Spark's Presentation & Public Speaking Blog

Public speaking quotes: Funny, inspiring insights for your presentation


June 2, 2014

by Andy Saks

Over many years as a professional presenter and speaker, I’ve accumulated a treasure trove of funny, inspiring, insightful public speaking quotes.

These quotes are near and dear to my heart. They’ve helped me immensely, and helped me help others.

Some date back to biblical times. Others are hot off the Twitter press.

Sometimes I show them in a looping slideshow to warm up an audience before a keynote speech or presentation skills training program.

Other times I peek at them when I need some inspiration myself.

And here they are, for the first time, categorized and alphabetized for your presentation pleasure.

Which quotes make you laugh? Which inspire you? Which rub you the wrong way? Which of your favorites should I add? Which did you use in your presentation? Tell me by sharing your comment at the bottom of the page.




“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 delivering the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld

“All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears, of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before the Rotary Club, or the words ‘some assembly required.’” – Dave Barry

“…and from the first moment that I ever walked on stage in front of a darkened auditorium with a couple of hundred people sitting there, I was never afraid, I was never fearful, I didn’t suffer from stage fright, because I felt so safe on that stage. I wasn’t Patrick Stewart, I wasn’t in the environment that frightened me, I was pretending to be someone else, and I liked the other people I pretended to be. So I felt nothing but security for being on stage. And I think that’s what drew me to this strange job of playing make-believe.” — Patrick Stewart

“Feel the fear of public speaking and do it anyway.” – Arvee Robinson

“I was dreading winning. I didn’t even prepare an acceptance speech. I was worried that I would slip up or do something horrible. I was shaking in my seat, putting on a posed smile. Inside I was petrified.” – Leonardo DiCaprio (at the 1998 Academy Awards)

“It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.” – Rob Gilbert

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” – George Jessel

“There are two types of speakers: Those who get nervous and those who are liars.” – Mark Twain



“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, and to sit down and listen.”  – Winston Churchill

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” – Jimi Hendrix

“Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.” – fortune cookie Andy got (really!)

“Nothing calms a person faster than hearing his own ideas repeated back.” – Sandra DeLozier

“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears, by listening to them.” – Dean Rusk

“Open your ears before you open your mouth; it may surprise your eyes!” – Earl Nightingale

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

“The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of another.” – Ted Tripp

“Two monologues do not make a dialogue.” – Jeff Daly

“You can tell if a man is clever by his answers. You can tell if a man is wise by his questions.” – unknown



“Our attitude towards others determines their attitude towards us.” -Earl Nightingale

“Say what you mean, mean what you say, just don’t say it mean.” – Nguyen Van Tho

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” – Laurence Peter

“The words you speak today should be soft and tender, for tomorrow you may have to eat them.” – unknown

“Think lovingly, speak lovingly, act lovingly, and every need shall be supplied.” – James Allen

“You have to smile, if you expect anybody to smile back.” – Jonathan Evison



“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: To Whom It May Concern.” – Ken Haemer

“In the preaching moment, there is a liminal moment in which is dawns on you standing there that yes, there is something more going on here that I did not anticipate…You feed of the congregation, because black preaching is so dialogical. The affirmation in that dialogue is the place where you locate revelation.” – Dale Andrews (professor, Boston University, and occasional preacher)

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” – @mediatraining

“The goal of effective communication should be for listeners to say ‘Me too!’ versus ‘So what?'” – Jim Rohn

“The royal road to a man’s heart is to talk to him about the things he treasures most.” – Dale Carnegie

“To communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world, and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins

“To sway an audience, you must watch them as you speak.” – C. Kent Wright

“When are you going to understand that if it doesn’t pertain to me, I’m not interested?” – Candace Bergen as Murphy Brown



“Eloquence is the essential thing in a speech, not information.” – Mark Twain

“I understand a fury in your words, but not your words.” – William Shakespeare, Othello

“If we use common words on a great occasion, they are the more striking because they are felt at once to have a particular meaning, like old banners, or everyday clothes, hung up in a sacred place.” – George Eliot

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

“If you can’t write your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour.” – Dianna Booher

“If you can’t state your position in eight words, you don’t have a position. “ – Seth Godin

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac

“Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.” – James Thurber

“Speak clearly, if you speak at all. Carve every word before you let it fall.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hoffman

“The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter–’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like cuttlefish squirting out ink.” – George Orwell

“The way something is presented will define the way you react to it.” – Neville Brody

“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.” – William Butler Yeats

“Those who run to long words are mainly the unskillful and tasteless; they confuse pomposity with dignity, flaccidity with ease, and bulk with force.” – H.W. Fowler



