15 Greatest Public Speakers of All Time

Greatest Public Speakers of all time

“If I went back to college again, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”

-Gerald R. Ford (Institute of Public Speaking)

Public speaking is a skill that requires individuals to deliver speeches, lectures, and talks to large groups of people regularly! Since the dawn of time, thousands of people have taken up public speaking and provided content on a wide range of themes, ranging from business to education to self-love and science.

With their delivery and particular flair, some public speakers have been recognized as more remarkable than co-speakers. Today, let’s look at some of the most outstanding public speakers of all time, from historical figures like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi to some contemporary speakers like Brain Tracy and Nick Vujicic.

1. J.F. Kennedy: 

J F Kennedy as a public speaker

John Kennedy, famously known by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States and believed in the miraculous power that words carried. His speeches, therefore, were always crafted with the right words and phrases that stuck with the audience and listeners. He used addresses to motivate and influence people to win elections, make changes, and inspire the country throughout his career.

Some of the effective elements that helped his speech stand out incorporated his use of:

  • Excellent use of tones that emphasized the message he wished to convey.
  • Effective repetition of the main message throughout his speech.
  • Authenticity and Genuineness in the content that he conveyed.

John Kennedy is still regarded as one of the most incredible speakers of his time. Contemporary speakers still take inspiration from and quote many excerpts of his speeches to inspire and encourage people.  One of the very famous lines from his speech which still rings in the ears of people is:

“My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

2. Martin Luther King Jr:

Martin Luther King as a public speaker

Martin Luther King Jr., an American Minister and Civil Rights Activist, is regarded as one of the most provoking speakers of his time. His speeches, especially the “I Have a Dream” speech, are still considered one of the most motivating and etching lessons of time. Martin Luther King often tried to communicate and bring change through his words and peaceful protests. The African-American Activist often stood up for several issues and delivered provocating speeches using:

  • effective communication and vision sharing with the listeners
  • repetition of the mean theme throughout his speech
  • clarity, authenticity and consistency in the goals and ideas he stood for.

Some of his famous speeches include: 

  • “I Have a Dream” on August 28, 1963. 
  • “Our God is Marching On” on March 25, 1965.
  • “Montgomery Bus Boycott” on December 5, 1955

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

– Martin Luther King.  (Kidald)

3. Winston Churchill: 

Winston Churchill as a Public Speaker

Winston Churchill was a British Statesman, Prime Minister, and leader who commanded over the United Kingdom and led the country towards victory in World War II.

Churchill was not a born orator and had initial difficulties delivering speeches and spoke monotonously. However, when he soon realized the power that verbal and visual words carried, he went on to master the art of public speaking and has since then delivered and written speeches and articles that are still considered the greatest of his time. 

What often made Churchill’s speech so powerful and striking against the others was that

  • He often spoke for the audience as against to them. His speeches highlight the “we” aspect he used against the “you”; which made people understand that he was not only their representative but also with them in the journey.
  • He spoke in full confidence and authenticity with the audience, enabling an “action” approach to the things that were going on. Besides providing support and inspiration, he also nudged the people to take steps that would be helpful to the nation.
  • He used the quality of repetition and modulation, often subtly conveying the main theme points via his speech at various intervals.

A quote from one of his unpublished essays, The Scaffolding of Rhetoric, in 1897, highlights how vital public speaking was to him: 

‘Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king.’

International Churchill Society

4. Nelson Mandela:

Nelson Mandela as a public speaker

A Revolutionary, Political Leader and Country’s First Black President, Nelson Mandela spoke to diverse segments of the population, often spreading and making people aware of the issues faced and their need for freedom and equal treatment. His speeches, whether written or verbalized, were often considered motivating and for the sole reason that he believed in what he wanted to convey.

  • Mandela was a motivated and dedicated leader whose speeches often followed the lines of inspiration but moreover dedication. Over 30+ years, his core message delivery often remained the same as he shared his vision among the locals.
  • Not only did he include the key factors of modulation and pauses, he also spoke with the audience, conveying the message of “being there” with them in this journey of freedom.
  • His speeches are thus often considered strikingly outstanding for not only his impactful voice modulation but his confidence and clarity with which he spoke.

His best-known speech, “An ideal I am prepared to die for,” is still considered as one of the most thought-provoking speeches delivered. Here is an excerpt from the very famous speech:

“.. I have been influenced in my thinking by both West and East. All this has led me to feel that in my search for a political formula, I should be absolutely impartial and objective. I should tie myself to no particular system of society other than that of socialism. I must leave myself free to borrow the best from West and from the East.

