I recently kicked off my speaking tour, which means the stage was all mine – just me, in front of the audience, for the first time in…my life. I had done many panels before, but there’s something unique about giving a speech that’s all your own. The pressure is ON! Now, this is both terrifying (at first) and exhilarating, but four speeches in, I’ve completely fallen in love with the craft and what the impact can be.
The best thing to do when trying to perfect a craft is to look to others who are doing a truly admirable job. Our task isn’t to imitate them, but rather to appreciate them – to watch how they own the stage in their own essence, and realize the breadth of diversity in the way we all share our stories.
Here’s a list of knockout speakers who truly shine onstage, and inspire us to take our own leap by getting up in front of an audience and sharing our story.
1. Trisha Prabhu
Trisha Prabhu is a social entrepreneur and a global teen leader who is now a student at Harvard University. In 2016, she gave a TED talk that had partnered with STAR-TV to reach a main platform for the Indian audience. She was invited to share the work she’s done with her social enterprise, ReThink, with 650 million native Hindi speakers. She reflects: “While incredibly honored, it was also going to be a challenge: the TED talk would need to be in Hindi, a language that my parents, who emigrated from India, never spoke. Nevertheless, I was eager to pursue this intellectual dive to overcome what seemed like the ancient curse of Babel. What followed was an intense summer of not solely mastering a language, but a culture.
“Through daily Skype calls and audio recordings, I worked alongside TED Senior Ambassadors and Curators to find my voice and connect with a world I would often forget was another home. When I finally stepped onto the TED stage, my pronunciation was flawless and my delivery was passionate, but most fulfilling was having found universal purpose through the deep human connection associated with a common language.”
2. Jess Ekstrom
Jess Ekstrom is a nationally renowned keynote speaker, who often talks about her story in starting her nonprofit, Headbands for Hope, which donates headbands to children with cancer for every headband purchased. She especially loves speaking to younger audiences. “My favorite speech I’ve ever given was a recent one to Girl Scouts. I love speaking to companies and students, but there was something so special about speaking to young girls who are in such early stages of life. I hope my story told them to just go for it, no matter how young/old you are!”
3. Rachel Hollis
Rachel Hollis has taken the world by storm recently. A New York Times bestselling author, mom of four, and motivational powerhouse, she uses her platform to inspire the masses with her message, [we are] “made for more.”Known for her vivacious onstage energy (which has resulted in her being called a ‘female Tony Robbins’), she often leads the audience in a dance party to “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore to rile up the energy, and rides the momentum into motivational insights, sharing her famous quotes such as, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”
4. Adam Smiley Poswolsky
Adam Smiley Poswolsky started speaking after his first book came out – and spoke anywhere that he could get in front of people, from a bookstore to his parent’s synagogue. Now he speaks around the world and recently published a book called The Breakthrough Speaker.
“My favorite speech is always the most recent one I’ve done, since it’s freshest in my mind. I recently spoke to a group of several hundred partners from Deloitte Southeast Asia in Manila, Philippines. My talk was about engaging millennials in the workplace, and it was fascinating to see that senior business leaders from halfway around the world–from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, The Philippines, and Australia–were all thinking about how to retain and empower young talent, and help them work better with their older colleagues that have many more years of experience. These are the same problems that companies in San Francisco and New York are dealing with. Public speaking always reminds me how small the world is and how much we have in common with others.”
5. Lori Harder
Lori Harder is a self love specialist and the author of the bestselling book, “A Tribe Called Bliss.” She’s the founder of the Bliss Project Event, the podcast host of “Earn Your Happy.” She also recently spoke on the Oprah mag cruise! She’s now on her book tour for “A Tribe Called Bliss,” and the tour motivates the audience not to try to fit in, but rather to be truly, authentically themselves and claim their own tribe as a result. “My bliss is feeling fully expressed, unapologetically me, and feeling an unshakable sense of acceptance, alignment, and belonging within my own self,” she shares
6. Shivanii Ray
At 18 years old, Shivanii Ray is already an international keynote speaker, who speaks about emotional resilience. She started speaking at just eight years old and was also featured on Good Morning America. “My favourite speech I gave was at Share the Change Talks about my story and how to use Music, Mantras and Movement to cultivate Emotional Intelligence and Positive Mindset,” she shared with us. She believes that when humans are more aware of their emotions, they can live a more fulfilled and happy life.
