How to Become a Motivational Speaker: The Ultimate Resource Guide

If the notion of how to become a motivational speaker excites you, then this advice-packed resource guide is the one to bookmark. Well-founded tips, sharing hard-earned experience and lots of do’s and don’ts will help you to put both shoulders to the wheel. Some of the best resources internationally have been pulled together into this handy guide on how to become a motivational speaker so that you can revisit it in the future…

Aspiring to a professional speaking profession is unlike most other careers. It does not require any specific qualifications and sports a host of conceivable advantages. This might include high-income potential, developing influence, travelling to exotic destinations, meeting prominent people, being your own boss and so forth. Despite the fact that this is an information pack on steroids, the intent is above all one of sober-mindedness. As a result, care is taken to side-step the unrealistic marketing hype that so often accompanies the conversation.

Not to get bogged down into a labyrinth of definitions “motivational speaker” will be used as an umbrella term for “professional speaker”, “conference speaker”, “business speaker” etc. So, in other words, it refers to anyone that would like to kickstart a speaking career in general or someone who already puts their bread and butter on the table through delivering talks and presentations at events and conferences. 

How to Become a Motivational Speaker – Flowchart

  1.   Identify Your Message, Audience and Income Streams
  2.   Practising Your Presentation Skills
  3.   Marketing the “Brand Called You”
  4.   Determine How Much to Charge Clients
  5.   Joining the Professional Speakers Association
  6.   Partnering with Agents, Event Professionals and Speaker Bureaus
  7.   Setting Up a Home Office and Travelling
  8.   Before You Get Behind the Podium
  9.   Embracing Life-Long Learning and Reading
  10. Decide if You Have What It Takes

Although the focus is here on how to become a motivational speaker and to get onto the speaking circuit, it is even more important to try to stay on it. Both routes will require a mindset of ongoing learning. Abundant sources are shared in this speaking “toolbox” to assist you in making informed choices. You can scroll down to the noteworthy references, used in this resource pack, which are indicated in more detail. Some of the subject matter seemingly has nothing to do with the question at hand, it will still serve as a double-dose antibiotic against faulty mindsets or the absence of action which plague many starting this journey.

Before continuing, here is the first spanner for your toolbox. Do a Facebook search “How to become a motivational speaker” and click on “Pages”. The relevant page (with the same title) has a photo of a microphone and starts with the description: “Welcome” and “Awesome Tips”. Click “Like” to receive daily postings of high-quality articles weaving through speaking careers and related themes.

The aspiration of becoming a professional speaker is loaded with exhilaration, but it might sound much easier than it is in reality.

1.  How to Become a Motivational Speaker: Message, Audience and Income Streams

The ability to speak well in public, delivering great content and marketing yourself is arguably the foundation of any new or existing speaking career. The good news is that all three can be learnt and improved upon. Here are six initial points to ponder in your quest for knowledge of how to become a motivational speaker.

1.1  Expertise and Experience Grant Credibility

Charisma can take you only so far. Think through your upbringing, interests, experience and education. No official qualifications or designations are required for how to become a motivational speaker. Having said that, pinpoint areas of expertise that will be able to assist you as a successful orator. This might or might not include academic excellence, workplace success, new discoveries, a remarkable life story and the list can go on forever.

The analysis can guide you towards the theme of your message and how you will be marketing yourself. You always want to explore the capacity for customizing these themes for wider audiences. If you want to stick to a niche topic only relating to rocket scientists, the audience will understandably be limited with less speaking opportunities. Alignment between particular experiences and the content of talks most certainly creates effective momentum and contributes towards the popularity of the best motivational speakers.

Steer away from the following tendencies: don’t address topics of which you have no knowledge, experience or credibility in and don’t speak about raising children, if you have never had children at home. This sounds apparent, but in reality, it happens all the time. Some individuals desiring to kick-start their own speaking businesses have all kinds of euphoric ideas about teamwork and leadership but in contrast, have never led a team in person.

