Your Next Speaker:
Motivator, Inspirer, or Change Master?

by Gil Eagles


When people ask me what I do, I tell them, "I'm a motivational speaker." Often, their response is, "Oh, so you're one of those guys who pumps people up, eh?"

No, that's not what I do, nor should people in general mistake what motivational speakers really do. They don't, for example, "pump people up." Flat tires and deflated air mattresses get pumped up. Motivational speakers educate, train, guide, encourage and inspire people, and I can only hope they do it in a fun and entertaining way. Booking your next speaker should entail more than just hiring an arm-waving, fast-talking presenter to take up that spare hour after dinner. You've got to decide what you really want to do for your attendees.

More Than Just A Pep Talk

The term motivational speaker is subject to a wide range of interpretation. For many, it conjures up the image of a loud, spirited, cheerleading presenter who implores his audience to be enthusiastic, achieve more and become all they can be.

However, to be the kind of motivational speaker who truly makes a difference, a presenter needs to deliver much more than a pep talk. It's not enough merely to awaken people to their potential, nor is it enough to simply tell them what they ought to accomplish. A rousing pep talk has no significant value if the speaker doesn't also show his audience members how to achieve their goals.

Creating A Road Map

Teaching specific skills and techniques for accomplishing one's objectives needs to be part of a motivational speaker's repertoire. Telling people that they need to get from point A to point B without telling them how to get there is futile. It only leads to frustration and little change in long-term behavior.

Motivational speakers who do make a difference in people's lives are the ones who see themselves as long-term "change masters" and not just pump-the-audience-up, pep-talk coaches.

A good motivational speaker is both motivating and inspiring. Is there a difference between them? The answer is a resounding Yes.

First, let's look at motivation. The word simply means a "reason" or a "motive." Thus, being motivated is having a reason for doing something. The reason is always the belief in a "benefit." Everything people do is motivated by benefits.

Benefits can be either personal or professional. They can be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Because all humans have varying needs and desires, an effective change master speaks in terms that allow each member of the audience to create his or her own goals, and create, too, the reasons for accomplishing them.

Now for inspiration. The word literally means "to breath in" or "to give life to." It is the energizing fuel for all action. No matter what types of goals people set, they will not seriously act upon them until they feel inspired to do so.

The kind of energizing goal that inspirational speakers bring to their audiences is the fuel of possibility.

People will not get excited, enthusiastic or sincerely act upon a goal until they believe that they can accomplish it. In other words, people need to believe that the achievement of a goal is possible before they'll sincerely act.

Motivation Needs Inspiration

People who cannot foresee experiencing a benefit from their goal also are those who have no reason or motivation for trying to do anything to achieve it.

An effective motivational speaker is one who regales his listeners with inspiring stories. Inspiring stories talk to and about the human spirit. These true stories, either from the speaker's own experience or from the lives of others, introduce the listeners to ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary results.

The anecdotes are told in order to inspire or fuel the listeners' imagination. If another person who had more to overcome than they could go on to accomplish certain goals, then it might just be possible that they, too, might also be able to do the same.

Presto! We have inspired listeners.

However, inspiration without motivation is as futile as motivation without inspiration. Just as a motivated person will not succeed if he is not inspired to do so, conversely an inspired individual will not accomplish much unless he is also motivated. Both are needed.

Wonderful stories about great possibilities and their accomplishments are nice to listen to and they do make us feel good...for a while, anyway. But inspiring stories alone can also lead to an experience of guilt, lowered self-esteem and frustration if the energy we derive from them is not channeled into some positive action. It's like receiving a full tank of fuel and having nowhere to go.

The Four-Legged Approach

Just as a chair needs four legs to function effectively, people need at least four necessary ingredients to accomplish their goals:

  1. They need to have a clear-cut goal.
  2. They need to have a motive, a reason or clear vision of the benefits from accomplishing the goal.
  3. They need to have a belief in the possibility of the goal's accomplishment. They must have, in other words, a conviction that it is possible for them.
  4. Finally, they have to have a detailed, step-by-step plan or road map for reaching their goal.

It is the motivational speaker's responsibility to help his listeners develop all four legs, necessary for the kind of stability required for goal-setting and accomplishment.

For this, you may want someone who is more than a coach and an enthusiastic cheerleader, much more than a humorist and story-teller, more than just a charismatic and entertaining presenter, and certainly more than someone who just gives pep talks. You may want, and need, a teacher and a true change master.

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