’t very happy with me and my list (more on that near the end of this article).

The speakers I came up with at the time were:

Sir Ken
  1. Sir Ken Robinson. Famous for his now-famous TED speech, Do Schools Kill Creativity, which, at the time of this article, has been viewed 38 MILLION TIMES (the most views of any TED speech). Funny, engaging, impactful language, extremely relevant stories, elegant structure. I have had clients thank me for asking them to watch the video, because of how moved and inspired they were (which means that if you haven’t seen it yet, go now!) I wrote an article about this speech several years ago, ‘deconstructing’ exactly WHY it was so powerful (take a look to see why!)
  1. SusanSheryl Sandberg. This extremely well-crafted, well-structured TED speech, Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders, was the kickoff to the start of the global Lean In movement. That would be reason enough to put it on my list, but there’s so much more. Sheryl Sandberg comes across as a professional, credible, personable, authentic and very, very “real.” And it was the crystal-clear structure of this speech (which also highlights so magnificently the speech structure process of my Create A Signature Speech That Sells online speech-creation program), that inspired me to write a review of Sheryl Sandberg’s TED speech a few years back.
  1. John Demartini. I saw Dr. Demartini present live at a conference and was absolutely blown away. The passion that he had for his subject – which has many layers, but I’ll just stick to describing it as “achieving your highest self” or “uncovering and living your truest potential” – was delivered with such passion, emotion and enthusiasm that I was practically in a trance watching him. And I’ve remembered and talked about that presentation ever since.

Which brings me to how I got reprimanded….

On the radio show, after I revealed that Sir Ken, Sheryl and Dr. John made my top-3 list, a listener texted in with the invariable “I can’t believe she didn’t choose Obama as one of her top 3!” Which may have seemed like utter blasphemy to him, but not being on my top 3 doesn’t mean that he may not have made it to my top 10, or even my top 5. Certainly President Obama is a master of the powerful pause, voice modulation, tone and even humour (check out some of these videos from the 2016 White House Correspondents dinner to watch him in action), with speaking skills honed after a career spent in front of a microphone. But I had to pick 3, those were the ones that came to mind, and I wholeheartedly stick by them as among my very favorites.

Go beyond WHAT you like – and look at the WHY

The next time that you’re inspired by a speaker, or a particular speech, go deeper to understand WHY it affected you. Was it whythe content, the dramatic elements, the stories? Was it the way they used their voice, their confidence, their ease of movement, their ability to captivate an audience? Was it how their message stayed with you afterwards, and moved you enough so that you told your friends or family about it, and continue to do so years afterwards? (I’m talking to you, Dr. John Demartini!)  After hearing the speech, were you
inspired to actually go out and make changes to your life that were recommended by the speaker?

Going deeper into the WHY is where the magic lies. It’s where you’ll get insights on how to bring that level of speaking skill, ability and power to your presentations.Then, when it’s time for you to stand up and give a presentation, reflect on how you can bring that experience to YOUR audience. And who knows, maybe one day YOU’LL end up on someone’s favorite speaker list.


p.s. If you’d like to be part of my NEXT survey, I invite you to join my newsletter list! All you need to do is go over to the homepage, fill out your name and email in the right-hand side of the screen, and away you go! (and you’ll also get the super-nifty report, 9 Secrets to Bulletproof Your Presentations, as a special gift when you join!)

Showing 2 comments
  • Heather Boyd

    LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert…she is so real! 😉

    • Suzannah Baum

      She’s so real, so authentic. And funny too!

9 Secrets to Bulletproof Your Presentations


Download my free guide on how to create and deliver structured, engaging and powerful presentations!