That dreaded phrase: “We’d like you to say a few words”. If you’re like most of us, you practically break into a sweat just thinking about getting in front of a group of people to give any kind of speech. Some of you may dig deep and power through, others may politely decline, while still others writhe their hands for weeks, stomach in knots and lying awake every night until the big day. You’re in good company. We’re here to show you how reading certain public speaking quotes can help you muster the courage to pull the speech off and feel great about it.
Top Famous Public Speaking Quotes
Whether you’re being tasked to give a presentation at work, a speech at a wedding or just speak on an open conference call, you can overcome your fears and get a little pep in your step by relying on quotes of these famous people who have gone before you. We chose these quotes to inspire you, get you to laugh a little and help you with that little extra bit of self-confidence you’ll need to approach that stage with poise and style.
We told you we’d get you to laugh. It’s always good to know you’re not alone in your fear of public speaking, and leave it to Jerry Seinfeld to make it funny to be nervous. Here’s what he had to say: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Sometimes the best way to loosen up is to have a good laugh about your own nerves.
One of the most famous writers of all time also had some wise words for speaking in public: “There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” This one hits home for us because there are those people out there who, probably to psyche themselves up, say they’re never nervous when they speak in public.
Of course there are degrees of nerves, and even excitement can feel like nerves. It’s important to know that every single person has some degree of nervousness or fear before they take the stage. It doesn’t matter if it’s an audience of one or one million: nerves affect us all.
Probably the most prolific name is motivational speaking and corporate salesmanship delivered some of the best public speaking quotes. He said, “There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”
Giving a speech is a fluid thing. You’ll practice a speech that’s word for word what you want. You’ll give a speech that moves along with the audience’s reactions. Over the next few hours or days you’ll ruminate over what you wish you had said.
Long story short, everything is a learning experience, so just enjoy what you do. All you can do is your best and, more often than not, it’s more than enough to make a big impression.
Quotes for Improving Your Public Speaking
Now that we’ve got nerves out of the way, there are public speaking quotes that will impart wisdom to encourage you but might just make you better for having read them.
Getting to the Point
Many magnets and t-shirts hold quotes from the magnanimous leader Winston Churchill. Why? Because he inspired millions and often through very dark times. Here’s our favorite public speaking quote from Churchill: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time–a tremendous whack.”
This quote is important because we often over-think things with giving speeches. In business, if we need to say the apple is red, we’ll think of all the words we can to hint at the apple being red when all we need to do is say it. Sage advice. Get to the point and make it clearly and several times. You want the audience to know the apple is red.
Move an Audience
Carl W. Buehner had a way with words, and he was the first to say what has been attributed since to many people who have quoted him: “They may forget what you said–but they will never forget how you made them feel..”
If you’re giving a speech at a wedding, to a group of graduates, or to any other group where it’s appropriate to inspire them toward a common goal like the future, love or endless possibilities, connect with whom they are and why they’re important. Impart to them their lives are important and help them feel special and unique. They’ll love your speech and take your message with them wherever they go.
Begin with the End in Mind
A great speech doesn’t just happen. Alexander Gregg said, “There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.” This is one of the great public speaking quotes about preparation. Immersing yourself in your subject will allow you to go off script or field questions, because you’ve been living and breathing it.
Once you know your subject, you’ll form your own opinions about it, see it differently and from different perspectives. They next step is to have such a connection with your subject, you can’t help but convey that passion to your audience. It’s a great feeling to see an entire audience leave with a new found appreciation for what you’ve just spoken about.
Public Speaking Quotes to Inspire You to Be a Better Speaker
Now you may feel better prepared to give a better speech, but what about the self-confidence to be the speaker delivering to an audience? There are great pieces of advice out there but we’ve found public speaking quotes to help you understand the speaker you are or flush out the speaker you want to be.
Be Careful with Your Words
We want to help you be a thoughtful public speaker, so consider what Horace said: “Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled.” Be comfortable while you speak but understand a slip of the tongue or a turn of phrase said while you were emotional will live in that audience’s mind forever. It may also live online too.
Benjamin Franklin hit this point home when he said: “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Ah! This can be more difficult than the actual speech itself. If you face a question that is only asked to bait, a heated argument on a conference call or the fact that your sister is marrying the guy you can’t stand—the lack of speaking can be the best public speaking you’ll ever do.
Aim to Inspire
If your speech is about sales or love, sit down and think about what you want your result to be. Chances are you want your audience to leave feeling something or wanting to take action of some sort. Consider what John Quincy Adams said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” If you’re giving a speech that incites just a little more from only one person, you’re a leader. Be confident in that.
As you’re practising your speech, record yourself and listen back. Think about this quote by Lilly Walters: “The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives.” It won’t matter what you intended if the audience walks away with something else. Listen to your recording with an open mind—are you getting your point across? If yes—go for it. If not—go back and refine what you want your message to be and start again.
Whatever your nerves are telling you, remember even the best orators get nervous before they take the stage. It’s not about the nerves—it’s about being passionate about your subject, confident in your knowledge and having a clear understanding of what you want to impart to your audience.
Public speaking, like almost anything else, takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it will be to format your speeches, understand the dynamic of a live audience and process the feedback you get after each speech you give. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro and people will not only be coming to you for your area of expertise but maybe for a few public speaking quotes of your own.