7. Nikita T. Mitchell
Nikita T. Mitchell is the founder of the newsletter “Above the Bottom Line” which was named one of the best business newsletters by Fortune. She’s a keynote speaker who speaks on topics such as corporate responsibility, empowerment, and leadership. Her favorite talk was quite creative: “It was a talk I gave to a group of LGBTQ college students at a career conference titled, Yoncé Taught Me: Everything You Need to Know in Life, Taught Through a Beyoncé Song.” We wish we could’ve been in the audience for that one!
8. Adrian France
Adrian France co-founded Odyssey Media when she was in college, which went on to raise $45 million. In addition to being an entrepreneurship coach, she shares the story of building Odyssey, scaling the team, raising millions, and ultimately leaving the company for the next phase of her life.
“When I was younger I was TERRIFIED of public speaking. In high school my fear was put to the test as I was chosen to testify in front of the Indiana House of Representatives to urge them to pass the seatbelt law. But then the press showed up… from around the state. Instead of speaking to a handful of people, I had to speak to 150+ people lining the room including cameras, press, legislators and more. I distinctly remember hiding in an old school phone booth, rubbing a pair of lucky dice, hoping I wouldn’t vomit. But I did it – and not only that – my words were used as B-roll for our story for weeks and months to come in the media resulting in more interviews and coverage for our cause. It was the first time I saw how something as simple as my voice can make a real difference. (The bill was ultimately passed – saving lives! Moral of the story is that when you conquer your fears – something amazing happens. Your courage gives others courage.”
9. Roberto Blake
Roberto Blake speaks regularly on visual advertising and video marketing, and also speaks and educates on his YouTube channel. He has a reach of over 275,000 on his social channels. He also speaks on topics like Youtube video production, audience growth, and biz dev, as well as thought leadership and influence. His favorite talk yet was at VidCon, “because I got to speak to the idea of what it truly means to create on your own terms and why it matters.”
10. Adam Grant
Adam Grant is a true thought leader of today, as a prolific keynote speaker and author. His first TED talk in 2016 was on the surprising habits of original thinkers, and it earned him a standing ovation and gained over 1 million views in the first five days. Since, he’s given hundreds of speeches since at companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple. Now, he’s teaching a course at Wharton and became the youngest professor at Wharton to receive tenure at just 28 years old. He is the best selling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B (with Sheryl Sandberg).
11. Clinton Young
Clinton Young is a globally admired keynote speaker who speaks to audiences of 30,000+ alongside other great speakers such as Jack Canfield. His topics include, “Living Courageously,” “The Infinite Power of Yes,” and “Re-Igniting Your Human Spirit.” When asked what his favorite speech he ever gave was, he responded, “This may sound cliche but it’s the same answer that I give when someone asks what my favorite trip is. I say, it’s the last one I took, or in this case, it’s the last speech I gave. I love speaking so much and it gives me so much “life” when I speak, that it’s almost like I’m chasing a high to impact people from stage. However if I was forced to give a more specific answer, I’d say it was a speech I gave recently to a group of about 100 aspiring entrepreneurs. They were so hungry for inspiration and hope and knowledge. You could feel the energy in the room and it was so palpable. We were all so connected and it was very special. My passion is to “move” people emotionally so they are opened up to receive my message and my mission in life is to inspire people to Awaken to their Greatness and Unlock their FULL Potential.”
12. Minda Harts
Minda Harts is the founder and CEO of The Memo, which prepares women of color for their seat at the table. She has spoken at SXSW, General Assembly, Ellevate Network, and more. “My favorite speech was at Western Illinois University in 2017 as a Keynote for their Annual Communications event. I spoke to a group of communication students about life after college. I told them to C.L.I.M.B. Claim their victory–celebrate the win of graduating. Let’s Go; Meaning let’s go get what we said we wanted out of our lives and careers. I is for the Invitation. Are you ready to accept what comes with your journey–the good and the bad. M stands for “My Why”. Why are you are doing this; is the work I am doing going to help me grow and impact the populations I want to serve? And lastly, B is for Believe. Believe that you are your best asset and the right person to tackle what life has in store for you. And as you continue to climb, you are planting seeds so that others can climb with you. Each of us has a responsibility to plant seeds for others so they can climb too.”
Thank you to these 12 phenomenal ‘knockout’ speakers for inspiring us! We can’t wait to see you onstage.
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