Motivational speakers are gifted to use words to paint incredible pictures of the possibilities of the future and make you want to take action. The best motivational speakers will shock you out of lethargy, make you want to aspire to climb Mount Everest and dig tunnels to surmount gargantuan obstacles. Such is the power of motivational speaking that the best organisations would move mountains to get the best of the best to keynote their retreats, annual conferences and conventions events. And the best motivational speakers don’t come cheap. The top one per cent gets paid as high as £20,000 per 90-minute engagement, with all expenses paid, including limousine services, first class air ticket, and a suite in a Five Star hotel.
Such is the allure of motivational speaking that every trainer, teacher, comedian, consultant, and coach today includes motivational speaking as his or her forte. There is nothing wrong with anybody aspiring to become a motivational speaker but don’t allow the top seven mistakes to trip you. With all the wars, suicide bombings, kidnappings and other atrocities assailing our world, we need motivational speakers in spades. This article sign posts the key mistakes you need to watch out for, and also serves as a guide anybody aspiring to jump into the motivational speaking band wagon can use to navigate his way to safe harbours. The mistakes are not in any particular order, and as in any field, they clearly overlap, but taken together, they form a powerful yardstick to measure your progress towards mastery of your game. Here we go:
1. Following a guru formula
Peter Drucker once said the word charlatan was too difficult to pronounce and that’s why someone invented the word guru. You have gurus in every sphere of human endeavour, they come in various shapes and sizes. Next to the spiritual world there is no other sphere of human life where you will find more gurus than in the training world, but beware. The guru’s world may be different from your world so don’t just take what you heard the guru say hook, nail and sinker. Weed out the grain from the chaff. Understand the context of the guru’s “must do” before you open your mouth.
2. Not being authentic
Every actor wants to be like Roger Moore, every footballer wants to be like Pele, every boxer wants to be like Muhammad Ali, and of course, every motivational speaker wants to be like Orson Swett Marden, Zig Ziglar and Og Mandino rolled into one. We admire these legends, in fact, we worship them. But note that you are not any of those icons. The only reason someone will come to hear you speak is because of your uniqueness. Trying to mimic the platform mannerisms, voice and anything else others do will only water down your authenticity. Be unapologetically yourself and the whole world will beat a path to hear you speak.
3. Using jokes not suitable for your audience
While the mantra in real estate investing is location, location, location, in motivational speaking, the one and only mantra is audience, audience, audience! Accordingly, your jokes, if at all you need to use them as part of your repertoire, have to be audience specific. And do not be mistaken in thinking that audience laughter is a key attribute of a good speech. How many people laughed when Martin Luther King Jr., the greatest motivational speaker of all time, gave his “I have a dream” speech? Motivational speaking is about moving your audience from a state of desperation to a state of elation, so be careful with jokes. Trying to be funny when not necessary and using irrelevant jokes is the hallmark of the amateur.
4. Using the same speech for different audiences
This is one of the trickiest aspects of motivational speaking: matching speech to audience. Point three above on matching jokes to audience is just a little part of this bigger issue. While your message to different audiences can be the same, your speech must be delivered differently. If you wish to achieve the desired impact, you cannot deliver the same speech the same way to nurses and soldiers, for instance, on the need to be humane while on duty. While being humane is central to the nurses’ vocation, to the soldier, the only thing that matters is valour, so your speech must be crafted accordingly, with careful variation on what to accentuate and where to put emphasis.
5. Acting and not speaking
I recently experienced this first hand at a very high level conference. If the offender had been an upcoming speaker I would not have paid much attention but the culprit was a veteran of the industry. He spent the greater part of the time rolling on the floor to emphasize a point. When speaking, you must use word power to persuade, motivate, and inspire. Whether you are speaking for instance about colour, aroma, scenery, you must use words to capture the vibrancy, pungency, and ambiance, while using body language to drive the message home. Rolling on the floor, crying and boxing your audience members may make you feel good but will certainly leave your audience members sad that you have wasted their time. In motivational speaking, you have only one tool: your voice, to do the job. Body language is the icing on the cake.
6. Dressing casually
The message you convey to the audience when you dress shabbily is simply that you should not be taken seriously. In some cultures, dressing carelessly is regarded as an insult to an audience. While your voice is the primary tool you require as a motivational speaker, the most important secondary tool you need is your dress sense. Your dress sense forms part of your body language and sets the tone for you to mesmerize and magnetize your audience. While you must match your dress sense to the audience, a good rule of thumb is to dress a shade better or more formal than the audience. In short, never put your guard down – dress properly. Err on the side of impeccable sartorial savvy at all times as you never have a second chance to create a great impression.
7. Not preparing well
I deliberately left this point for last. By logic, it should be point number one. The best motivational speakers prepare for every assignment as if their life depended on the assignment at hand. From investigating the audience, the venue, past speakers on the subject, and the microphone, they leave nothing to chance. Darren Hardy, the Publisher and Editor of Success Magazine, once commented that most audience members don’t understand why motivational speakers get paid up to $10,000 for an hour’s speech. He then went on to say, “that one hour speech may have taken three or six months to prepare.” As with any other line of serious business, preparation is the key to success. As Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink and many other iconic best sellers, pointed out, you need 10,000 man hours (about 10 years) of preparation to reach the tipping point. Having arrived there, you cannot rest on your laurels but must keep perfecting your act. Thoroughly prepare before you mount the platform.
Having read to the end, I want you to renumber these points in reverse order, with number seven being number one and number one being number seven, in that order. If you guard against these mistakes, and keep honing your style, dress sense, elocution, diction, platform manners and elevate preparation to the status of catechism, it will be a matter of time before you move to the top ranks commanding mouth watering fees as some of the greatest orators of old.