How to Become a Motivational Speaker
Think of the many times you found yourself in a crowd, listening to some stranger speaking eloquently and confidently to the crowd. Can you remember how you felt during those times, particularly how the words of the speaker affected you? Did their words even have an impact on you, even in a small way?
More importantly, when it was all over, what did you take away from the experience? What did you learn, and what action did you take that was spurred by what the speaker said?
As much as we put a lot of stock on the things we read about in the papers or online, the spoken word still tends to have more impact. We hear something, we tend to believe it more than what we read on print. This is why motivational speakers are getting more recognition nowadays, because of the “power” and influence that they wield with their words, and how they deliver them.
In this guide, we’ll 1) define and clarify motivational speaking, 2) introduce you to some excellent speakers from which you can learn, and 3) show you step-by-step how to become a motivational speaker yourself.
When we hear about motivational speakers, more often than not, our minds immediately picture someone who is very inspirational, talking about very serious topics, mostly self-help. However, that is a narrow way of looking at it, because motivational speaking is not something that only self-help gurus and personalities have a monopoly on.
Motivational speaking can be about any topic under the sun. It can even be about something as trivial as choosing what to wear for the day. What sets motivational speaking apart from other types of public speaking is the passion that goes into it, specifically the passion for the subject matter.
We can name four essentials of motivational speaking:
- The message or the subject matter or the topic that will be delivered to the audience;
- The audience or the recipient of the message. These are the people that the speaker aims to motivate;
- The speaking skills of the motivational speaker or his public speaking abilities, specifically how he delivers the message through speeches and presentations; and
- The passion of the motivational speaker to convey his message to audience.
All four must be present when it comes to motivational speaking.
THE MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER
Here is a question in many people’s minds: Can anyone become a motivational speaker?
Before we can give an answer to that, let us first get to know the “motivational speaker”.
At first glance, the motivational speaker seems to lead a glamorous and eventful life. They travel from city to city, even around the globe, to have speaking sessions. They rub elbows with celebrities, politicians, government leaders and other notable personalities. They even appear on television often, and most of them have even published books that went straight to the top of the bestseller lists.
But it is highly likely that they have gone through a lot in order to get to where they currently are.
- Is education required? You might think that there is a specific bachelor’s degree or course that one must finish in order to become a motivational speaker. There isn’t. In fact, some of the most successful motivational speakers haven’t even finished college, and yet they are established as authorities in their chosen fields, and are even being paid handsomely for it.
- Are they licensed? There is no license required to become a motivational speaker, either. However, there are several agencies and organizations, such as the National Speakers Association, that issue certifications to motivational speakers. These add to the credentials of the speakers.
- Are they formally trained? Perhaps “formal training” is much too strict of a phrase but, yes, there are trainings that are often undergone by aspiring speakers before they become good motivational speakers.
Now let us take a look at some of the most successful motivational speakers today.
Erick Thomas of etinspires.com – He is one example that you do not have to be highly educated in order to be a powerful motivational speaker. Thomas dropped out of high school and, for a while, spent his life on the streets as a homeless man. He used his experiences to talk about what it takes to become successful, and he has become widely known for the intensity and passion in his speeches.
Tony Robbins of tonyrobbins.com – If you want to know about how to be successful, then you’ll probably appreciate hearing Tony Robbins talk about it. This charismatic speaker approaches this topic from a psychology point of view, and it works.
Nick Vujicic of nickvujicic.com – What makes Nick a power motivational speaker is how he delivers his speeches – funny, self-deprecating, optimistic – as he stands there with no arms and legs. Born without limbs, one would be expected to live with bitterness and anger, but Nick is the complete opposite, centering his talks around never giving up and staying determined in the face of adversity.
Stephen Covey of stephencovey.com – Although Covey passed away in 2012 at the age of 79, he remains to be one of the most successful and widely known motivational speakers. Proof of his legacy are his books, most notable of which are “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families”, and “The Leader in Me”. He is undoubtedly one of the most educated speakers, and his learnings contributed to his speeches on improving oneself to become successful.
BECOME A MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER
These days, motivational speakers are paid quite a lot, depending on the subject matter or topic they will speak about.
Identify your message
First, you have to choose the topic or subject matter that you will talk about. As mentioned earlier, the topic can be about anything, as long as it is about inspiring people to take action or do something.
However, that is not the only consideration that you should make when choosing your topic.
- The topic must be something that you are passionate, or feel strongly, about. It should be a topic that you also really, really want to let other people know about. This is a classic case of “practicing what you preach”, or something along those lines. You cannot expect to speak about something and inspire or motivate others to do something about it when you do not really care about it. No matter how good of an actor or public speaker you are, or how much you think you can fake it, your passion (or lack thereof) for the topic will always show in how you do everything in life. The same applies to motivational speaking.
- The topic must be something that you are knowledgeable about. Talk about what you know, they say. The good thing about this is that, even if you are initially clueless about the topic, you can change that by doing some research and studying it. This is why it is important to be passionate about the topic; otherwise, you won’t feel motivated to learn more about it. Aim to be an expert on the topic that you have chosen so that you can earn your audience’s trust.
- The topic must be relevant at the moment. Do not talk about something that no longer applies in the here and now. It should be timely, or applicable to the present and the future. For example, during a period of economic recession, you might want to speak about how people should consider starting their own businesses despite the uncertainties they are facing. The audience will not care about listening to someone talk about something that will not benefit them today or in the future.
