One of the air marks of a good public speaker is self-discipline-exercising control over one’s actions. Having the “will power”-to do or not to do.

As a public speaker self-control is a necessary character trait. Good public speakers are not irresponsible with their words. They are deliberate about them…they choose them wisely and carefully.

Though speakers can technically say whatever they like.. or act any way they want-great speakers govern themselves-they adhere to certain societal norms of behavior and conduct.

Both Hitler and Martin Luther King Jr. can be categorized as eloquent speakers. But the character, behavior, and intention of the two men’s speeches were vastly different!

What made the difference? Aside from ideology…self-control.

King, though wronged by United States exercised self-control and encouraged it among his followers-he valued the lives of his followers and those of the oppressors. While Hitler, enacted what seemed right in his own eyes-giving into his desires regardless of how it impacted on those around him-only his life and those of the Nazi were sacred.

In this instance it is clear how self-discipline affected-positively and negatively the “greatness” of these two speakers.

But what about you? If you lack self-discipline can you still be a great public speaker? Yes. You can work on strengthening your self-control. But…how?

Make a Decision

Make a decision that you want to have self-control.

Make a Personal Commitment

Commit to developing and strengthening your self-discipline skills by putting into practice thinking before you speak, controlling outbursts, choosing not to get angry, refusing to attack people in your speech, avoiding slander and accusations, listen before you speak, and choosing to focus on the issue. Ask someone that you trust to help you keep your commitment.

Learn the Rules

Learn the rules of public speaking. Knowing the rules will help you to know what you should and should not do when giving a presentation.

  • Know your audience
  • Know your material
  • Know your limitations
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Practice · Be on time
  • Make sure your visual aids are working
  • Check all equipment before giving your speech
  • Dress professionally
  • Engage your audience
  • Don’t get offended by constructive criticism

Be Accountable

If you happen to make a mistake, get irritated by a member of the audience, or if you are late take responsibility don’t blame someone else. If you can make light of it by telling a joke do so that will help to ease the tension in the room. But if not just accept responsibility and proceed with your presentation.


Self-discipline doesn’t happen overnight it takes practice. In every situation look for opportunities to sharpen your self-control-if you don’t usually listen when others are speaking choose not to speak and listen instead. If you get defensive when people ask you questions or challenge your point of view-make a decision that you will not get upset when this happens but you will listen with the ear of understanding and learning. This way you can respond to what the person is saying and not because you need to be right. Remember public speaking is about learning and acquiring knowledge. And as a speaker each conversation is an opportunity for you to acquire knowledge.

Eliminate Harmful Habits

Try to eliminate harmful habits-those habits that can offend others or that will communicate a different message from the one you want communicated.

  • Put aside anger
  • Choose to listen first before you speak
  • Don’t jump to conclusions-restate what you heard to make sure you understood correctly
  • Be aware of your body language and facial expressions-let your body communicate what you want to say

As a public speaker you are a professional and you want your audience to view you as such. Having self-discipline is the way to establish this fact-because your objective as a speaker is to inform, educate, motivate, inspire-and not to alienate, offend, or to convey immaturity.


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