Some attempt to focus on pertinent business topics, but have never spent one day in the business world. Don’t try to speak about things that you don’t know anything about. There is a lot more to add about initiating a speaking career, but for now it will suffice to say that earning your stripes in other facets of life first, is always a solid beginning.

1.2  Identify the Audience and Develop Your Message

Chances are good that you have already thought about a focus area that you would like to tackle. Right from the start there should be a line of sight between the message and the audience. The two are inseparable. The wrong message to the wrong audience is a career killer.

For the sake of unfussiness all these words mean the same within the context of how to become a motivational speaker: “speech”, “talk”, “presentation”, “message”, and “keynote”. Ensure that your message will inspire action in concrete aspects. It must be interesting – very interesting! It is very succinctly put in 4 Qualities of Amazing Public Speakers [1] when Desiree Moore writes: “Audiences show up for information, but they stay for the stories.”

A keynote presentation about how to milk cows is not going to work with the typical corporate group, presupposing that you will be targeting this market. Unless an analogy is built from it through theme-weaving and comparisons to the workplace, it will not generate bookings.

Think world-class. What type of message, story or lesson will get you bookings from all over the world? A newly developed speech is not guaranteed to be the next show-stopper.  Following Seth Godin’s know-how, one can never know with certainty beforehand. Don’t fear occasional failures. A flop is all right as long as “dull and dreary” was not the reason. His book “Purple Cow[2] unpacks the process of creating a truly “remarkable” product and in the case of how to become a motivational speaker, it has spot-on relevance regarding your keynote speech.

Hopefully you don’t have a vision of making audiences do silly things. The hype of “jump on the chairs” motivation is yesterday’s fashion. It’s about great content. Empty rhetoric and eccentric techniques do not provide lasting substance. 

1.3  No Communicator Can Speak About “Everything”

Some speakers promote a list of their talks that are longer than the Nile river. It is highly unlikely that a professional speaker has an endless list of presentation topics that all will fall in the “world-class” category. No-one can speak about “everything”. The majority of rivetting conference speakers have a range of between one and a very few talks which are truly “wow”.

The industry standard for the length of a keynote speech is usually one hour. Keep that in mind. Once you get going with presentation design, you will find that your material easily exceeds one hour. After that the painful process of cutting back and shortening starts.

In an electronic “How to become a motivational speaker” treasure trove Tag Goulet deals with all these aspects. Things to do before you get going with your new presentation, finding and arranging your information and even the possibility of hiring a speech writer. The simplest way to describe this superb E-book from FabJob [3] is to say that it virtually covers the whole caboodle (see at the end of this article). It is accompanied with a “100% No-Risk Satisfaction Guarantee” and a full refund promise for your ease of mind.

At the expense of sounding like a broken record, keep in mind that in the final analysis it’s all about the audience.

It is also worth mentioning that the motivational speaking industry has no shortage of detractors. Some say “there’s no need” or “it doesn’t work”, others say “it doesn’t last”. This is a discussion for another time but worthwhile to quote the late and legendary orator Zig Ziglar: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

1.4  Other Income Streams like Publishing a Book

Maybe it’s a little pre-mature to consider additional revenue streams. Maybe not. An exciting strategy is to fortify your business through additional streams of income. One can do this by “recording and selling presentations, and writing books and other supporting materials to sell” as Marjory Pilley summarises it in her article “How to Start a Motivational Speaking Business”. [4]

Firstly, you could sell hard copies of your books and DVD / CD packs. Make sure to get permission beforehand. Secondly would be to make available the very same products through online stores. The possibilities of the third method seem limitless. One can sell products in electronic format. With your own website and/or countless web platforms like Udemy, you can develop online courses by way of example or even look for one on how to become motivational speaker. The sky is really the limit.

1.4.1  Writing Your Own Book

It is telling how many sources on the how to become a motivational speaker topic propose writing one’s own book. A wikiHow article [5] emphasises authoring your own manuscript because the majority of “motivational speakers are also writers”.