Identify your audience
Your audience includes the people that you want to motivate, or convince to do something. They are the ones that will be receiving your message. Will your audience be composed of students and teenagers? Are you aiming at 30-something year old career professionals, or are you focusing on people who are nearing the retirement age?
It is not enough to only identify which groups will comprise your audience. You also have to get to know them, in order to:
- Determine what message to deliver, and if the message you want to deliver will be relevant and timely for them.
- Determine how you would deliver the message. Differences in personalities and culture of people mean that they will also have to be communicated to in different ways. As a motivational speaker, it is your responsibility to figure out how to convey your message best to your audience.
Improve your public speaking skills
There are people who seem to have been born with public speaking skills, having no trouble at all speaking in front of large crowds. However, there are some who have to go through a lengthy process in order to be good at public speaking.
Motivational speakers must have very good public speaking abilities in order for the message to be delivered effectively to the audience. Fortunately, it is a skill that can be learned and honed through education, practice and experience, over time.
Here are several ways with which you can improve your public speaking skills.
- Take public speaking classes or courses. Community colleges and private institutions offer classes on public speaking, or even speaking in general. Look for one with a good program or curriculum and sign up for it. In some instances, others also sign up for voice lessons, not for the purpose of becoming better singers, but to learn how to regulate and modulate their voices when speaking.
- Join clubs and groups on public speaking. There must be a local Toastmasters Club in your area. Look them up and see if you can join them. You may opt to stay low-key at first, observing the others, until you are confident enough to be more active and practice public speaking. This is actually an excellent way of improving your skills, since you will be with other like-minded individuals also aiming to be better public speakers. Getting feedback is a great way to improve, and you are bound to get a lot from the other members of the club.
- Record yourself speaking. It is not enough to do audio recordings of your speeches, you have to record yourself in videos. This way, you can sit back and watch it later on for some self-critique time.
When watching your videos, put yourself in the shoes of a member of the audience. Forget for a moment that it is actually you delivering a motivational speech. At the end of the speech, did the speaker convince you and actually motivate you to take action?
Watch out for the details: the flow of your thoughts, coupled with the enunciation of words and the tone of your voice. Don’t forget to take note of your hand movements and gestures, and even how you look at your audience. Are there mannerisms that bother you as an audience member?
List down all your observations so you can go back to them when critiquing your subsequent recordings.
Now you may not be comfortable watching yourself on a screen, but you have to get over that discomfort. An effective public speaker is someone who oozes confidence. You should see this confidence when you watch yourself on video.
Choose your platform
The platform is the venue where the speeches and presentations will be delivered. If you are just starting out, you may not afford the larger and swankier venues. Besides, you may not be able to fill all the seats just yet because you are just starting as a motivational speaker.
It may be a small room, but make sure that it is clean, has good lighting and ventilation, and is conducive to learning and interacting. Thinking about setting up a speaking engagement in your basement? That may not be a good idea unless you have a basement that is spacious and as presentable as a small auditorium.
Of course, as you improve and gain a better reputation and recognition as a public speaker, you may be able to move on to larger venues that are able to accommodate the increasing audience size.
Promote yourself as a motivational speaker
You, too, need to have a “marketing plan” in place, “selling yourself” as a motivational speaker. Here’s how to achieve that:
- Organize small workshops and talks – for free. If you look around you’ll notice that some of the most famous motivational speakers are conducting small workshops for free. They even extend their speaking services for free in some instances. This is a good way to advertise, allowing you to reach more people and increase their awareness about you. But wait, why must it be free? Why couldn’t you charge a fee during your first talk? This is just not how it works, especially if you want to be successful in the long term as a motivational speaker. As quoted by international coach Brian Tracy, “before you can be paid to speak, you have to have given 300 free talks”. These initial talks are the practice that will hone your skills as a motivational speaker before you are skilled enough to deserve payment.
- Be a member of accredited speakers’ circles and bureaus. This will give you added credibility and will increase your trustworthiness level.
- Connect with your audience through social media. As a motivational speaker, you should be someone that is accessible or easy to contact. Your audience should have a way to easily connect with you, and that can be done by being active on social media.
- Create a blog or website. One of the best methods of being an authority in your field is to maintain a blog or a website that you regularly update with information related to the subject matter or topic that you actively advocate. This way, you will be perceives as an expert who knows what she’s saying. The result is more credibility which makes it easier to persuade your audience.
- Create advertising materials. These include brochures, flyers and newsletters. E-newsletters, or those that are sent via email, are highly recommended, especially if you are successfully able to create an email list. Be careful, though: these materials should have content that is relevant, timely, and related to your advocacies or topics.
Learn how to write
This may not be a requirement, but it is a great bonus if a motivational speaker also knows how to write. During speaking engagements, it’s common to find the speakers providing printed supplementary material to help guide the audience as they learn.
Listen to feedback
You will be criticized, that’s for sure. Learn to take and accept the criticism, especially when it is negative. You should be keen enough to weed out the constructive criticism from the feedback that is negative simply for the purpose of being negative. This constructive feedback will help you improve, as you will be able to work on your weaknesses and capitalize further on your strengths.
Continue learning, but try as much as possible to learn from the best
Look up the most successful motivational speakers and you will find that most of them have websites filled with information on how they became a success at their career. Some have even published books about it. Learn from them, and never stop learning.
It may take you years before you can become a motivational speaker that is able to earn your living out of it but, with diligence and perseverance, you will definitely get there.