Last updated on March 18th, 2023 at 09:56 pm
Just because you call yourself a motivational speaker doesn’t mean you are.
I hear this term thrown around A LOT in the speaking business. Some speakers think their message is vital because it’s motivational. Not true.
Information and motivation are not the same things. Period.
So what is a motivational speaker? How do you know if you truly fit the bill?
When people ask me how I became a motivational speaker. I say,
“It was easy. I just typed it in on my business card, and poof! I was a motivational speaker! I think tomorrow I will be a life coach.”
We laugh, but some people think that just calling themselves motivational speakers makes them motivational speakers. And yet when I watch their speech, nothing is motivational.
While there is no hard and fast rule on the art of motivational speaking, let me attempt to explain it from where I sit.
What Makes Someone a Motivational Speaker
• Motivational Speakers bring emotion, entertainment, empowerment, and encouragement.
When clients ask for a motivational speaker, they aren’t expecting to get an expert on the art of search engine optimization or a lecturer on the proper communication skills needed in leadership.
They are expecting motivation. They expect high energy, emotion, entertainment, and a message that moves their audience to action.
Condensing your content to an hour doesn’t mean you now qualify as a motivational keynote speaker.
• Motivational Speakers create an experience.
When the motivational speaker hits the stage, it’s not the time for the transfer of information; it’s time for people to have a magical experience. They couldn’t get this kind of experience from the book, from pulling the information off the internet or taking home a handout.
This is the kind of experience that ONLY this speaker can bring in person.
• Motivational Speakers help audiences commit to acting on what they have learned.
Receiving the information is only half the battle. It’s in acting on what we’ve learned that the change truly happens.
Audiences don’t just need a content dump; they need the tools to apply this in their lives and get past the obstacles in their productivity and well-being.
• Motivational Speakers make the speech about the audience.
Or at least they should. I’ve seen so many motivational speakers who think they were motivational just because they got up there and told their stories. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. That was your story. About you. Told the same way to everybody.
Make this about me! It’s OK to tell your story, but you have to say mine at some point.
• Motivational Speakers lift their audience.
There is no easier and faster way to endear yourself to an audience than to show appreciation for what they do and its difference to the world. I hear very few speakers do this.
• Motivational Speakers bring hope and belief in the vision.
Audiences are desperate for hope these days – desperate for someone to come in and tell them that it’s not too late – that they can turn things around – that big things are yet to come.
Companies are desperate for employees who rally around a shared vision – a vision bigger than each person.
Motivational speakers leave that audience feeling hopeful and with a renewed passion for the vision.
• Motivational Speakers put themselves on common ground with the audience.
I know that there are speakers out there who really do think they can walk on water. Some speakers think that their role is to be above the crowd.
I think true motivation happens when your audience relates to you – when your audience feels like you have been where they are – when your audience feels like you are one of them.
• Motivational Speakers walk their talk.
I’ve seen speakers hide backstage before they speak and disappear as soon as they leave the stage as if they are too good to mingle with that audience. I’ve seen speakers who were not kind or even downright hateful to others when off stage.
I’ve seen speakers who don’t want to correspond with their audience by email or social media. They are “too busy.” I believe that true motivational speaker lives to motivate people, and that spirit of serving is evident in every aspect of their life.
I used to think it was strange that I became a motivational speaker until I looked back on my life and realized that I was an encourager all my life, even back to childhood. I have always sought out the invisible, found the good in people, and worked hard to help people see that they are more significant than they think.
I don’t just motivate people who pay me. If a waiter needs motivation, I step in. If the woman at the hotel’s front desk needs a spirit lift, I step in. If a stranger calls me for words of encouragement, I am happy to give them.
Motivation isn’t a list of things to do; it’s an attitude. You either have it, or you don’t.
Sometimes people call themselves motivational speakers, and their hearts are in the right place, but they haven’t structured their language and their speech to reflect that. Their words aren’t crafted to move people. Have no fear; you can work on that. As long as you have the heart to serve, you can get the words where you need to be.
In fact, maybe you should check out my keynote camp, where we will be working on our keynote masterpieces. It might just be what you are looking for to create a keynote speech that motivates and empowers for years to come.
Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, comedian, motivational speaker, Huffington Post Contributor, and cast member of The Fashion Hero television show airing on Amazon Prime. She is also the author of Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale, The Land of If Only, The Story Formula, and The Affirmation Journal for Positive Thinking. She was a featured entertainer for Holland America Cruise Lines, keynote speaker for the International Toastmasters Convention, and has keynoted major conferences and corporate events from coast to coast. She just launched her one-woman show Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale in theaters, and it is being booked all over the country. In July of 2022, she was inducted into the National Speakers Association Speaker Hall of Fame.
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