8 Inspirational Speakers and how they make a speech

8 Inspirational Speakers & How They Make A Speech

Researching speeches given by famous and inspirational individuals can be exceptionally useful to those of us who need to give a presentation. Over the years we’ve heard many speakers talk on a wealth of subjects. A few names come to mind as true greats of inspirational public speaking.

Here we identify the individual traits each of these speakers demonstrate when delivering a speech. If it worked for them, how could those same techniques help you when making a presentation?

Steve Jobs

The late, great Jobs is often first on any list of great public speakers. The way in which he presented Apple’s first iPhone in 2007 completely changed the presentation industry. He highlighted it as an art form in it’s own right.

Notable traits:

  • Storytelling. Jobs would grab attention by drawing his audience in with a story, delivered slowly and simply. Before even revealing the new iPhone, he established the reason why Apple had been working on it. He also stressed how much love and attention he and his team had poured into it.
  • Rule of three. Jobs knew that information presented in groups of threes had more power than any other numbering. Therefore he would organise not only his presentations into thirds, but also describe new products in threes. This helped the audience to retain the info.
  • Passion. When Steve Jobs introduced a new Apple product, it was easy to see that he believed it was the most exciting thing ever. That passion and enthusiasm was infectious, especially as Jobs presented new ideas as ‘this is cool’, rather than ‘look how awesome I am’.
Steve Jobs quote leadership innovation Steve Jobs quote about leadership. The guy knew his stuff.

Elon Musk

The man behind innovative companies like SpaceX, Tesla, and The Boring Company has become a household name across the planet. Unlike many of the other names on this list, Musk’s public speaking style is less polished and often more emotional.

Notable traits:

  • Vision. Elon Musk tends to discuss what he wants to do, and what he believes to be possible, rather than what he’s done. This draws people in and fires their imaginations. Musk is focusing on the ‘what ifs’ always, and therefore seems like an extremely inspirational speaker.
  • Humour. Musk’s speeches feature lots of humour, and only some of them appear to be scripted. He’ll make ad-libs based on the venue, audience, host, and even himself in a self-deprecating manner. This puts everyone at ease, ups the entertainment value of the speeches, and allows people to relate to him.
  • Authenticity. Musk seems to always speak from the heart. When describing a new run of Tesla cars, he warmly thanked the people who bought one, appearing genuinely grateful. He also discusses failings and disappointments directly, showing true emotion.
Elon Musk quote about following your dreams. Elon Musk on following your dreams.


Oprah Winfrey

The legendary TV host has built a great reputation for giving inspiring speeches, both at award ceremonies and at dedicated events. She draws her audiences in with heartwarming tales of her life and inspirational stories about how she made it big.

Notable traits:

  • Emotion. Many of her speeches involve a story about her own difficult childhood, which many people can relate to. Often, she highlights that it is the most difficult of times during which epiphanies can be reached.
  • Connects with the audience. Working for 25 years with a live studio audience has clearly affected how she interacts with those watching. Winfrey engages with people, often directly with individuals, resulting in a more intimate situation.
  • Inspiration. By discussing a revelation or an improvement she has made to her own life, Winfrey encourages others to do the same. She doesn’t ask for anything. By following her example of ‘giving back’, this speaker is inspirational and helps to make changes to her audience’s lives.
Oprah Winfrey quote about following your dreams Oprah Winfrey talks life goals.


Tony Robbins

The world famous inspirational speaker is a rock star of giving presentations, having helped to encourage celebrities and US presidents. Robbins has an infectious speaking style, filled with energy and enthusiasm.

Notable traits:

  • Knowing his audience. Robbins prides himself on adding lasting value to his speeches. He works to ensure that as many people as possible in attendance will be helped. His speeches (and entire tours) have a very specific theme and aim, meaning he can better understand what people are hoping to learn.
  • Flexibility. Many of Robbins’ speeches are different from the next, even when a part of the same series. His on stage persona is fluid and changeable, allowing him to react and improvise quickly. Some elements are clearly rehearsed, while others appear ad-libbed.
  • Energy. By God, he’s energetic. Robbins’ presentations are designed to motivate an entire room of people, so it’s easy to see why he runs on stage, waving his arms. Although not appropriate for a business situation, the psyching up and confidence building that Robbins clearly does backstage could be consider before any kind of speech.
Tony Robbins quote about goals Tony Robbins on turning your life around


Winston Churchill

The war-time prime minister was known for making impassioned and patriotic speeches, both during the Second World War and at other times in his long career. Interestingly, Churchill did not consider himself a natural speaker, and worked long and hard to hone his talents.