Writing and publishing a book is a “very powerful way to supercharge your career” according to “Getting Your Book Published for Dummies”. [6] Combined with “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published[7], these two books are highly recommended and are brimming with everything you need to know about it.

1.4.2  Self-Publishing is the Easiest Option

Self-publishing or independent-publishing as it is referred to at times, is the easiest way to make sure that your book comes to life on your own terms. With the exception of international best-sellers through the main stream publishers, self-publishing can actually be more profitable for the typical speaker. There are no huge percentages per book that are shared with other parties.  The other great plus is that you can keep your book “alive” as long as you want to. It can be sold after you have delivered a keynote speech or even way before your time on the stage.

When the client approaches you initially for a keynote quote, the book can also be included as an optional choice. Using this method and hardly lifting a finger, I have sold more than 1 500 copies of my book “Boosting Your Career – Tips from Top Executives”. This is not too shabby in the absence of any dedicated marketing drive or promotional efforts.

Selling books from the boot of your car – proverbially speaking – has another notable benefit as well. Every book sold, serves as a big business card to build your brand in the beginning and during the how to become a motivational speaker trek.

1.4.3  Electronic Publishing Revolutionizes the Playing Field

Electronic publishing has literally made it possible for anyone to get their ideas published. A familiar consideration is Amazon’s Kindle. They deal with all your questions on printing books, whether “hard copy” or in “eBook” format. There are “12 step-by-step topics” explaining everything from top to bottom. Insider tricks, educational videos and live connecting with Amazon’s experts is as easy as this commercial initiative will ever get.

Although a lot of water has run into the sea, since its publication, another source is “How to get your e-Book published”. [8] It deals with all the basics, as well as understanding digital rights management, getting reviews for you eBook, choosing between different formats like “print on demand” and building a website specifically for this. Practical content with creative titles are covered like “Getting on the Information Superhighway and Staying There”, “Reasons for Giving Your E-book Away”, “Working With Print-on-Demand Publishers”, “Writer Beware: Scams in Electronic Publishing” and “Issues Surrounding Intellectual Property”.

2.  Practising Your Presentation Skills to Become a Motivational Speaker

So far, the guess is that you have a speaking talent and are working hard to hone your presentation skills. A golden tongue is not honed overnight and entails unrelenting long-term improvement. A whole host of presentation skills courses are available to assist with how to become a motivational speaker. It comes in many formats and can be taken up periodically.

It seems a bit eccentric to do an online course on presentation skills or to practise in front of a coach as the only audience member. You want to be with a live audience even if it consists out of fellow participants at a public speaking course. It taps into audience dynamics and highlights your developmental needs.

The evergreen (no pun intended) advice of the legendary golfer Gary Player applies: “The harder I practise, the luckier I get”.  One needs lots of practical exercises. Maybe the 1:1 speaking coach is not that bad of an idea after all. Treat yourself and watch the emotive movie “The King’s Speech”.

2.1  Taming the Anxiety Monster

Aspiring speakers are surprised to hear that even established speaking professionals occasionally suffer from presentation jitters. Although it gets better through the years, every now and then anxiousness may hit like a bolt from the blue sky. One keynote speaker aptly summarised it as being either a “chronic sufferer” or a “recovering sufferer”.  Anthony Dejolde gives a couple of effective anti-nervous tips in How To Speak In Public Like A Pro, Even If It’s Your First Time. [9]

2.2  Getting in Touch with Toastmasters

In the how to become a motivational speaker quest, many professional speakers at some point in time, have joined Toastmasters. It remains the gold standard of cost-effective public speaking training. Their supportive environment, helpful feedback and regular speeches will lay a firm groundwork for any presenter. There is a good chance to find a Chapter close to you. Join them a.s.a.p. One of their mantras are that the road “starts with a single speech”.

To say that this organisation has perpetual reservoirs of knowledge and practical opportunities, would still be an understatement. With a presence in more than 140 countries, 16 000 clubs and memberships of over 350 000, they are by any measure, a world leader in the area of public speaking.

