Some people are born great public speakers. Some educate themselves and keep training to get better. But, one thing is for sure: everyone can learn from the astonishing examples of historically renowned speakers. Tune into these speakers and learn from the example they set for us in the stage of history. So, without further ado, get ready to be inspired.
Martin Luther King Jr.
The famous civil rights activist whose wise words inspired generations… Mr. King is most well-known for his speech “I have a dream” that addressed an audience of around 250 thousand people, but mesmerized the entire world. The reason why his speech was so powerful in it’s delivery of the message “equality as a right we are born into” was because he granted his audience a vision to be shared by all. It was, perhaps, this speech that allowed the civil rights act to become law a year later.
What made this speech so effective? The speech content is extremely thorough, and researched. That is a key aspect here: many great speeches require rigorous preparation. Apparently, Mr. King went over sections of the Bible, the United States’ Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address to compose this speech. Further, he let the content of his speech shine through in his attention-grabbing delivery. The organization of his voice, his posture, and his facial expression represents the perfect harmony that would grant his speech the necessary power and impact.
Perhaps one of the most renowned environmentalists and primatologists in the world, Jane Goodall has been an avid public speaker nearly all her life, presenting over 300 times a year. In fact, despite being in her 80s, she still frequently delivers speeches. Her work on what the diversion between apes and the human species is widely celebrated. What is interesting about her case is that she originally had a stark fear of public speaking. This is a good example of where rigorous work and practice can take you.
What makes her presentations so interesting? Well, she is extremely creative in her use of all kinds of props including sound props, such as chimpanzee greetings. Her presentations also capitalize on storytelling to convey the message in a more powerful and memorable manner. Further, she uses a varying tone that captures audience attention; varying from humorous to more serious, Goodall is extremely well equipped to keep the audience on their toes.
The world famous American boxer, activist and entertainer, Muhammed Ali has acquired the nickname “The Greatest” for a reason. Positioned as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Ali was also an avid public speaker. His speeches inspired the world to be proud of your achievements rather than being apologetic about your success and talent. His advocacy for black athletes battled against backwards establishments for a much needed cultural transformation. His speeches are pronounced in expressiveness, and let Ali’s striking personality come through. When presenting a message as impactful as his, you should be wary of the rhythm, pausing, emphasis to capture the audience and let your main point resonate with them.
A Pakistani women’s rights activist, Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work on increasing the accessibility of female education. She is also the youngest Nobel prize laureate to this day. Her speeches are striking in vocal power, and purposefully soft and determined. She also uses hand gestures to highlight her pace and cadence. Her sense of purpose is extremely apparent in the way she delivers her speech, striking the audience to take action.
Having been shot by the Taliban on her way to school due to her attendance at a girls’ rights campaign, Malala’s voice could not be silenced by bullets. As she famously pointed out: “They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.” Her message resonates with so many who cherish defiance in the face of injustice.
The South African anti-apartheid activist and political leader, Nelson Mandela served as the President of South Africa as the country’s first black head of state elected by a democratic election. He is well known for his idealist speeches revolving around themes such as human dignity and social justice that changed the hearts and minds of countless people. What is striking in many of his speeches is that he speaks with immense courage and passion, despite the ensuing risks he faced, such as imprisonment. He famously said:“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Not all of us are born to be Mandela, or Ali, or King… But, we can practice endlessly and get out feet dirty in the process of getting there. Refer to our public speaking tips whenever you need a helping hand.