How come some people are really good at public speaking? While it’s true that public speakers are MADE not born, it does feel like some people are more naturally suited to the opportunity to speak in public and some people - would rather die.
Is it possible that your personality type could directly influence your effectiveness as a public speaker? And if you knew more about your personality type, is it possible that you could improve your effectiveness and become a better speaker?
In this article, we're going look at HOW your personality affects your presentation persona. That is how you feel about, prepare and perform in a public speaking setting.
We’ll do this through the lens of DISC theory, a theory of human behaviour created by American psychologist William Moulton Marston - who by the way was also the inventor of Wonder Woman!
DISC is a personality assessment tool that’s been used in varying ways in the business world since Marston created in 1928 - but renewed interest has arrived - made popular with the publication of the 2014 book Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Eriksen.
You see the problem is that our personality type really can hinder our ability to speak in public.
It can exacerbate our normal fear of public speaking, it can make us too focused on the details to keep our audience awake, it can make us too punchy to delivery any substance and so entertaining that our audience completely miss the point.
Using the colours as outlined in Thomas Eriksen’s book, I’ll help you identify your presentation personality and use that understanding to help you fully develop your public speaking persona into a more rounded and effective style.
According to Eriken, there are four types of human behaviour and in line with the DISC assessment system, he named the types after the colours in DISC, Red, Yellow, Green and Blue.
The idea is that we tend towards one of these colours of behaviour dominantly, but we can also have elements of other colours within our personalities too.
So I’m going to be talking about these colours as they relate to public speaking, not just Eriksen’s book, so unlike Eriksen who started with RED, I’m going to start with…
YELLOW PUBLIC SPEAKERS
YELLOW - why, because in general they are the most effective public speakers. They enjoy getting up in front of people. They like the limelight. They seek the limelight. Yellow presenters are creative in their approach, but they are also very talkative - and should avoid off-the-cuff presentation styles because this will encourage them to waffle. They are excellent with words, but it’s all improvisational - but since they are confident, you listen and you enjoy what they say.
Yellows make us feel good. They are charming, popular, warm and entertaining people. Yellows are a natural performer, they are like this ALL the time, not just in front of others.
Yellows are incredibly optimistic, and this can sometimes damage their credibility as speakers because not everyone buys your rose-tinted version of things. They are positive and convincing, they can sell an ideas highly effectively.
Yellow sometimes struggle to get to the point - which is why they are better off scripted so they stay on topic and deliver their best performance.
Yellows speak with enthusiasm, naturally talkative - they use 10 words instead of 3 - which drives Blues and Reds in the audience mad. They can also have a problem with vocal clarity because they speak excitedly and fast.
Yellows are interesting and inspiring. They can create and invent tremendous solutions - but they are spontaneous and couldn’t always tell you HOW they got to a solution. They are not systematic at all. And like someone writing this article for instance, they probably started at the end and then dotted around in no particular order - until they finally finished it.
Yellows have big ideas - but they struggle to write it all down. It sounds brilliant - they are excellent communicators - their delivery skills are worthy of an OSCAR - they often don’t need ANY help with their delivery skills, but their presentation content - oh boy - it’s a mess of unconnected ideas.
Yellow has a habit of failing to answer the question, so they can sometimes create a presentation that’s not exactly in line with the theme or title. (That’s probably cos they think of a better idea AFTER they’ve agreed to something else)
Yellows are greater speakers, but they aren’t always the best listeners - actually they are terrible (they won’t admit it). They don’t hear you - they are THINKING while they speak.
Are you a Yellow Speaker? Since Yellows think by speaking - One of the ways that Yellows can write their presentation is to speak into their voice notes on their phone. Since they think as they go - that’s the best way to create content for a speech or presentation for them. Making them sit down to write something is frankly, torture. Caging a wild animal.
Since Yellows aren’t systematic, it’s really good to give them a structure to put their creativity into and then it takes a powerful shape rather than the mass mess of jumbled genius that tends to fall out of them.
