I love Joel Osteen.

Know him? He’s a TV preacher. You’ve probably seen him. Young. Good looking. And spreading the word of the gospel to tens of thousands of his faithful followers in arenas around the world. Osteen is rich and successful. He’s published a few best-selling books, sells thousands of DVDs and has his own channel on Sirius XM. I’m not going to get into the morality of religion as a business here. Just know that I’m a huge fan. Oh, except for one little thing: I’m not Christian. Actually, I’m Jewish.

Osteen’s message is inspirational, regardless of your religion. But that’s not why I watch him. I watch him because he’s one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen. And, as a professional speaker, I learn a lot from his platform skills. So can you.

No speaking props. 

Osteen does what most great speakers do: he uses no props. He doesn’t have a PowerPoint slideshow. There’s no Internet, no videos, no audio clips. He’s not handing out prizes or playing silly games. He doesn’t work off of a script or a teleprompter (as far as I can tell). Osteen gets up on a stage in front of 20,000 people and just talks. He must have notes because how can he remember all that stuff? But you never see them. He talks about faith and Christ and the Bible and God and other positive things. But it doesn’t matter. He could be talking about how to fry an egg or why exercise is important and he would be just as compelling. And he doesn’t need any help doing it.

Tip: When you’re preparing to speak, even if it’s just to your staff, don’t rely 100% on notes or a presentation. You should know your material well enough to impart the information without relying on any crutches.

Tell stories.

Osteen doesn’t need help because he is a story teller. He tells tales about people and places and history and events and ties them all into his message. He tells different stories that all wind up following the same theme – loving Jesus, worshiping God, etc. etc. But each story is compelling. And he knows that people need to hear these stories, again and again, in order to understand and appreciate the points that he’s making. Sure, he could go on stage and in 10 minutes read off a few bullet points about why it’s so important to love the Lord. But that’s not what great speakers like Osteen do. Osteen takes a couple of hours and draws his audience in through tales and yarns so that people walk away with something to remember long after he’s finished speaking. People remember stories, and great speakers know that.

Tip: You may just be giving a talk on your favorite tech tool, but everything can be spun as a story. Not sure where to start?

  • Go back to the beginning: how did you start thinking about this concept?
  • Why was it important or interesting to you?

Engage your audience by telling them the story of how this presentation came to be.

Be passionate.

Like all great speakers, Osteen is passionate about his subject. He’s not just droning on about a boring topic or ticking off bullet points in an effort to finish his presentation as quickly as possible. He wants his audience to love his subject as much as he does. He wants them to see the joy, the glory, the miracle of God and Jesus and all the things that make up his religious message. He is smiling all the time – not just because good presenters project an air of happiness and enthusiasm (they do) – but because he’s genuinely happy and enthusiastic about his topic. You can’t help but become excited by what he’s talking about – even if you don’t entirely buy into it – because his enthusiasm is so infectious. Great speakers project their energy and passion onto their audience.

Tip: If you’re not interested in this topic, then why would you be talking about it to begin with? It may not be something that sparks passion in you, but tie it back to something that does. For instance, if you’re talking to your employees about avoiding phishing attacks, tie that back to how it’s keeping your business safe against data breaches. As a small business owner, we know you’re passionate about protecting your business.

Keep the pace up.

Osteen balances his energy with pace. He’s not running all over the stage. He’s not tiring out his audience. He doesn’t operate at a manic level. He doesn’t ask people to jump up and cheer or walk through a bed of coals. He speaks deliberately and enunciates well. He  takes full advantage of the stage, moving from side to side, while always keeping his attention on the TV cameras that are bringing his message to those watching from home. But at the same time, he’s looking out at his audience, even though they’re huge, and making eye contact or a connection where he can. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him sweat, or get out of breath.

Tip: If you’re giving a talk at Toastmasters, your local Chamber of Commerce or a quick speech in the break room about your employee vacation policies, make sure you’re making eye contact with your audience and speaking slowly and clearly. This projects confidence.

Develop your own style.

To be sure, everyone has their style. You don’t have to be Joel Osteen to be a great speaker. You should be your own person when you’re on stage. But humor me, please. Find him on TV (trust me, you’ll find him). And watch him for an hour. It’s like watching the ocean, or a fire. This is not about religion. It’s about speaking. You’ll see what I mean. And, like me, you’ll learn a great deal.

Are you inspired to give public speaking a shot? Here are 5 tips to scoring your first public speaking gig.