The Four Hs of Dynamic Public Speaking

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What is the mindset of a successful, dynamic public speaker? For me, it all starts with the Four Hs.


Huh?  No, that’s not one of them. And the Four Hs are not (while admirably used for about 100 years by a certain international youth organization of a similar name): head, hands, heart and health.


Not one to bury the lead too deep, I contend that the key to being a dynamic speaker lies in the Four Hs. And luckily for me, none of these stand for hair.


The 4 Hs of Dynamic Public Speaking are: Humility, Heart, (okay, I borrowed that one) Honesty and Humor.


Let me start with a brief qualifier. This piece is an attempt to capture the essence of one of my presentations on this topic—which is designed so I can add more details as time may allow. This is not a rundown on speaking techniques, but rather a description of the mindset that leads to successful presentations and dynamic interactions with your audience. To me, utilizing the 4 Hs will help you no matter if your primary goal is to educate, entertain or move people to emotion or action. And no, these general goals are not mutually exclusive.


Before describing the first H, I’d like to pose a quick question: When attending a presentation—whether you paid for it or not—what quality (-ies) do you most want the speaker to exhibit?


Given my one-sided format here (although comments are encouraged), my question is a bit rhetorical. With that allowance, I would guess that you might respond to my question by listing some of the following attributes:


  • Informative
  • Entertaining
  • Well-prepared
  • A Sense of Humor
  • Respect for the audience’s time and intelligence
  • Articulate, perhaps Eloquent
  • Enthusiastic
  • Ability to provide a message or takeaway


Your replies may be a little different, but my supposition is that none of you will demand, or expect, perfection from your presenter. With that premise in mind, the first H is…




Since nobody in the audience should be demanding perfection from you, don’t try too hard to impress the audience with your credentials, achievements and, well, your perfect self. Replace some of your hubris and arrogance with some old-fashioned humility.


Let me be clear: Some of us are perfectionists, and that drive may serve us well. In baseball, one can pitch (though it’s exceedingly rare) a perfect game, and in bowling, one can roll the same.  One can quibble if these are really perfect performances, but the scoreboards tell us that they are.


I have heard a lot of great speeches, but I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect speech. When it comes to movies, books, songs and anything art-related, such as speeches, there is no scoreboard, per se; how perfect something is cannot be measured. Instead of trying to attain the immeasurable, prepare to deliver something that will resonate with and move your audience. It all starts with compelling content.


There are other aspects to humility. Don’t be afraid to provide whoever introduces you with your credentials; it’s nice for the audience to be reassured that they are in good hands. But, as with almost all things, there is a line between reassuring the crowd and being boastful. Err on the side of humility.


When telling stories or anecdotes, you should be humble enough to let others be the heroes of your stories, and down-to-earth enough to be able to poke fun at yourself. We know you’re awesome; you don’t have to scream your awesomeness from the mountaintops, or lectern. 




This one is pretty basic. Don’t be afraid to show us your heart, which may include your passion and your compassion. Be enthusiastic, and be genuine in your words and in your answers to any questions—if that’s a part of your presentation.


Most audiences will know if your heart is in delivering your presentation. I’m sure that you can tell when a speaker’s heart (You may substitute “passion” or “enthusiasm” here.) is in his speech, or if he or she is just mailing it in.


If you feel like you’re just mailing it in, it’s time to either overhaul or scrap that particular presentation.




There are a few variations to the following quote that is attributed to the late, great and ageless comedian/actor named George Burns. Burns quipped, “You’ve got to be honest; if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”


So, who am I to argue with George Burns (?) That was rhetorical. But seriously, unless you are a very good actor (or a person with very little respect for your audience) your honesty will come through every bit as much as your humility and your heart. Have some people made quite a few bucks charming, flattering and hoodwinking us? Yes. But do you wish to be one of them?




Insert your favorite comedian in just a few words. You don’t have to be ____ , or the life of the party, to connect with your audience and make your presentations more dynamic. You don’t even have to tell jokes, or be particularly funny to succeed. You should find ways to add some levity and good humor to your presentations.


Humor (and it’s hard to define) comes more easily to some than to others. To be honest, if not overly humble, I find it easy to ad-lib with humor—as a speaker and as a writer. At times, I have to find ways to reign myself in—especially when my humorous instincts detract from, instead of adding to, the effectiveness of my presentation. But, I digress…


There are lots of different ways to display humor, but the most important function is to uplift people. Think of the Good Humor ice cream truck. Is its function (this isn’t a plug; just an ad-lib) to insult us or to make our day a little  brighter? I thought so. So…lend some good humor to your presentations.


Look for various ways to inject levity. If you’re not much of an ad-libber, you can utilize the witty sayings of others that relate in some way to your topic. You can also find ways to poke fun at yourself; of course, this approach is consistent with being humble. Self-deprecating humor is usually appreciated. Just don’t let the audience deprecate you.


Luckily, I have not yet faced too many tough crowds so far. For that reason and more, I am of the opinion that the great majority of every audience wants you to succeed—if only so they get a good value for their precious time and/or money.


Use humor to bolster your connection with your audience. And remember to also be humble, show your heart and be honest.


Utilize all Four Hs each time you step up to the podium. Perfection may not be attainable, but becoming a consistently dynamic speaker may be well within your reach.


Matt Goldberg, a versatile and dynamic author and speaker from the Philadelphia area, loves to inspire his audiences to laugh, smile and achieve more. Areas of expertise include: speaking, writing, training, word play, sports and master of ceremonies. For more, please visit or contact

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