Yellows should slow down to make their point, otherwise they risk losing their audience due to a lack of clarity.
Yellows are obsessed with novelty, they love the new - so they get bored very easily giving the same speech a lot. This can mean that they want to constantly change their presentation as they practise it.
If you are in a debate, Yellows need to listen extra hard to their fellow debaters to hear their points. Otherwise they will be strong on their own thoughts, but weak on interrogating the others.
Do your best to stay on topic, it’s easy for you to go down a rabbit hole and get excited by new thoughts and ideas, but there shouldn’t be a mismatch between your topic and the talk.
By the way, leave a little extra time for planning and writing your presentation - Yellows are renowned for being very poor at judging how long a task will take to complete.
RED PUBLIC SPEAKERS - Red people are ambitious and extroverted - so they will also seek out opportunities for public speaking. Reds are confident enough to get up in front of others, and persuasive enough to win people over, but that doesn’t mean their presentations are always engaging.
REDs have a tremendous presence up in front of other people. When RED says people should do something, they WANT to do it. REDs are so confident in what they are saying, sometimes truth and the facts are conveniently ignored. RED will tell you the honest truth - as they see it - which is not the same thing as the truth. So if your Sales Director is a RED and they don’t think you’ve been doing a good job, they may even call you out on it - in the middle of their presentation!
REDs are often in such a hurry to get the task done that they can speak very quickly, losing clarity of speech in the process.
They would prefer NOT to watch your presentation, they would prefer if you would just ‘get on with it’, or even better, shut up and sit down. If you are foolish enough to ask a RED for feedback on your presentation - beware - cos they are really going to tell you.
Are you a red speaker? Here’s some advice - most people want a bit more detail than you’re used to delivering. You like to make the points, BANG, BANG, BANG. You may need to slow down to make sure people can follow your points - I know it’s annoying, but people aren’t as quick as you - so providing a story, an anecdote, an example to flesh out your point will really help everyone else enjoy your presentation.
And before we move on to the Blues, - the reds will now be leaving the article because they’ve got what they need and they are onto the next thing. I’ve kept the Red section shortest because - well - that’s the way they prefer it. Thanks Reds - see you soon.
That brings us on to:
BLUE PUBLIC SPEAKERS - Blue people are very careful, precise, systematic. But they are also introverted, so they don’t particularly enjoy giving presentations. I’m not saying they are shy, but they are focused on the minutiae of things. They don’t need to talk about things, but they will present their findings if they are asked. In detail.
They can spend a lot of time on the details of their presentation, sometimes spending hours on the correct information, rather than thinking about the audience’s emotional journey - or anything as fluffy as that.
Blue’s presentations are often beautifully logical, although their big picture thinking isn’t always best, so the overall structure of their presentations can be a bit flat.
Blues are great at analysis, so if you can get past the massive level of detail they will provide, their analysis will be incredibly insightful. Just don’t expect them to present it in a way that you can understand.
Blues can focus too exclusively on the correct information and not on the performance of their presentation. Since they are detail oriented - they have to watch out that they don’t bore their audience. This is the colour most likely to treat their presentation as data to be transmitted rather than a performance to be shared. They often rely heavily on their notes or a script, because they don’t want to get anything wrong.
Blue will put off the presentation for as long as possible. Not because they don’t want to do it (they probably don’t really because it will keep them from their work), but because they want to make it JUST. RIGHT. They are perfectionists. And it means it takes them forever to get it finished. If you want a blue to speak for you - you need to dictate the timeline. If you let them dictate the time - you’ll get the presentation sometime between now and their retirement.
The great news is that blue’s presentation will be factually correct. They will have checked all the facts, so you can believe them - unlike red and yellow, who will settle for ‘factish’ information.
Are you a blue speaker?
Other people don’t have the detailed grasp of topics like you do. You may need to break things down into more understandable chunks.
