Which famous female speaker from history would win in a game of Top Trumps?
Would the oratory skills of Margaret Thatcher beat the eloquence of Oprah? Or would Amelia Earhart take the crown?
Conference call provider Meetupcall has researched some of history’s most high-profile and influential famous female speakers in history to discover what makes them stand out – and what we could learn from them when it comes to our own public speaking.
Each has been scored on key public speaking criteria, including the speaker’s position of power, their passionate delivery, use of inclusive language, repetition of key points, and how they utilize humor.
Read on to find out who comes out on top!
Born 24 July 1897 Amelia Earhart enrolled onto a medical studies course at Columbia University, before realising her love of flying, and worked to save for flying lessons. In 1923, she became the 16th US woman to be issued a pilot’s license, and the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Famous speech:A Woman’s Place in Science
Position of Power: 2/10
Inclusive language: 12/20
Overall Speech Rating: 72
“As so often happens in introducing the new or changing the old, public acceptance depends peculiarly upon women’s friendly attitude.”Amelia Earhart
Incorporate Amelia Earhart’s qualities into your public speaking
Speak with love and passion on your chosen subject; Earhart used zealous language, sharing her love of science and flying with her audience. Passion is a key criteria in exceptional speech delivery, so let this radiate through your choice of language and delivery.
Earhart often used contrast to associate the unfamiliar with the familiar. She associated ‘romantic’ and ‘beauty’ — typically feminine descriptors — with the unfamiliar such as ‘science’ and ‘flying’, to engage the audience and reinforce the idea that flying was attainable for women.
Contrast familiar concepts with new ideas, to help your audience see them in context and believe they are possible. Some of Earhart’s speeches were even delivered via radio from her aircraft. This gave weight to what she was saying, highlighting how female pilots could become a reality.
Born 13 October 1925, Margaret Thatcher trained as a barrister before becoming MP for Finchley in 1959. She was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science, before becoming the first female UK Prime Minister, serving from 1979 to 1990. She belongs on any list of the best female speakers in history.
Famous speech:Britain Awake (Iron Lady) speech
Position of Power: 7/110
Inclusive language: 14/20
Overall Speech Rating: 83
“To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”Margaret Thatcher
Incorporate Margaret Thatcher’s qualities into your public speaking
When delivering her speeches, Margaret Thatcher took a strong and assertive tone, delivering her message with confidence and authority. Show personal strength in your speaking, and work on a delivery that is authentic and intimate, injecting your personality into the speech where possible.
Thatcher was advised by television producer Gordon Reece to alter her image and in turn, her approach to public speaking. Reece advised her to lower the tone of her voice, speak more slowly and move closer to the microphone to make the delivery more intimate. Try this out during your next speech delivery.
Thatcher also visited Laurence Olivier to help with projecting personality in her speeches, and drank warm water with lemon and honey, to lower her pitch and remove the strain from her voice.
In each of her speeches, Thatcher was told to be herself and focus on the authenticity of what she was saying. Make sure you stay true to yourself when public speaking, and inject a sense of your personality into your talks.
Born 29 January 1954, Oprah had a troubled childhood. She began her professional life with a job in radio, co-anchoring the local evening news. She hosted The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1986-2011, the highest-rating TV show of its kind to date.
Famous speech:Golden Globes 2018 speech
Position of Power: 6/10
Inclusive language: 13/20
Overall Speech Rating: 84
“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men, but their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.”Oprah Winfrey
Incorporate Oprah’s qualities into your public speaking
Despite her success and confidence, Oprah has since admitted her Golden Globes speech was nerve-wracking. In an interview with People magazine, she said:
“I must have been more nervous than I thought, because I’ve never had dry mouth before. In the middle of the speech I thought, ‘I can’t move my gums. I started to articulate because I was trying to get over my gums.”
Counteract the physical symptoms of nerves by keeping water near you while you speak, and force yourself to pause and take sips of water when the symptoms present themselves.
Use personal experiences to connect with your audience, and create a picture of the future that inspires your listeners. Mention your peers when you can, to include other thoughts and perspectives, and give credit to the people you’ve learned from.
KeriLynn Engel is an autodidact and women’s history buff who founded Amazing Women in History in 2011.