Notable traits:

  • Romance. Churchill’s best speeches were appealing for creating a sense of romance in the listener; romance for one’s country, especially. Although viewed as jingoistic today, during wartime they proved very effective.
  • Imagery. Many of Churchill’s speeches use vivid imagery to tell a story, painting a clear picture in the audience’s minds. Describing how we might fight “on the beaches”, and “in the streets and the fields” forces the listener to imagine themselves as part of this idea.
  • Power. Churchill may have been a highly educated and privileged aristocrat, but his use of simple Anglo Saxon language was powerfully delivered. He understood the strength of simple words, not just to appeal to a wider audience, but to make his speeches sound punchier and dramatic.
Winston Churchill quote about hell Churchill on keeping going


Barack Obama

The 44th president of the United States gained a reputation for delivering quick-witted and observational speeches, both during and after his term in office. Barack Obama communicated his ideas in a very likeable manner, more often than not using a teleprompter to maintain eye contact with those in attendance.

Notable traits:

  • Conversational. Obama would often begin his speeches with very conversational language, keeping his language use as simple as possible. This made the experience for the audience more personal.
  • Risky jokes. He would pepper speeches, even those in very serious situations, with jokes. Often those jokes went beyond what was expected of a world leader, and he would use humour to subtly attack opponents.
  • Getting personal. Barack Obama speeches never shy away from the man’s upbringing, detailing how he was raised by a white, single parent. These stories are then applied to other situations, such as when speaking about social issues and concerns. He is a speaker who reinforces that he has experienced the same troubles that others might be facing today, aiding in seeming inspirational.
Barack Obama quote about progress Barack Obama talks making progress.


Martin Luther King

The prominent civil rights activist and speaker gave many powerful speeches during the 1960s, right up until his assassination in 1968. This speaker’s words and actions were inspirational to millions, and directly helped end racial segregation in the USA.

Notable traits:

  • Emotion. King’s speeches were passionately emotive. It was more than evident that he had experienced all the hardships he was drawing attention to. His deliveries were filled with anger, urgency, hope and love. He instilled in his audience the personal importance of the subject.
  • Pacing. MLK’s most famous speeches, including the ‘I have a dream’ oration, were very carefully paced. He kept sentences and utterances short and slow, adding to their significance. This allowed the audience opportunities to applaud and demonstrate agreement.
  • Religion. King was a reverend and had a huge deal of experience preaching sermons in church. Therefore his most impressive speeches felt more like religious sermons, delivered with belief and passion. He would boil his points down to civil rights of all people being God-given.
Martin Luther King quote about being silent Martin Luther King on making positive changes.


John F Kennedy

JFK was another US president that understood the importance of words. His speeches were carefully scripted and rehearsed, dealing with some of the most important world events of the early 1960s.

Notable traits:

  • Body language. JFK proved that it isn’t always what you say that matters. His physical manner was relaxed, open, and naturally charming. He was never violent or unpredictable in his movements, resulting in a captivating and easy-on-the-eye appearance.
  • Tone. Just as with his physical mannerisms, Kennedy displayed a masterful use of tone variation when speaking. He was flexible and creative, starting and beginning sentences with sudden and short exclamations (“Ask – not…”).
  • Drive. His speeches were given for a very specific purpose; one he drove towards throughout talking. Everything he spoke about (the intention to land on the moon, the pride West Berliners should feel) seemed to come from a place of great personal drive and ambition. It’s what contributed to JFK being considered one of the most inspirational speakers of the 20th century.
JFK quote about accomplishments John F Kennedy on trying.


These traits, used in various ways by many different kinds of inspirational speakers, should help you find your own style of presenting. One thing is clear from all the people referenced here: the more personal your speech, the more powerful it will be and the more inspirational a speaker you will appear.

If you’re giving an all-important presentation and need help with both your speech and the slides that help tell your story, get in touch with us. As well as incredible PowerPoint design, the team at Future Present can help you script a killer speech to nail that talk, lecture, sales pitch, or world-defining speech.

Just in case you ever need to give one.