Intangibles of Speaking – 20 Ideas to Have Presence and Speak from the Heart

Have you ever seen a speaker who seemed to be doing all the right things but still didn’t connect with the audience? Have you ever been that speaker? It’s like something is missing that you just can’t put your finger on. Well, I believe that’s where the following intangibles of public speaking come into play:

  • Speaking from the heart
  • Presence
  • Mindset

Speaking from the Heart

What does it mean to speak from the heart? You know it when you see it (or feel it), right? To me it means…

  1. Feeling and believing everything you say.
  2. Instead of memorizing, you’ve internalized your message.
  3. You really live the message.
  4. You have no doubt that what you’re saying is what you should be saying. If you go in with doubts, they’ll come out with doubts.
  5. Being under the influence of your own emotions during the speech.
  6. Reliving your stories rather than retelling them
  7. Emotionally being in each of your scenes because you cannot bring an audience into a scene (at least emotionally) if you’re not in it emotionally.  
  8. Not having to write out your speech and put “Smile here” or “Lift left arm here” to remind yourself of your gestures.
  9. Being willing to open yourself up to your audience
  10. Telling your story and admitting your flaws

One day, when I used to run an employment academy for homeless men in Baltimore City, I heard a beautiful sound coming from Bernice’s (one of my Case Managers) office. It literally stopped me dead in my tracks and I asked, “Who is that singing?”  Bernice said, “Its Eva Cassidy. She was a singer out of Washington, DC who died way too young. I really feel her songs.”

I felt it too…all the way down the hall! So I purchased the CD (remember CDs?) and was immediately amazed by her simple yet heartfelt renditions. Interestingly enough, she actually has a song called “I Know You by Heart.”

Eva Cassidy sang straight from the heart. I hear others singing the same exact songs but nobody seems to sing them with as much heart as she did. When you listen to her, you know she feels everything she sings. It’s like she’s being sung through. In speaking, at times it can feel like you’re being spoken through. When you have 100% conviction in your message and you can check off numbers 1-10 above, chances are you’ll be speaking from the heart.


What does presence mean? You know it when you see it, right? To me presence comes from…

  1. Being 100 percent present (that’s right, having presence comes from being present)
  2. Only focusing on your audience and what they are getting.
  3. Not worrying about whether or not they like you.  
  4. Really looking at them and listening to them while you speak.
  5. Realizing when someone’s light goes on in your audience and non-verbally acknowledging that by sending them a signal or a look.
  6. Being able to have a true dialogue rather than a monologue with your audience.
  7. Responding to their responses.
  8. Finding a person who really needs to hear that particular part of your message and looking directly at him/her when you say it.
  9. Forgetting your speech and allowing it to simply all come back to you at the right time.  
  10. Never worrying about remembering what to say next but focusing completely on what your audience is hearing now.



Here are several ideas to consider when it comes to how you think as a speaker.

I believe what you think about immediately before going on stage will make or break your speech. Therefore, instead of it just being your skill-set, it’s also your mindset that makes the difference. Many speakers hope and pray to do well. However, to make the greatest impact on your audience, who does it make sense to think about? Your audience!

This is why, immediately before going on stage, I tell myself to…

Forget myself, remember my speech, and touch my audience in a positive impactful way

I believe the way a speaker thinks about preparation makes the difference between how well they impact their audience. For example, a lot of speakers think:

“I want to prepare so I can remember everything I need to say”

However, my view is different. I think the following:

I want to prepare so much that I can forget what I’ve prepared.

That way it can all come back to me at the right time, in the right space, and with the right fresh spontaneous energy. This is what makes your audience feel like you’re giving the speech for the first time. It’s not memorized, it’s internalized.

In my opinion…

Spontaneity is on the far side of preparation

I believe what a speaker thinks about past speeches impacts what’s going to happen in future speeches. For example, after a great presentation, a speaker might think…

“I hope my next audience is like this one!”

On the other hand, here’s what I force myself to think after a great engagement:

I have to let go of this audience before I get to my next one

Why in the world would I want to let go of the great feelings and connection I had with a great audience? Because if you don’t let go of your past audience, you cannot fully embrace your next audience.  For example, I have a friend who once gave a great speech in Canada but then gave a poor speech a week later in South Africa. Guess what? It was the same speech! What I believe was the difference was he still held onto his Canadian audience, which didn’t let him fully embrace his South African audience.

I’ve had audiences that were so good I’ve wanted to replay the event over and over in my head. But Keep in mind one thing:

Your new audience doesn’t care what you did for your past  audience

The key is to let that past audience go so you can focus 100% of your energy on the audience in front of you. This will help with your presence and speaking from the heart.

Speaking of past audiences, sometimes people ask me, “Craig, what keeps you grounded and working hard as a speaker?”

My answer is always the same. My motto is the following;

You’re only as good as your next speech

Your past successes mean nothing to your future audiences. When you accept that you’re only as good as your next speech, you prepare accordingly each and every time. And when you do, you automatically find yourself speaking from the heart, having a great presence, and touching lives in a profound way.

Craig Valentine

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