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Are You a Motivational Speaker?

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This is a question that I get asked all the time. Whenever you tell someone that you speak for a living, their inevitable next question is: Are you a motivational speaker?  My answer is usually: “No, I’m more of an informational speaker who is highly motivating.” 

I answer this way because I have an innate discomfort with this classification. To me the term “motivational speaker” conjures up a speaker that delivers a lot of feel good catch phrases and very little content. For those of you who watch Saturday Night Live, the character that Chris Farley used to portray. I equate these kinds of speakers with a Chinese food meal. You’re usually still hungry after you’ve heard them speak. 

Many years ago I was on the platform with a gold medal Olympian. I watched as this well known individual did her speech. I found myself completely unimpressed. Then I watched as the throngs of audience members came up to this person saying how much they loved her talk. I was amazed. 

This proves a very important point. You are not your audience. Don’t ever assume that you act, think, or even behave like the members of your audience. Clearly, from the above example, I was out of touch. I think I’m probably out of touch with regards to how I feel about most “motivational” speakers. I personally don’t like these kinds of speakers. Please don’t take this the wrong way if this is the kind of speaker you want to be. I want you to be more than just a motivational speaker. 

There is obviously plenty of demand for this type of speaker, they just aren’t my cup of tea. But I think I am ahead of the curve on this issue and have a warning for those of you positioning yourself this way. In addition to being a motivational speaker, you better find a way to deliver valuable content as well. If you don’t, your speaking career will be short-lived. 

In the very near future, audiences will demand not just motivation, but motivation with a message. 

Another problem with being a motivational speaker is that you aren’t niched. It makes you a generalist. Being a generalist makes it tougher to be sold to a client. 

Categorizing yourself as a motivational speaker will make the pool of competitors much larger than speakers who have a more specific topic orientation. 

Filed under: Speaking for Millions

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