“A presentation is a chance to share, not an oral exam.” – M.F. Fensholt

“All speaking is public speaking, whether it’s to one person or a thousand.” – Roger Love

“Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style.” – Jonathan Swift

“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

“Through the picture, I see reality. Through the word, I understand it.” – Sven Lidman

“To speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.” – Ben Jonson

“Words do two major things: they provide food for the mind and create light for understanding and awareness.” – Jim Rohn

“Words. Words, when spoken out loud for the sake of performance, are music. They have rhythm, and pitch, and timbre, and volume. These are the properties of music, and music has the ability to find us and move us and lift us up in ways that literal meaning can’t.” – Martin Sheen as President Bartlet, The West Wing



“Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. It’s the only way you can be sure somebody’s listening.” – F.P. Jones

“Every speaker has a mouth, an arrangement rather neat. Sometimes it’s filled with wisdom, sometimes it’s filled with feet.” – Robert Orben

“Light travels faster than sound. That’s why certain people appear bright until you hear them speak.” – Albert Einstein

“Look your audience straight in the eyes, and begin to talk as if every one of them owed you money.” – Dale Carnegie

“My job is to talk; your job is to listen. If you finish first, please let me know.”  – Harry Herschfield

“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” – Mark Twain

“Public speaking is very easy.” – Dan Quayle

“Speak the truth, but leave immediately after.” – Slovenian proverb

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it’s taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw



“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” – Mark Twain

“I didn’t lie. I was writing fiction in my mouth.” – Homer Simpson

“Speech is a mirror of the soul. As a man speaks, so is he.” – Publilius Syrus

“Teach the tongue to say ‘I do not know.’” – Maimonides

“When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson



“Humor is a rubber sword – it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.” – Mary Hirsch

“Humor is treacherous. It can charm, coax, and persuade, but it can also distract, baffle or alienate the audience.” – Eugene Finerman

“I learned at an early age that when I made people laugh, they liked me. This is a lesson I never forgot.” – Art Buchwald

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” – Oscar Wilde

“Once you get people laughing, they’re listening and you can tell them almost anything.” – Herbert Gardner

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” -Mark Twain



“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” – Charles Dickens

“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half of people who have nothing to say and keep saying it.” – Robert Frost

“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

“If all my talents were to be taken from me by some inscrutable providence, and I had to make a choice of keeping but one, I would unhesitatingly ask to keep the power of speaking, because through it, I would quickly recover all the rest.” – Daniel Webster

“The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.” – Edward R. Murrow

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” – Solomon

“The tongue is like a sharp knife. It kills without drawing blood.” – Buddha

“When nobody speaks your name, or even knows it, you, knowing it, must be the first to speak it.” – Marlon Riggs

“Improve your communication skills and you will earn fifty percent more money over your lifetime…In my office you’ll not see the degree I got from the University of Nebraska. You’ll not see the master’s degree I got from Columbia. But you’ll see the award certificate I got from the [public] speaking course.” – Warren Buffett



“Between your brain and your mouth (or your fingers) is magic: your power to choose what you say next. Use that magic.” – Chris Brogan

“Oratory should raise your heart rate. Oratory should blow the doors off the place.” – Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, The West Wing

“The difference between a good speech and a great speech is the energy with which the audience comes to their feet at the end. Is it polite? Is it a chore? Are they standing up because their boss just stood up? No. You want it to come from their socks.” – Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, The West Wing

“The world is made up of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.” – Terence McKenna

“The world is waiting for your words.” – Arvee Robinson

“Your words can make you rich” – Dr. Donald Moine



“He who fails to please in his salutation and address is at once rejected, and never obtains an opportunity of showing his latest excellences or essential qualities.” – Samuel Johnson

“You had me at ‘Hello.’” – Renee Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd in Jerry Maguire



“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” – Jim Rohn 

“I don’t like to hear cut-and-dried sermons. When I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees!” – Abraham Lincoln

“It doesn’t matter how elegant the argument or inspiring the prose, a presentation won’t move anyone if the presenter isn’t visibly feeling what they are saying.” – John Neffinger, KNP Communications

“Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered pot holder.” – Raymond Chandler

“The best speeches come from the heart and reflect your passion. Speak as if your life depended on it.” – Arvee Robinson

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carol Buchner

“When genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” – D.H. Lawrence

“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” – John Ford

“You cannot speak that which you do not know. You cannot share that which you do not feel.” – Jim Rohn



“A designer knows he or she has achieved perfection, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Nolan Haims

“If God is in the details, then the Devil is in PowerPoint.” – @AngryPaulRand

“The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you.” – Paul Arden



“All Abe Lincoln needed was a pencil and paper to make his speech at Gettysburg.” – @TipsForSpeakers

“All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Communication works for those who work at it.” – John Powell

