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Best Public Speakers: Studying Vanessa Pappas

Updated: Apr 4

Vanessa Pappas is on our best public speakers list because of how she organizes her messages and uses a definitive tone to counter negative publicity. Vanessa is currently interim Head of TikTok globally. She oversees content, operations, marketing, and product teams for the video platform.

by Stephanie Bickel

best public speakers

The best public speakers event we reviewed: Her interview addressing copycat platforms

Vanessa’s greatest public speaking skills:

  1. Disaggregating double-barreled questions: Vanessa clarifies with the audience the 1st question that she will address after getting asked several questions at once. She stays organized in her delivery by restating each topic before providing an answer. She ends up answering 3 separate questions in all. (:35-2:30)

  2. Putting a stake in the ground to counter negative publicity: She uses an emphatic tone to dispel concerns around TikTok’s involvement in China. Vanessa makes strong, definitive statements to demonstrate her conviction. She also ends strong and confident. (:44-1:45, 2:20-2:30)

  3. Nice smile with nonverbal affirmations: When this segment starts, she has a nice, big smile that immediately begins to build rapport with her listeners. She also nods her head to show she is receiving the information and listening to the question. (:00-:44)

What Vanessa could do to improve her public speaking skills:

  1. Maintain eye contact: Vanessa tends to look away frequently while she is speaking. When there is minimal eye contact, it is hard to feel connected to a speaker. This nonverbal behavior could be perceived as avoidance and uncertainty. (:35-2:30)

  2. Reduce fillers and qualifying language: Her delivery could be even more powerful if she eliminated non-words and qualifiers. She uses the filler words, “right” and “uh” (:40-:55). She also uses weakening language, “I think” and “I guess” at the beginning of statements (1:48-2:15). To minimize this tendency, she could take a moment to breath and pause before beginning her statements.

  3. Be mindful of uptick: Vanessa’s voice over time rose in pitch on certain words and phrases. Uptick can convey uncertainty. To show the utmost confidence, end statements and words on a downward pitch. (1:06-1:15, 1:40-2:03)


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