5 Lessons On Public Speaking for Business Owners

5 Lessons On Public Speaking Business Owners Can Learn From an Unlikely Source

Gene Marks

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.

26 Responses to "5 Lessons On Public Speaking Business Owners Can Learn From an Unlikely Source"
    • Charlene Sparks | October 3, 2021 at 6:21 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this! I am always seeking speaking tips.

      • Small Biz Ahead | October 4, 2021 at 8:19 am

        You’re welcome, Charlene! We’re happy to help!

    • Monica Edwards | September 22, 2021 at 7:13 pm

      Great article!

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 23, 2021 at 3:55 pm

        Thank you, Monica! We appreciate the nice comment.

    • John Register | September 22, 2021 at 1:40 pm

      There is a great book I am reading right now entitled, “The Referable Speaker” by Michael Port and Andrew Davis. If someone wants to do a deep dive into the topic I recommend the book. The book validates many of the ways I was taught to grow my speaker business.
      Thanks again.

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 23, 2021 at 4:10 pm

        Thank you for the comment and recommendation, John!

    • TANYA GRAY | September 22, 2021 at 1:33 pm

      Thank you for sharing this article. I am interested in joining Toastmasters but the local chapters are closed in my area due to Covid, so I will have to do some more research.

    • ALEXANDREENA DIXON | September 22, 2021 at 12:02 pm

      I enjoyed the article. I run an enrichment program that helps children 10-14 with public speaking. They have to give a presentation after a life skills workshop on topics such as etiquette, financial planning, or dating. How would you suggest that age group be more passionate and not use speaking props? I realize your article isn’t for kids, but I thought I would ask.

      • Gene Marks | September 22, 2021 at 3:25 pm

        With apologies, this is definitely out of my wheelhouse. I only speak to business groups who are always adults. Speaking to kids is a completely different expertise. My advice is to search education-oriented sites that may offer some help. My wife runs a nonprofit that provides literacy help for kids and she may be able to point you in the right direction:


      • Monica Edwards | September 22, 2021 at 7:11 pm

        Hi, I used to work with that age group and help them with public speaking-hope this is helpful. We would have them do acting workshops. Actors have to memorize lines quickly, speak with emotion, make eye contact and ‘own’ the stage. Think projecting, breathing properly, body language. Lessons included whole body exercises, enunciation and quick memorization tips. And focusing on who your audience is, the story you need to tell and how to tell it. This article touches on a lot of what these kids were able to learn. By the end of the workshops they were more relaxed and confident. Then they would pick a topic, practice and present utilizing the skills they learned from the workshop. We used actors from local colleges, troupes and theaters. Some donated their time, others were paid. And in a pinch, I did it. (You do this enough times with the actors, you pick up on some things)
        There was a major difference in the kids I worked with -and me-before discovering these workshops and those after we started the workshops. Makes your heart proud to see a 12 year old who wouldn’t say boo 2 months before, get up in front of a 100 people and ‘own’ the stage for their presentation or lead a town hall meeting with poise and confidence. Again, hope this is helpful

    • Rafaela José | September 22, 2021 at 10:34 am

      Good article, my husband is a pastor and he uses the story telling method to connect to the church members and it works well for him.

      I do not have a good memory so I use the PowerPoint to keep me focused and less nervous. Also the visual presentation helps people remember the message. I am however trying to use less PowerPoint slides. This article was helpful. Thanks.

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 22, 2021 at 12:13 pm

        We’re so glad you liked the article! The story telling method is definitely a great way to engage the audience. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Rhonda Evans | September 22, 2021 at 9:55 am

      Thank you for sharing this content. Timing is so perfect, I’ll be speaking to a group this weekend and these lessons have stirred up a message only I can deliver. I’ve watched Joel many times, he and his wife are amazing, their messages profound.

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 22, 2021 at 12:14 pm

        We’re happy to help, Rhonda! Good luck this weekend. You’ll do great!

    • Stephanie Silverman | September 22, 2021 at 8:03 am

      These are some useful tips and an interesting presenter to observe. Like most lists on this subject, however, the focus is on results and light on strategies to get there (understandable, given the length of the article). In my over 20 years of presentation and executive presence coaching and facilitation, I’ve focused precisely on these strategies so that my clients have steps to take to achieve their goals. Goals are great but without strategy, the process can be pretty discouraging. (Most of my clients don’t get to present on topics that lend themselves so easily to storytelling and passion!)

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 22, 2021 at 12:17 pm

        Thanks for the comment and insights, Stephanie! Strategy is definitely important too!

    • V. | September 22, 2021 at 7:57 am

      Love this article!…Thank You!

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 22, 2021 at 12:18 pm

        You’re welcome! We’re happy you liked it!

    • Malcolm Wilson | September 22, 2021 at 6:18 am

      This is an excellent article on the basics of speaking. It is applicable across topics and venues.

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 22, 2021 at 12:19 pm

        That’s wonderful to hear, Malcolm. We’re glad you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for the nice comment!

    • John Register | September 21, 2021 at 10:57 pm

      I just heard Joel in the car on Sirius. He is a masterful story teller for sure. Gene your article took me down memory lane as well. As a professional international speaker you have hit on some great points. Thanks for sharing.

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 22, 2021 at 12:38 pm

        That’s awesome, John. We’re so glad you liked it!

    • Sandy Goodell | September 21, 2021 at 10:46 pm

      I have watched Joel and never looked at his speech technique, you did. I appreciate the deeper insight in your message. Thank you!

      • Small Biz Ahead | September 22, 2021 at 12:23 pm

        You’re welcome, Sandy! Glad you liked the article.

    • Kathy | May 11, 2020 at 8:16 am

      My apologies..*Gene (not Mike) !

    • Kathy | May 11, 2020 at 8:14 am

      Great article Mike! Thank you so much. Just watched Joel, was googling if he used a teleprompter? Enjoyed your article because I am now needing to step up my skills as a presenter in my area of ministry and create an online presence (special needs). I work best with a clear system~your article was clear and helpful :). KN

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