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

“If you wing it when speaking, you’ll get wing it results.” – Arvee Robinson

“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

“Let he who would be moved to convince others be first moved to convince himself.” – T. Carlyle

“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills, so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” – Jim Rohn



“Good listeners generally make more sales than good talkers.” – B.C. Holwick

“He that has no silver in his purse should have silver on his tongue.” – Thomas Fuller

“If you can’t say it, you can’t sell it!” – Arvee Robinson

“Samson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. That many sales are killed every day with exactly the same weapon.” – unknown

“The single most important tool in selling is being able to communicate effectively.” – Dan Brent Burt



“It’s the space you put between the notes that make the music.” – Massimo Vignelli

“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.” – Dionysius of Halicarnassus

“Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.” – cowboy saying

“Speak only if you can improve upon silence.” – unknown

“Talking is like playing the harp; there is as much in laying the hand on the strings to stop their vibrations as in twanging them to bring out their music.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

“The most precious things in speech are pauses.” – Ralph Richardson

“Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln



“So much is said with the electricity of the eyes, the intensity of a whisper. Less is more.” – Elizabeth Taylor

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the  smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

“Your smile is a messenger of your goodwill.” – Dale Carnegie



“A fool uttereth all his mind.” – Proverbs 29:11

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” – William Strunk, Jr.

“A speech is like a love affair. Any fool can start one, but it requires considerable skill to end it.” – unknown

“Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” – Franklin Roosevelt

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing [more] to say, refrains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.” – George Eliot

“For effective communication, use brevity. Jesus said, ‘Follow me.’ Now that’s brief!” – Jim Rohn

“He who talks more is sooner exhausted.” – Lao Tzu

“If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, give it more thought.” – Dennis Roth

“If you want me to speak for an hour, I am ready today. If you want me to speak for just a few minutes, it will take me a few weeks to prepare.” – Mark Twain

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what other men say in whole books.” – Nietzsche

“It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.” – Robert Southey

“It’s better to say nothing than spend 1,000 words or an hour speech saying nothing. Get to the point.” – Richard Branson

“It’s quite simple: say what you have to say and when you come to a sentence with a grammatical ending, sit down.” – Winston Churchill

“Make sure you have stopped speaking before your audience has stopped listening.” – Dorothy Sarnoff

“Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink.” – Martin Lomasney

“Public speaking is the art of diluting a two-minute idea with a two-hour vocabulary.” – Evan Esar

“The best speech has a good beginning and a good ending – and has them close together.” – unknown

“The best way to make a good speech is to have a good beginning and a good ending – and have them close together.” – unknown

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” – Thomas Jefferson

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

“Think all you speak, but speak not all you think. Thoughts are your own; your words are so no more.” – Patrick Delany

“To make a speech immortal, you don’t have to make it everlasting.” – unknown

“What is powerful is when what you say is just the tip of the iceberg of what you know.” – Jim Rohn



“Every story has its time to be told.” – Sekou Sundiata

“Stories open the hearts of your listeners, and then their wallets.” – Arvee Robinson



“Be content to act, and leave the talking to others.” – Baltasa

“One deed is worth a thousand speeches.” – American proverb

“People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.” – unknown

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

“Words may show a man’s wit, but actions, his meaning. “ – Benjamin Franklin



Andy Saks, Spark Presentations

Spark owner and speaking quote compiler Andy Saks

Spark Presentations is a private company founded in 1998 that provides presentation skills training and speech coaching for executives, salespeople, marketers and other businesspeople, plus booth staff training for trade show exhibitors.

Spark also books professional presenters and public speakers to represent its clients at high-profile events, in roles like keynote speaker, trade show booth presenter, master of ceremonies (emcee) and auctioneer, as well as on camera talent and voice talent.

Spark’s client list includes large corporations like AT&T, Best Buy, Covidien, FedEx, Hyundai, Intel, Kimberly-Clark, Owens-Corning, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Volvo; high-tech industry players like AMD, Atrion, Citrix, Gigamon, and Symantec; service organizations like Vistage, 1nService and NERCOMP; and New England institutions like Community Rowing and the Boston Jewish Film Festival.

Spark’s owner, Andy Saks, is also the author of The Presentation Playbook Series: Be a Most Valuable Presenter (MVP), a three-volume series of books that help businesspeople master common presentation situations by building and running speaking “plays” like a coach or player calls a key play in a game. Volume 1 is available now in print and PDF formats on Spark’s website and at these online retailers and formats: Amazon print, Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble print and Nook.

For questions, quotes or orders, contact Andy Saks at 781-454-7600, email or Spark’s Contact page.



One comment

  1. by Melissa Johnson | August 2, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Good stuff!

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