Public Speaking Quotes

Quotes to read, ponder, and sometimes even laugh at.

Here are some public speaking quotes to keep in mind while you prepare your speeches.

  • Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense. (Ralph Waldo Emerson in Letters and Social Aims)

  • He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense. (Joseph Conrad in Lord Jim, 1900)

  • A speech is poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart. (Peggy Noonan, U.S. author and presidential speechwriter in What I Saw at the Revolution)

  • Much speech is one thing, well-timed speech is another. (Sophocles in Oedipus Colonus)

  • In making a speech one must study three points: first, the means of producing persuasion; second, the language; third the proper arrangement of the various parts of the speech. (Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.3; 1403b5-7, trans. by Roberts, The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes, Princeton, Princeton University Press)

  • Speech belongs half to the speaker, half to the listener. The latter must prepare to receive it according to the motion it takes. (Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), French essayist. "Of Experience," The Essays)

  • Public speaking is done in the public tongue, the national or tribal language; and the language of our tribe is the men’s language. Of course women learn it. We’re not dumb. If you can tell Margaret Thatcher from Ronald Reagan, or Indira Gandhi from General Somoza, by anything they say, tell me how. This is a man’s world, so it talks a man’s language. (Ursula K. Le Guin (b. 1929), U.S. author. Speech, to Mills College Class of 1983, Oakland, California. “A Left–Handed Commencement Address,” published in Dancing at the Edge of the World, 1989)

  • Speech is after all only a system of gestures, having the peculiarity that each gesture produces a characteristic sound, so that it can be perceived through the ear as well as through the eye. Listening to a speaker instead of looking at him tends to make us think of speech as essentially a system of sounds; but it is not; essentially it is a system of gestures made with the lungs and larynx, and the cavities of the mouth and nose. We get still farther away from the fundamental facts about speech when we think of it as something that can be written and read, forgetting that what writing, in our clumsy notations, can represent is only a small part of the spoken sound, where pitch and stress, tempo and rhythm, are almost entirely ignored. But even a writer or reader, unless the words are to fall flat or meaningless, must speak them soundlessly to himself. The written or printed book is only a series of hints, as elliptical as the neumes of Byzantine music, from which the reader thus works out for himself the speech-gestures which alone have the gift of expression. (R.G. Collingwood (1889–1943), British philosopher, in Principles of Art)

  • I gave a speech in Omaha. After the speech I went to a reception elsewhere in town. A sweet old lady came up to me, put her gloved hand in mine, and said, “I hear you spoke here tonight.” “Oh, it was nothing,” I replied modestly. “Yes,” the little old lady nodded, “that’s what I heard.”(Gerald R. Ford (b. 1913), U.S. president in Humor and the Presidency)

  • According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. (Jerry Seinfeld)

Think about these public speaking quotes before preparing your next speech! (Public speaking quotes are great for illustrating principles of public speaking.)

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