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6 Ways to Become an Unforgettable Public Speaker

By Maxwell Leadership | March 19, 2024
6 Ways to Become an Unforgettable Public Speaker

When you think of the greatest public speakers in history, who comes to mind? Likely the names of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, and others are on that list. And if you look at those names, what’s one thing they have in common?

Winston Churchill – “Never, never, never give up.”

Abraham Lincoln – “A government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Martin Luther King Jr. – “I have a dream.”

Ronald Reagan – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

All of history’s greatest public speakers spoke so that people remembered what they said. That might seem like a simplistic way of putting it – after all, that’s the goal of any public speaker. But the most memorable of them speak not just so that people will remember, but that they must remember. The best public speakers impact their listeners so profoundly that they see the speech as a kind of turning point in their thoughts, beliefs, or actions.

How do they do this?

Powerful Public Speakers’ Tips

The most compelling public speakers are remembered by their listeners because they do the following:


Nothing makes a speech more memorable than need. When Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up,” people were facing the threat of the Nazis conquering all of Europe. When Martin Luther King Jr. told people at the Lincoln Memorial that he had a dream, they needed his inspiration to keep fighting for civil rights.

People pay attention when something that is said connects with something they greatly desire. When you communicate with people on common ground and make an effort to enter their world when you speak, then you increase your chances of understanding their needs and wants. And that increases your ability to connect.


Studies have shown that there’s a direct correlation between predictability and impact. The more predictable listeners think you are, the lower the impact you make on them. Conversely, if you lower your predictability, you increase your impact. If your audience always knows what’s coming, they’ll check out.

Production manager Joseph Marler says he fights predictability by doing a magic trick in business settings. Pastor Robert Keen has said he once put a vase in a plastic bag and smashed it with a hammer to get people’s attention – but he hit it so hard that glass flew everywhere. He says, “The congregation was in hysterical laughter as I tried to gather myself.” And Jeff Roberts explained that he took a boring senior project presentation for his degree in entrepreneurship and converted it into a rhyming Dr. Seuss-inspired presentation complete with a poster board storybook. It got a standing ovation. “Our professor, who was known for his strict grading,” says Jeff, “gave us a 100%, which had previously been unheard of. He said he had never experienced any presentation like it and had never seen students listen so intently and be as captivated as our audience was… By creating an experience that everyone enjoyed, we were able to elevate the typical class presentation, engage the audience, and make it a day of fun and laughter for a group of hardworking students coming to the end of their college career.”


Even when audience members have a tough time remembering some of the points you make, they often recall the humor you use. After all, everyone loves humor, especially self-deprecating humor. It shows the humanness of the presenter. Anytime someone makes light of himself, it connects him with people rather than putting him above them. President Abraham Lincoln, who was known as the people’s president, often poked fun at himself, and history honors him for this human quality. It’s a technique that every public speaker should embrace.


Did you know that 50% of British pilots admit to falling asleep while in the air? Even more shockingly, a third of those who fell asleep had woken up to find their copilot asleep as well!

Statistics provide a unique perspective about the world that listeners may not have had before – and all the more so when the numbers are outrageous. If you have information on your topic that will grab people’s attention, then use it.

Of course, you can also use statistics humorously to connect with people. Duke Brekhus says, “One of my favorite anonymous quotes regarding statistics is that 37.5 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot! It always gets a laugh!”


If you simply give people information or communicate ideas with no thought to the phrasing you use, you’re missing opportunities to connect and for people to remember what you say. Compare these phrases, versus how expert public speaker John Maxwell puts them:

  • “A person must sacrifice to get to the top.”
  • “You have to give up to go up.”
  • “Relationships are important to influence people.”
  • “People won’t go along with you if they can’t get along with you.”
  • “People won’t listen until they know that you care.”
  • “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Anytime you can say something in a fresh or clever way, people are more likely to pay attention.


Connecting with people is a two-way street. It is a dialogue, not a monologue. Anytime you engage in nonstop speaking without pausing, people’s minds will disengage. However, if you pause, even for a moment, you give people a chance to consider what you’ve just said. It gives their minds a needed break. And the best time to do this is when you’re saying something especially significant. Do you have a point you really want to land? Let it sit with the audience. Get comfortable with silence and let it help the audience remember you.

We have a resource that can help you immediately become a better public speaker…

John Maxwell has been succeeding on stages large and small for more than 50 years now. Some of today’s best communicators point to John as the ultimate example for speaking and communication. And they are right! A must-have for your speaking and communication library is The 16 Undeniable Laws of Communication. Any one of these 16 Laws, when applied, immediately make your next speech better, no matter what size or type of audience. Stop second-guessing yourself as a speaker and start getting better today. Get your own copy of John’s book here.

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