Are you a leader who wants to break away from the corporate world and speak to audiences around the world? Do you have a story to tell that others would pay to hear? Is being a “motivational speaker” your next career opportunity?
Since 1983 I have traveled the world as what some would call a motivational speaker. So this is what I am? May be. Let me explain. In fact, I’ve traveled the world as an expert who also speaks, and my expertise lies in the world of customer service and experience. Even with the title of Customer Service and Experience Expert, I am still considered a motivational speaker.
Are my speeches entertaining? I hope so. I even joke with my clients that if the audience doesn’t laugh, I don’t get paid.
Are my speeches educational? Absoutely! That’s why clients hire me.
Are my speeches motivating? The short answer is yes. So does that make me a motivational speaker? In a sense. Here is my core belief about every speaker who takes the stage:
All stakeholders must be motivated.
They need to have a good enough delivery style and strong enough content to motivate their audience members to start doing something, stop doing something, change something, etc. That’s why I think every speaker is, in some way, a speaker motivator.
Now there are people like Tony Robbins and the late, great Zig Ziglar whom I classify as traditional motivational speakers. These gurus have helped their audience reach new levels of success and more. They focus on achieving personal and professional goals, overcoming barriers, and being better than you ever thought possible. They motivate you to action, as any good speaker on any subject should. In the case of the Tony Robbins-type speaker, the term “motivational speaker” is as much a title as it is a description of what they do.
I bring this all up because over the years many people have asked me how to become a motivational speaker. The term “motivational speaker” has become an umbrella term to describe a professional speaker. What they really mean is that they want to get paid to speak in front of an audience. Some of these people are high-level executives who are looking to leave the corporate world and wish to share their knowledge at the end of their professional career. Others seek to break away from traditional employment. For them, the idea of getting paid to talk is appealing. Some people have a story or a passion and a desire to share it with others.
Whatever the reason, becoming a speaker appeals to a lot of people, so I thought this article might give those people a head start.
First, some brief definitions:
- Professional Speaker: Someone who is paid to speak in front of an audience.
- Industry Speaker: Someone who may or may not be paid to speak in front of an audience of their peers – people who are in the same industry.
- Subject matter expert: Paid or not, this type of speaker is driven to share information. They are valuable resources and recognized as experts in their fields.
- Inspirational Speaker: Typically someone who speaks on an emotional topic. Her story is moving and inspiring, perhaps about overcoming adversity and/or with a moving story to share.
- Motivational Speaker: All of the above.
I think you get the idea. Look at the last definition. I emphasize that everyone should be a motivational speaker, at least in style. Everyone has to move the audience to some action. One of the closing slides I use in many of my speeches asks the following four questions based on what the audience just heard:
- What will you do?
- What are you going to change?
- What are you going to stop doing?
- What are you going to share with your team?
If I’ve done my job – and the same goes for any speaker – the speech will spur the audience to action.
Now that we have an idea of what a motivational speaker is – someone who delivers a successful speech that gets the audience thinking and acting on virtually any topic – let’s talk about how you become one.
There are whole books out there on how to break into the speaking world. A book is a great place to start. Just go to Amazon.com and type in the term “Professional Speaking” and you’ll find plenty of choices. My favorite authors in this genre include Lois CreamerAlan Weiss and Brian Tracy. I also recommend this content compilation members of the National Speakers Association.
One of the best business decisions I’ve ever made was to join the only true industry association in the United States for professional speakers, the National Speakers Association. Joining and taking advantage of his training, especially conferences and meetings, will reduce your learning curve by years. For me, that’s a requirement whether you’re a full-time or part-time professional speaker.
If you want to get up to speed quickly, my friend Josh Linkner, one of our industry’s most successful speakers, has a bootcamp attended by industry newcomers as well as award-winning Hall of Fame speakers. His 3 ring circus program is a deep dive into being reserved and often being reserved.
Looking to hone your speaking skills? Consider a speaking coach. My coach is Patricia Fripp, who coaches celebrities, professional speakers and executives giving corporate presentations. She also has a online conversation course this can help you get started.
With regard to the improvement of oral expression, I am often asked Toastmasters. While this may not be the place to learn how to build a successful career as a professional speaker, it is a good place to improve your speaking skills in front of an audience, especially at first. A lot of people at Toastmasters just want to give better presentations. Some “graduate” and become incredible professional speakers.
Finally, there is an excellent free resource. SpeakerNetNews is a weekly newsletter that features advice on everything related to the speaking industry: travel, software, proper use of slides, marketing, sales… you name it, it’s probably there. Once subscribed, you can also access the archives whose content is organized by subject.
If the idea of a professional speech — or a motivational speech — is in your sights, the resources above are a great place to start. Of course, there are many, many more than I mentioned. But it can help you start building a career that will hopefully fulfill you while inspiring others. If you’ve ever wanted to change the world, now’s your chance to do it – one motivational speech at a time!