Public Speaking Pointers in Emergency Situations

Summer 2017 was full of unplanned circumstances in the United States. From chaotic street violence to devastating storms, the events caused anxious U.S. citizens to seek information and leadership as they tried to right themselves.

Public speaking isn’t something that’s always easy—especially in times of grief or unrest.

But when audiences are fearful, angry and upset, leaders must focus on delivering compelling messages with confidence and compassion.

To get people to listen to and believe what is being said, the speaker must act confidently and exude the right amount of energy. Rather than making his or her emotions apparent, the speaker needs to present information in a calm and collected manner. Here are just two examples of how leaders have responded to recent emergencies.


Texas and Florida Hurricanes

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, followed by the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Florida. The resulting devastation was not an easy topic to address—whether before, during or after the storms hit. Leaders had to gauge the emotions of the audience before they presented the messages they were to deliver. They connected with the audience to convey critical information, but also to show sympathy and foster courage.

Florida Governor Rick Scott addressed all of Florida about the emergency situation that was to come. His message to the state’s residents was calm and purposeful. He addressed the hurricane as any strong speaker should: with control and passion.

Hear how Governor Scott addresses Hurricane Irma in such a difficult time:

What we can learn from Governor Rick Scott’s speech:

  • Scott spoke to specific actions that were underway — the fact that there was a plan being implemented was calming during a stressful situation.
  • He had a call to action and was deliberate in what he wanted from his audience.
  • Like McAuliffe, Governor Scott’s pace was measured and purposeful. He didn’t rush his message.


Charlottesville, VA Demonstrations

After the volatile incidents that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe stepped up to the plate to call for calm among residents in both his state and the nation. He stood in front of the audience demonstrating poise and confidence as a way of helping diffuse a highly-charged environment. Although this may not have been easy and he was speaking on a controversial topic, his public speaking skills were memorable.

Watch as Governor McAuliffe delivers and exemplary speech:

Takeaways from Governor McAuliffe’s speech:

  • Governor McAuliffe controlled his pace. As passionate as he was and as controversial as the topic was, he resisted any urge to speed up.
  • He uses pauses effectively and lets his message be processed by the audience.
  • He looks directly at the audience. He didn’t rely on notes, but he spoke from the heart. McAuliffe’s speech was clearly prepared, but he didn’t read a prepared speech. As a result, he was authentic.


Addressing issues under difficult circumstances is never easy to do, but connecting with the audience, conveying leadership and offering compassion are key characteristics that these and other strong speakers demonstrate.