So, You Think You Can Make It As A Motivational Speaker?
You’ve inspired others with your story. You’ve shared your plight–how you fought, struggled and overcame some horrifically tragic event or circumstance and lived to tell about it. Every time you tell your story, your audience of two or three is moved to tears. They walk away encouraged, motivated and inspired. You feel empowered.
You like that feeling…
Before you quit your day job, here are a few things I’d like you to consider:
What Motivational Speaking is not
It feels good to have a message that is heard and valued. There is no other feeling in the world than being told that your words have profoundly changed someone’s life or made a difference in the world. And while motivational speakers change lives, transform companies and inspire nations—this profession is not as sexy as it seems.
Motivational speaking is not:
- A pathway to fame: Sure, the best motivational speakers are famous. Being good at anything brings with it a level of notoriety. However, if acclaim is what you are seeking, motivational speaking is not for you. The best motivational speakers don’t achieve their fame from a single speech. It comes from the hours they spend preparing for their engagements and the work they do with people and organizations behind the scenes. What they do behind closed doors is more important and valuable than the few minutes or hours they spend on stage. What you see on stage is a culmination of weeks, months and sometimes years of hard work and sacrifice.
The reality is that it can take years—or even decades—before you become well known. And—there is a very real possibility that fame will never come. The love of helping others maximize their potential has to be enough.
- About You: If you have a message that you want to deliver—motivational speaking is not for you. As a motivational speaker, you are charged with developing a dynamic message that is tailor made for your audience. You don’t get to say what you want to say; you must say what the audience needs to hear. It’s not about you.
- A good way to earn a living: You will not, I repeat, You will NOT get rich as a motivational speaker. Motivational speaking brings with it a façade of a jet set lifestyle complete with swanky hotels, bottles of Cristal Champagne, expensive suits and hob-knobbing with the elite.
The reality is that motivational speaking is eerily similar to playing a professional sport. A lot of people play the same sport, have the same level of skill and passion for the game but very few every make it to the pros.
Most motivational speakers did not aspire to be in this profession. They had passion and expertise in a specific niche. They were able to articulate how they became successful and exposed the tricks of their particular trade. The doors just opened from there. Their first “gigs” were as unpaid guest speakers. That’s right—they worked for free. Nick Morgan, contributing author for Forbes magazine, puts it this way:
“There is no such thing as the job category, “Motivational Speaker.” At least, there shouldn’t be, and you shouldn’t think of yourself as one, or even aspire to become one… Speaking is not a profession. It’s an activity. It’s a way to communicate your passion about a subject upon which you’re expert.”
Former President Barack Obama is a prime example of this. He is currently one of the highest paid and in demand motivational speakers. But he didn’t start off that way. His path was a long winding road that took him through law, politics and a U.S. presidency to get him to where he is today.
What Motivational Speaking Is
Now that we’ve taken a few moments to dispel some of the myths and fallacies associated with motivational speaking, let’s take a moment to peel back the layers and demystify motivational speaking even further.
There are two fundamental things you must understand and fully grasp before you decide to undertake this endeavor full time and that is that motivational speaking is:
- A service to others: First and foremost, above all else, you must understand the being a motivational speaker is a service. I am a servant to those I speak to and speak on behalf of… It is my job to ignite passion and inspire people to recommit and rededicate themselves to achieving excellence. Companies, organizations and leaders look to me to create buy in, and a can-do attitude within their sphere of influence. It is my job to not only be engaging and entertaining on stage but move people to action. My success and failure rely on my time on stage and on my ability to impact the organization long-term.
- A business: While motivational speaking is a service it is also a business—especially when it is your job. I understand that I am a brand and a commodity. I (my services) am bought, sold and shopped around to others. What I offer must be top-notch and in line with best practices. This means that everything–from my personal appearance, written materials and advertisements to my knowledge and messaging must be professional, well-researched and in tandem with industry best practices.
A huge part of business is the financials. Managing the money aspect of this business can be extremely tricky. A sound business plan that firmly articulates the cost of doing business (travel expenses, materials, advertising, staff, etc.) must be in place before you even consider launching into this career field full time. If you do not have a sound business plan and people around you that understand the business of business, you’ll be out of business before you ever get started.
Once you wrap your mind around the art and business of motivational speaking, you can then begin to devise a plan for moving forward. Below are some practical first steps that will help you successfully ease into the business:
1. Do your Research.
Make sure you understand the vision, mission, values, culture and the modus operandi of the companies and organizations you are targeting.
2. Join a professional speaker’s bureau.
This is a great way to hone your craft, network and surround yourself with likeminded individuals.
3. Practice, practice and practice some more.
Whenever an opportunity is available for you to speak—take it. This is especially true in the initial stages of your career. Speaking often and to different audiences will provide you better insight and intel than any book or class can teach. In this profession, experience truly is the best teacher.
4. Study the pros.
The best way to be the best is by learning from the best. How do they captivate their audience? How do they move? Where do they stand? When do they pause? When and how often do they change their tone, volume or rate of speaking?
5. Get a mentor.
Mentorship is one of the most valuable relationships you will ever have. Find someone who is doing what you want to do and learn from them. This includes shadowing them and working or interning for them if possible. This is one of the best ways to truly understand and get an inside peek into the world of motivational speaking.
Still want to be a motivational speaker?