5. Adolf Hitler:

Adolf Hitler as a public speaker

Through his knack for public speaking, Adolf Hitler, a dictator and German Politician often tried to influence people through his persuasive speeches and assured them that he understood and cared deeply for the Germans’ plight. He delivered around 5000+ speeches that marveled the audience, and they often felt like following his advice in terms of the uncertainty that prevailed. He is said to have self-written his speeches and edited them, for he was well aware of the impact and influence it would have.

There is so much once can learn from Hitler’s powerful delivery to understand why his speeches were what they were.

  • Very importantly, Hitler focused on his powerful voice modulation and body language such as gestures because he felt that they conveyed half of the message that he wished to orally speak.
  • His speeches also often stood out because he seemed to have all the answers available that the audience was seeking at that point. Thus, they often felt like following him as they felt he guided them in this upheaval.
  • He also effectively used “rhetoric devices” in his speeches comparing German people’s honesty and virtue to bravery and idealness, which motivated the audience and gave them a way of inspiration.

A quote from his biography “Mein Kampf” in 1925 also shows the importance he placed on vocal delivery:

“I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great orators and not to great writers.” (businessinsider)

6. Mahatma Gandhi:

Mahatama Gandhi as a public speaker

Famously referred to as the “Father of the Nation” in India, Gandhi’s speeches played an essential and persuasive role in the freedom from struggle towards independence.

  • A peaceful yet powerful leader, Gandhi always preached the idea of ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (truth).
  • His calm and composed speeches as opposed to the loud and attention driven are said to have had a very influential impact on the population, motivating them to rise for the freedom of their country.
  • Moreover, in his speeches, Gandhi often tried to help people peacefully understand the importance of their freedom and the necessity of becoming self governed which in turned motivated the people to fight for their rights.
  • He also called for an action approach and wanted people to take tangible steps towards freedom as it was in their hands only.

Some of his famous and noteworthy speeches include:

  • Round Table Conference” in 1931
  • “Quit India speech” in 1942

He often preached the ideology:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi.

7. Margaret Thatcher:

Margaret Thatcher as a public speaker

The first female Prime Minister of The United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, was one of the dynamic female speakers and delivered more than 5000+ speeches throughout her tenure.

Not a born orator from the start, she is said to have taken lessons that helped her convey vast knowledge to the audience. She also often practiced voice modulation, emphasis, and medium-paced speaking to deliver her message understandably. Not only that, she also ensured that she effectively repeated her statements throughout the speech to let her message stick with the audience.

Among the many speeches she had given, she once used the phrase The lady’s not for turning at the conservative party in London, later was recognized as one of her very famous speeches titled the under the same name.

Here is a very provoking excerpt from this speech that shows the strength with which she spoke:

“To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say, you turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning”

– Speech at Conservative Party conference, 1980.  (Evening Standard)

8. Franklin Roosevelt:

Franklin D Roosevelt as a public speaker

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States is said to be one of the masterly communicators who, during his tenure, often delivered speeches and addresses that won thousands of people’s hearts. 

Unique enough, Roosevelt actively used radio communication to spread regular verbal messages. Additionally, He often communicated his visions and goals to the people. His self confidence during his delivery stood out and inspired people to believe and follow his guidance. Like others, his inclusion of effective voice modulation and body gestures is particularly visible in all his speech videos.

Among the many others that he delivered, The “Pearl Harbour Speech,” also known as the “Day of Infamy,” addressed at the joint session of the Congress, is said to have been one of the most important.

Some of his other well-known speeches include his First Inaugural Address” in 1933, wherein he quoted the famous line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (Washington Speakers Bureau)

9. Barack Obama:

Barack Obama as a public speaker

One can never forget Barack Obama, the American politician who served as the 44th President of the United States from the list of the most excellent speakers. Throughout his tenure, he stood out as one of the most talented, persuasive, and motivating speakers whose speeches connected deeply with the audience.

  • He shared his visions among his addresses and communicated what he wished for America with the audience. His constant sharing often helped people develop a common vision and work towards it.
  • He also subtly used some of the most important tactics, such as repetitions and pauses, that helped his speech stand out and stick with the audience.

To date, Obama’s talks are considered one of the most provoking as they often inspired people to take significant steps in the better direction. Some of his hear worthy speeches include:

  • A More Perfect Union
  • Election Victory
  • 50th anniversary of Selma marches

10. Oprah Winfrey:

Oprah Winfrey as a public speaker

For years, when Oprah Winfrey, the famous American Host took the stage, her speeches have always amazed the audience.

From her TEDx talks to her stage speeches, she has always swayed the audience within a short period. Like other great speakers mentioned above, she has always ensured used the following tricks to stand out:

  • She always share her visions with the audience, making them aware of the goal in picture.
  • She also only talk about the relevant, and repeats her central theme throughout.
  • Additionally, one can find through multiple videos that she has always practiced thankfulness and gratitude; mentioning the people who got her to this platform.