2.3  Presentation Tips

I once saw a presenter, as an illustration, who’s speaking skills were described afterwards by audience members as awful. Yet, he truly touched hearts and had an impact. How is that even possible? He made himself vulnerable, took the audience in his confidence and shared the story about his mom having an addiction. This sincere vulnerability consequently overcame his weakness in public speaking. Having mentioned this, professional speakers to-be have to ratchet up their communication skills to much higher levels.

It is also likely to overestimate one’s speaking ability early on in the how to become a motivational speaker progression. First of all, remember that PowerPoint is not the presenter, you are. It’s merely a communication aid. The speaker in front should always remain the main central focal point. If you are uninterruptedly reading from slides or incessantly staring at notes, then you are a reader, not a speaker.

A list of public speaking tips can continue indeterminably, but here are some… 

A Few Public Speaking Pointers

  • Capture the audience’s attention within the first couple of seconds. A boring and low energy lift-off sets you up for failure very early on.
  • Craft your humour sensibly. Personally, I prefer to use humour at intervals of about 10 minutes. Some use it more, others less. There is no set rule. Pride yourself on clean and appropriate humour that will lift people up, not break them down.
  • A professional speaker that cannot keep on time and doesn’t respect an event schedule should consider not using the word “professional” on their business cards. Presenters who are in love with their own voices and prominence are usually the ones enjoyed least by audiences.
  • Watch a video of yourself presenting to examine your body language. Get a trusted confidant to give you straight-forward feedback. Larger gestures and movements on stage make a huge difference.
  • Engage your listeners through eye contact. It’s a basic tenet of good interaction and also one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with an audience.
  • Story-telling is powerful beyond words. Think through your own experiences and through that of others. Align it with your theme. Practise the punchlines. People always relate to gripping, funny and heart-warming stories. Once upon a time…
  • Ensure that you project your voice. A monotonous droning style is excruciating to audiences and if you manage to observe their faces, you will see their pain.

Presentation skills and public speaking tips deserve detailed examination and these vital success factors will be scrutinised in a future article. You have to get as much ongoing practical training as possible if you are truly serious about how to become a motivational speaker.  

Finally, Also Read Part Two and Three

In How to Become a Professional Speaker: Part Two we will be looking at marketing yourself, deciding on a fee and getting in touch with the Professional Speakers Association.

In the last section, Becoming a Motivational Speaker: Part Three the following areas will be addressed: Your relationship with agents, tips on business travel and home office, continuous professional development and whether you are up to a speaking career.

References:

  1.  4 Qualities of Amazing Public Speakers / auth. Moore Desiree. – [s.l.] : Themuse.com, Accessed on 20 January 2018.
  2.  Purple Cow [Book] / auth. Godin Seth. – New York : Penguin Group, 2005. – pp. 49 – 50.
  3.  FabJob® Guide To Become a Motivational Speaker [E-Book] / auth. Goulet Tag. – Calgary : FabJob.com, 2003.
  4.  How to Start a Motivational Speaking Business / auth. Pilley Marjory. – Houston : Houston Chronicle, Accessed 20 January 2018. – Vols. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/start-motivational-speaking-business-2156.html.
  5.  How to Become a Motivational Speaker / auth. wikiHow. – [s.l.] : Wikihow.com, Accessed 19 January 2018.
  6.  Getting Your Book Published for Dummies [Book] / auth. Zackheim Sarah Parsons and Zackheim Adrian. – New York : Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2000.
  7.  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published [Book] / auth. Bykofsky Sheree and Sander Jennifer Basye. – New York : Penquin Group (USA) Inc, 2003.
  8.  How to Get Your E-Book Published [Book] / auth. Curtis Richard and Quick William Thomas. – Cincinnati : Writer’s Digest Books, 2002.
  9.  How To Speak In Public Like A Pro, Even If It’s Your First Time / auth. Dejolde Anthony. – [s.l.] : Lifehacker.com, Accessed 7 December 2017.