I recently invited my contacts to share with me their favourite/least favourite speakers, with reasons why. My purpose was to gain an even deeper understanding of what audiences value so that, in my training, I can give people precisely the right tools to engage with their audiences.
The speed and volume of responses bowled me over. Thank you to everyone who spent time sending such detailed and considered replies. I have analysed each one thoroughly, watched every clip, and have collated the findings below.
I have discovered some brilliant speakers I didn’t know before and have included links to them in action so that you can enjoy them too. I hope you find the results as interesting and thought-provoking as I have.
What audiences dislike
- Badly prepared
- Verbose or rambling/unstructured
- Use too many gestures and verbal antics
- Have dull voices/delivery
Speakers most often mentioned
- David Rattray (historian and guide at Rorke’s Drift in South Africa, murdered in 2007) – nominated for his passion and for taking his audience on a compelling journey. He must have been an extraordinary communicator who left a lasting impression on his audiences.
- Malala Yousafzai – for the simplicity and strength of her message
- Martin Luther King – for the simplicity and strength of his message
- Sir Winston Churchill – for his masterful use of language
- William Hague – for his wit, intelligence, modesty, and for being well prepared
- Boris Johnson – for his intelligence, humour, passion and energy
My favourites from the nominations
- Costas Markides, LBS professor – for his excellent storytelling, humour, use of rhetorical questions, energy/passion/engagement. I was entranced by this lecture. A brilliant speaker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjP67bYesaU
- Sir Ken Robinson, author/educator – for his humour and storytelling. This is a laugh out loud performance on a serious and important topic. Mesmerising. http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?language=en
- Ellen DeGeneres, comedian – for her authenticity, engagement with and relevance to her audience and, of course, her humour. Yes she’s a comedian, yes she’s a performer but here she’s delivering a serious message and taking us on her personal journey.
- The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans, addressing the UN about the MH17 plane crash. – for the simplicity of his message, his restraint and humility, for using vivid images to connect with his audience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqznMC1DO5U
- Gilbert Gray, QC – for his masterful use of language. “He makes you feel as if English is not your first language”, so said a fellow barrister. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/law-obituaries/8472650/Gilbert-Gray.html
- Matthew Syed – for his intelligence
- Sir Kenneth Branagh – for his timing and pace
- Andy Barlow, a war veteran who lost a leg in Afghanistan – for taking his audience on a journey
- Richard Burton – for his vocal artistry
- Bob Geldof – for his passion
- Barack Obama – for his clarity, intelligence
- Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher – extraordinary use of and confidence with pauses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8hqiHwN1Eg&list=UUj9fPezLH1HUh7mSo-tB1Mg
- Julia Buckroyd, therapist – for her passion and taking the audience on a journey
- Jennifer James, US anthropologist (not the Corrie actress) – for resonating with her audience
- Dr Steve Peters, author of The Chimp Paradox (and a hero of mine) – for a simple message and natural delivery. “You feel sad when he finishes”
- John McCarthy – for taking us on a journey
- Sebastian Coe – for being relevant, well prepared and rehearsed, and using excellent support materials
- Brené Brown, US academic – for a powerful message and for daring to show vulnerability. This is in fact the subject of the talk http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en
- Laura Berman Fortgang, coach/author – for her authenticity, humour and energy
- Sir George Bain, academic – for strength of content and style
- Sir Tim Smit, founder Eden Project – as above
- Nelson Mandela – humility, strength and simplicity of message (and so much more)
- Steve Jobs – for his storytelling, structure, pace, preparation, simplicity of message and language, use of surprise, great support materials
- Cicero, Mao, Caesar, Alexander the Great, Demosthenes, Isocrates (no YouTube clips available)
- Deepak Chopra – for his pace and delivery
- Kevin Spacey – for his pace and masterful use of pauses
- Christine Lagarde – for her pace
- Iain Duncan Smith – for his use of humour!
- Chelsey Baker, business guru – for her passion and simple messages
- Tim Harford, economist – for his pace, and for his ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple and accessible way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOljR_tKlBk
- Justin Urquhart Stewart, business speaker – for making the complex simple and entertaining https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dScDjTriacs
- Michael Bloomberg – for the quality of his content
- Bill Bernbach, advertising god – for being relevant and entertaining
- Rory Sutherland, advertising guru – as above
- Frank Furedi, sociologist
- Mick Hume, writer and Marxist
- Ned Cazalet
- Lord Heseltine
Least favourite speakers
- Andy Murray – flat voice, dreary style
- Esther Rantzen – manipulative
- Alex Salmond – hectoring, patronising, smug (nothing to do with political views, merely referring to his presentation style)
- Sir Ranulph Fiennes – badly prepared, rambling
- James Naughtie – pace and delivery annoying. No pauses
- Almost everyone at every business conference I’ve ever had to attend – “for being dry, platitudinous, inflicting death by PowerPoint, you know the type” ……….. Yes, I think we do!
- Hitler – as you’d expect, he was named in this category. His content was of course evil but he was undoubtedly an effective speaker (he rehearsed his speeches in the mirror to refine each gesture).