Among her many others, the most prominent and heard speeches include:

  • Your Truth is the Most Powerful Tool delivered at the 75th Golden Globe Gala.
  • The Golden Globe speech acceptance speech at the 75th Golden Globe Awards.
  • Learn From Every Mistake addressed to the graduates of Harvard at the 362nd Commencement.

11. Tony Robbins:

Tony Robbins as a Public Speaker

An entrepreneur, author, coach, and motivational speaker, Tony Robbins has been one of the most influential people guiding millions of people around the globe. His talks primarily focus on personal growth and developing gratitude and meaningful lives.

When one watches and hears Tony Robbins, the qualities and ingredients that make him stand out become evident. While he uses his powerful voice to the right use, he often motivates people but providing simple understandings of the benefits and losses, leaving it on the individual to make an informed decision. His talks inspire people to take control of life and make amends to live it purposefully.

“We can change our lives. We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish.”

Tony Robbins (Inc.)

While some of his speeches are available on YouTube, his website also has mediums like the podcast and live events that can be attended online. Head onto his website https://www.tonyrobbins.com/ to find some speeches that will hit you right in your heart.

12. Brian Tracy:

Brian Tracy as a Public Speaker

A Canadian-based motivational speaker, Brian Tracy’s career in public speaking extends beyond 30 years. He is the CEO of the Brian Tracy International Organization – which provides training and coaching to people in public speaking skills.

Brian is considered as one of the greatest speakers as his speeches often include a lot of guidance and techniques that one can include to improve public speaking and other areas such as a presentation, goal setting, personal growth and time management. In addition to simply explaining the do’s and don’ts to succeed, he always gives tangible and practical ways to work towards it which the audience enjoys and has been finding helpful for years now.

Besides delivering talks and seminars, his own YouTube is also a one-place for his videos on goal setting, presentations, management, and public speaking skills. Moreover, among his other books on a continuum of topics, “Speak to Win” also guides oneself on how to pursue public speaking and master it. You can find more information on activities, courses, and his videos on https://www.briantracy.com/

13. Nick Vujicic:

Nick Vujicic as a Public Speaker

A well-renowned speaker and one of the bestselling authors, Nick Vujicic is an Australian-American born without limbs.

He has been delivering his talks for years centered around hope, inspiring people to understand that it’s important to be contained within and not compare outside to live a meaningful life. Presently, his speeches work as an incredible source of motivation for millions of people who require hope and guidance in times of adversity. Taking inspiration and stories from his personal life, he connects with the audience and shares how one can choose to make a life despite the many challenges life throws. Primarily coming from the motivational aspect, his talks are simple to understand and very inspiring.

His website https://nickvujicic.com/ is a one-all place to know much more about him, his books, talks, and other contributions! 

14. Sadhguru:

Sadhguru as a Public Speaker

Sadhguru, an Indian yogi, guru, and founder of the Isha Foundation, has been one of the most heard and followed Indian speakers worldwide.

A spiritual teacher with years of knowledge, Sadhguru’s speeches work as a guiding factor for millions of people across all age groups. Although not confined to one topic, most of his speeches center around spirituality and knowledge of life. He often takes a calm, understanding, and interactive approach, built with examples to help the audience understand his message. With the idea of helping people better understand the reasons behind various forces in life, Sadhguru often includes scientific and spiritual understanding to his talks. His deliveries on various events, from educational settings to cultural and religious events, have been a significant source of learning.

His talks are also available on his YouTube channel and are still viewed worldwide.

“Life is never about being better than someone else. It is about allowing yourself to grow to your fullest potential.”

Sadhguru (Pinterest)

15. Brene Brown:

Brene Brown as a Public Speaker

A “researcher-storyteller,” as she quoted herself to be in one of her TEDx talks, Brene Brown is much more but also a speaker.

Many of her talks revolve around her studies to understand shame, vulnerability, and empathy. While she takes a scientific approach, backing up her talks with evidence, she often helps people understand how one experiences vulnerability and how it is the turning point in life. Her speeches, often at the university and events, have been helpful, insightful, and a step closer to understanding humanness. She also has a weekly podcast on Spotify under the names:  Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead

A beautiful line from one of her talks has stuck with me for so long, and I couldn’t help but share the beauty of it.

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”

Brene Brown (TEDx – The Power of Vulnerability)

Many speakers have changed the outlook of public speaking with their grandiosity and charming and swaying words. History shows that words can influence people, for the good or the bad. Several speakers come and go, but some with their deliveries and emotions hit right in the heart and stay there forever! It’s rightly said – the pen is indeed mightier than the sword!

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