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From “Good” to “Great” – What Makes the Difference?
by Chris King

This past weekend, I attended two excellent workshops – the first was given by storyteller, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, and the second by fitness professional, Jeannie Patton. The extraordinary feature of both sessions was that the presenters were not just “Good” – they were “Great” (note that it takes a lot for me to give that rating).

Often we hear the words, “He or she is a good speaker. He or she did a good job. I learned and enjoyed it.” When we fill out the evaluation form, we sometimes give the top score, but how many times can we really rate the presenter as “excellent” or truly “exceeded my expectations?” If you have been presenting on a regular basis, and are known as a “Good” speaker, what would make the difference so people would recognize you as a “Great” speaker? In this article, I am going to highlight what I feel makes that difference.


  • Great presenters have presence and are centered. Robert stressed this in his workshop, but I know that many times when I have tried to figure out why one speaker is so compelling while another is good – and pleasant to listen to – I have even said aloud, “The great one has presence.” What does that mean? Great presenters take time to focus, to come completely onto their balanced center. They have rid their minds of all the extraneous thoughts and are completely focused on listeners and the message they are delivering. They forget about themselves and are completely involved in the moment.
  • Good presenters deliver their message competently, but are slightly off center. We, as listeners, might not realize this, but we sense it. The good speaker may be thinking about what he or she is going to do after the presentation. They may be thinking, “I wonder if they like me. Do I have a piece of spinach in my teeth? Do I look pulled together and professional? Or, does this skirt make me look fat?” The good presenter is close to being on center, but is not completely in the moment. Suggestion: take the first few moments on the platform to bring yourself into neutral and focus. The extra silence while you focus with also grab the audience’s attention.


  • Great presenters love their topic(s) and present with passion and a feeling of heart. I know that I have written many times about the importance of being passionate. If you have experienced great speakers, you know that they are speaking from their hearts. They have so much passion for their subject that they pull us, as listeners, right into the middle of their presentation. Jeannie had so much oomph, combined with knowledge and passion, that we couldn’t help but get right down on the floor to try the abdominal and bun exercises she was proposing and showing us.
  • Good presenters are knowledgeable about their topic(s), but lack the extra enthusiasm and love. This often happens when a good speaker has been asked to present a topic that they know and work with, but don’t really have a passion for. I also know excellent speakers who feel that they need the gigs, so will speak on a topic that is off their usual repertoire. Even when they do a good job (I am writing here about good speakers), the audience will sense that lack of heart and passion. Suggestion: either turn down the offer to speak about a topic that you are not passionate about, or do enough preliminary work to find what about that topic you can love and be passionate about.


  • Great presenters exude energy and enthusiasm, whether on or off the platform. I am not necessarily describing a rah-rah! type of enthusiasm and energy (although Zig Ziglar and Anthony Robbins come to my mind, immediately). What I see in many great speakers is almost a quiet, but magnetic, quality that evolves from natural energy and true enthusiasm. A great example of someone who speaks with a laid-back form of energy – but also with lots of power – is Brian Tracy. He, almost quietly, convinces his listeners to embrace his ideas and actions. And, all of the great presenters, “Walk their talk.” They are as enthusiastic and energetic off stage as on. They do love to talk about their ideas and beliefs anytime, anywhere and to anyone.
  • Good presenters are far from being dull or boring, but still don’t reach the topmost peak of their energy and enthusiasm. We are impressed by what they say, and often learn good tactics and strategies, but have we been so swept up in their energy and enthusiasm that we can hardly wait to get started on their programs. I don’t feel that energy and enthusiasm can be faked. But, I do feel that many good speakers just aren’t using and/or showing their true feelings – sometimes because they are afraid they will look a little foolish. Suggestion: before you give your next presentation, throw together a cheer (yes, pretend you are a cheerleader for your topic) and practice it. Even though you probably wouldn’t use it in public, make it fun and energetic – go, go, go! You will be amazed by how quickly you will develop more outward enthusiasm and energy.


  • Great presenters have developed a quiet, but obvious, confidence and have the ability to control every situation – foreseen and unforeseen. In previous articles, I have written about dealing with unplanned circumstances. The great speakers do this in a quiet and confident way – even when the circumstance appears to be insurmountable. They know that getting rattled about handouts that were sent (or were supposed to be copied by the meeting planner) don’t show up is only counter-productive. They quickly get copies made from the master they always carry, or get a list of attendees who want them sent by mail. They always have a backup plan in case the projector fails or the room is not set up as requested, or some other catastrophe hits – I have witnessed power failures where the whole room is dark, but the great presenter knew exactly what to do. If they are dealing with an unruly crowd or a group of employees or even youngsters who don’t want to be there, they have methods of taking control of the situation with firmness and authority that does not appear to be hostile in any way.
  • A good presenter does prepare for the obvious problems that occur, but tends to become unfocused and rattled when they happen. This is not easy. The more often we present, the higher our average rises for unsettling circumstances. I love to tell the story of when I once arrived at a town hall to speak, and was met by the woman who hired me to give a flower arranging demonstration. I worked big – big pots, big flowers, big branches. When I asked her if she had a garage or a basement where we could set up, all she could offer was a small porch off the kitchen/dining room. My audience was seated inside while I created one big arrangement at a time on the porch – they watched me through the windows. I am not saying I was great, but I did take control and proceed – and they loved me. Suggestion: realize that practically anything can happen, and that when it does, it is time to tell yourself to be calm, collected and in control – even while those around you are losing it.

Final words: Great presenters have and tell great stories. Become an excellent storyteller, and you will be “Great.” And that's another story. I would love to hear how you decide whether a speaker is "Good" or "Great." Send me your FEEDBACK!

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