In terms of structuring your presentation, think about how you can move the audience from one place emotionally to another with your amazing detailed analysis. This will help all those who aren’t detail focused to understand the relevance of all that detail.
You love precision, but you might need to expand your thinking using stories or bigger explanations in order to make your point to non-Blue audience members. Data won’t speak as loud to other people as it does to you. I know you love the process - but tell the others about the results, about the conclusions and what it means.
You should work on your vocal pitch, Blue speakers tend to get stuck in a single pitch and tone for their whole presentation.
Since you love the process, make sure that you have a clear goal for the outcome of the preparation. This will make sure that you don’t just deliver a presentation on the process and data. People care about consequences and what it means TO THEM.
Unfortunately sometimes you can come across as cold, this can make building rapport with your audience more difficult. I suggest you work on making eye contact with some audience members throughout and smiling warmly at them when you make an appropriate point.
Which finally brings us to...
GREEN PUBLIC SPEAKERS- Green is the person most likely to want to avoid public speaking. They don't like the limelight at all. Greens are friendly, cool and calm under pressure, but they like their comfort zone too much to be put in front of an audience.
Green will never let you down, so if you ask them to do a presentation, they will certainly do it - whether they want to do it or not. They’ll perform a presentation to make you happy. They are too reserved to happily volunteer for it. They almost NEVER will. But they will do it to keep the smile on your face.
Greens do not want to be leaders, they don’t enjoy speaking up, so getting up in front of people is horrifying. They will avoid the limelight as far as possible.
However, since their motivation is extrinsic, rather than coming from their love of presenting or their desire to transmit a message, they will probably leave the planning of their presentation until the last minute and have to power through it in the end, but they will most certainly do it.
Greens have a low energy, which can make being in front of a crowd difficult because their low energy can be confused for a lack of enthusiasm or interest in the subject.
Don’t expect Green to take a lot of credit for their presentation, they will be very uncomfortable with your praise.
They are great listeners, so they are brilliant in the Q&A section of a presentation.
If you’re a Green’s boss, don’t throw in a last minute change to Time, Location, Topic - or anything of the presentation. They love stability, but if you change anything, anything at all - it can throw them off completely.
Are you a green speaker? Since you can be introverted, a little quiet and low energy, you aren’t the most natural speaker. But with coaxing, you can deliver a high quality presentation. You will need to work on the projection of your voice and vocal energy. You will also need to work at using variety in your pitch, because you can get a bit stuck in one pitch and tone.
You are naturally kind, and you have a gentle voice, you may need some help making your voice impactful.
Try not to leave the planning of the presentation until the last minute. I know it’s hard to motivate yourself to do something purely for other people’s sake, but if you start earlier, it will be less of a drag.
You can be very awkward under the pressure of public speaking. So working to loosen up mentally and physically might help you perform better in your presentation.
Green is best with a scripted presentation, they don’t want to improvise, there’s too much uncertainty in improvisation.
We are not all the same when it comes to our presentation personality. In fact, most of us are different from each other. As you can see, Red and Yellow are more keen on Public Speaking, but Green and Blue can still do a great job, if they learn to play to their strengths and avoid the weaknesses of their personality. In fact - a lot of people have to speak or present as part of their jobs who are in fact Green or Blue - and you can learn to play to your strength.
Only 5% of people are SOLELY one colour. This reminds me of one of my past clients, who was BRIGHT RED in their normal life, but when it came to public speaking, they turned GREEN.
So if you are thinking about yourself, it’s not necessarily what you’re like in regular life, but what you are like when asked to present in public.
If you can make adjustments based on understanding your Presenting Persona, you can enjoy greater public speaking success.
Discover your presentation personality on one of our public speaking programmes at Public Speaking Coach Scotland, and learn how to bring the best out of your presentation work.
Learn how to make the most of your current Presentation Personality.
One last thing. William Moutlon Marston who created the DISC theory, not only did he create Wonder Woman - he also invented the lie detector test - he was some guy!
All The Best
Public Speaking Coach