As a public-speaking coach, I’m approached more and more by clients who want to build a career as a motivational speaker. It’s a growth industry and, on the whole, I think that’s great. People sharing their experience, expertise and wisdom for the benefit of others has got to be a good thing. I’ve learnt a huge amount from motivational speakers such as Jack Canfield and Brené Brown (unfortunately, only through downloads – I’d love to see them live one day!) and I’m encouraged by how accepted it is now to address psychological and emotional issues in public forums.
My only reservation is the part about for the benefit of others. For some speakers I’ve seen, this has clearly not been the priority. In the same way as a lot of stand-up comedians are not as funny as they think they are, a lot of people setting out as motivational speakers are not as wise or inspiring as they imagine. If you’re thinking of becoming a motivational speaker, do some soul-searching first to find out what, well, what your motivation is. If it’s about your desire to get on stage, I recommend you join a drama group or a storytelling circle or something, to meet that need. Then, if you still want to, see about becoming a motivational speaker after you’ve spent some time in the limelight.
As with all public speaking, a good motivational talk is designed entirely with the audience in mind. If you have experience or knowledge that people would find useful, do please stand up and share it – but don’t assume the public will be interested in hearing about your life just because you feel like talking about it.
If you have got something important and useful to say, becoming a motivational speaker is an excellent way to spread your message. The power of oratory and rhetoric has been recognised for millennia and, despite all our modern technology, simply talking to people remains one of the most effective methods of stirring hearts and minds.
Apart from being approached for coaching, the reason this is upmost in my mind at the moment is that I have recently been persuaded to call myself a motivational speaker. The two talks I give on a regular basis (Life Lessons from Public Speaking and How to Be Perfect… in your own way) are, I suppose, motivational, though I still prefer the term stand-up psychology.
If you’re going to be a motivational speaker, be prepared to invest a lot of time and energy in creating and honing your talk. This isn’t some here-today-gone-tomorrow presentation, it’s the distillation of your knowledge and experience into pure, accessible, memorable form. And it’s a performance, which needs to be well judged and well paced, leading your listeners on a journey of discovery. It’s not a trivial undertaking: How to Be Perfect… took me about a year to get right.
You don’t need to be educated or erudite to be a fantastic motivational speaker. All you need is a solution to a problem and the passion to share it.