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Best Public Speakers: Studying Brené Brown

Updated: Apr 3

Brené Brown is an American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. Brown holds the Huffington Foundation’s Brené Brown Endowed Chair at the University of Houston's Graduate College of Social Work and is a visiting professor in management at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. She has spent her career studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and authored seven books including five New York Times best-sellers.

by Stephanie Bickel

best public speakers


  1. Strong Start / Storytelling: Brené tells stories and uses humor to engage the audience. She starts right out of the gate with a story to capture the audience’s attention. Brené continues this approach throughout the TED talk. (:00, 1:43)

  2. Confident voice: She projects voice, loud volume, low pitch. These are all qualities that lend to a credible and confident speaker. (:00)

  3. Facial expressions: Nice smile! Brené increases her personal connection with the audience and adds warmth to her presence with her larger than life smile and laughter. (:00)

  4. Eye Contact: She uses direct, engaging eye contact with all of her listeners. Brené keeps attention in one area for at least 3-5 seconds or through an entire thought. This approach helps make the entire audience feel important. (2:24)

  5. Vocal tone: Brené adapts vocal styles to match message being delivered. In the beginning, she uses an assertive / motivational style as she tells a story. When she talks about connection, she slows down and changes into a more consultative vocal style. (3:04)

  6. Gestures: She incorporates a variety of grand gestures when she wants to emphasize and support her message. Brené uses big, grand gestures to convey passion and energy about her topic. Using different, intentional gestures also creates a more dynamic delivery. (3:12, 3:32, 6:52, 7:12)

  7. Pace / Pause: Brené dramatically changes pace and uses longer pauses for emphasis when talking about vulnerability. By adding in silence, audiences become captivated as they wait for the next word(s) spoken. (9:34)

Strategies for improvement:

  1. Uses filler words / statements: She uses“so”, “Like”, “um”, “I’m going to talk to you today.”. To reduce filler words and statements, try to slow down and use the pause instead. (:00, :27, :37, 1:23)

  2. Touches hair / face: Brené has some nervous gestures. Keep hands away from touching hair and face to exude more confidence. (:12)

  3. Gestures: Her hands crossed in front of her body and she fidgets with fingers. Reset gestures back to neutral – down at side while standing - to demonstrate physical poise. (:18)

  4. Eye Contact: Brené occasionally looks down when she is thinking through what she wants to say. She loses her connection with the audience in these moments which could make her come across as more uncertain. (:50)

  5. Uptick: Sometimes her pitch is higher on the last word in a sentence, for example, “courage”. Ending in a higher pitch makes a statement sound more like a question to the audience. Think “assertive vocal style” and end statements in a lower pitch to convey conviction. (:57)


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