What is a Motivational Speaker?

A motivational speaker, also known as an inspirational speaker, delivers speeches with the intention of motivating or inspiring an audience. They often encourage their audience to look at things from a different and perspective, and motivate them to take positive action in their lives.

Many people have a life experience that can motivate others. The capacity to speak publicly about that experience, however, is another matter entirely. Speaking publicly on a regular basis is not for everyone. That requirement of the job, therefore, is a primary qualifier for working as a motivational speaker.

What does a Motivational Speaker do?

The ultimate goal of a motivational speaker is to change people profoundly on an emotional and/or mental level, and to help them make some kind of professional or personal change in their lives and within themselves.

A motivational speaker standing in front of her audience, smiling and looking enthusiastic.

People naturally tend to focus on negative issues and problems. A motivational speaker will help an audience to focus on the many opportunities instead, by using any number of persuasive speech tactics to inspire and motivate. 

Some speakers may be hired to speak as special guests, and others travel a planned circuit of speaking engagements. The more popular motivational speakers may also write and sell inspirational books, dvd’s, and appear on television.

Almost all motivational speakers relate their own personal experience to an audience, which means they can come from any kind of background and use that information to inspire others.

Not everyone evaluates their significant life experiences to determine if those experiences could be helpful to others. A motivational speaker is constantly reflecting on their own life to see what information would be helpful to their audiences or clients. They speak in a variety of venues like schools, company boardrooms, community centres, and conferences. 

Various areas of expertise:

Personal Development
This is the type of speaker that is most commonly thought of when “motivational speaker” is mentioned. They inspire and guide listeners to find purpose and meaning in their life. They may give talks on motivation, inspiration, or overcoming adversity, which in turn helps people to take action and see the world or their situation from a new perspective.

Business
These types of speakers provide encouragement and guidance to business teams at varying levels, from sales people to executive directors. Business speakers usually have experience in business and are able to share their own stories of success (and failure). They cultivate enthusiasm, help teams develop a common purpose, and inspire them to improve their work. 

Youth Mentor
The goal of a youth mentor is to give kids some positive guidance and a sense of direction in their formative years. They hope to inspire young people to lead healthy, ambitious lives, which may include topics like taking school seriously, finding their calling in life, studying hard, and learning how to interact with others in a healthy way. They may address young people at schools, churches, community centres, and a variety of other venues. 

Community
These types of speakers give motivational talks about important social and community issues. Their goal is to educate the public and give them the power to take positive action, or they may give a speech that rallies people together for a good cause.

Pros and cons to consider while contemplating this profession:

Pros

  • Putting together a presentation that is informative, engaging, and amusing is challenging and rewarding.
  • To be considered an expert in a specific area, whose words are valued and sought after is an honor.
  • Motivational speakers derive satisfaction and pride from knowing that they have helped others learn something or understand how to deal with a situation or circumstance.
  • Established speakers are in demand internationally and are some of the highest paid professionals in the world.

Cons

  • Many individuals looking to make a career of motivational speaking hold another full time job while they develop their presentations, gain exposure, and seek out paying clients.
  • Many motivational speakers speak on the same topic over and over again. Keeping their material fresh and adapting it for different audiences is demanding.
  • Motivational speakers work on stage in front of audiences. 'Off days’ are not confined to their office cubicle and a few coworkers.
  • Motivational speakers who frequently travel to deliver their presentations may find it difficult to achieve their desired life/work balance.

Are you suited to be a motivational speaker?

Motivational speakers have distinct personalities. They tend to be artistic individuals, which means they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive. They are unstructured, original, nonconforming, and innovative. Some of them are also enterprising, meaning they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if motivational speaker is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a Motivational Speaker like?

A motivational speaker tends to work irregular hours depending on their speaking engagements, travel requirements, and how much time they need to write or refine their speeches. Highly successful speakers are in demand and will be called on to present at conferences and events all over the world. This means they can have very heavy travel schedules. 

The job doesn’t always stop once the conference speaking engagement is over. Many successful motivational speakers also write books, produce seminars, videos or podcasts, and may also appear on television.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it take to become a Motivational Speaker?

While motivational speakers may have university degrees, vocational licenses, or other certifications, none of these credentials specifically or formally qualifies them for the role. What aspiring motivational speakers quickly learn is that being an expert in a particular field or on a specific subject is often not enough. The most common characteristic among those who succeed in motivational speaking is that they have a unique talent or passion or story or perspective born of a compelling experience – one that is undeniably inspirational and therefore worth sharing with other people.

Because of this broad-based requirement, this profession is comprised of individuals from every walk of life, with widely varying personal and educational histories; from the high-powered and pioneering executive or former politician to the once homeless man or woman whose stirring story started on cold and lonely streets. These diverse and inspiring perspectives define the motivational and attention-grabbing part of the career. The speaker aspect, though, is what allows those perspectives to be shared.

In other words, motivational speakers cannot motivate unless they can effectively organize their thoughts and comfortably speak publically. Learning how to project their voice, how to speak with intent, how and when to pause for emphasis or inject humor, how to understand body language; and how to write, structure, and time material are all foundational skills that every motivational speaker must develop.

A story to tell. Advanced speaking and presentation abilities. These, are, of course, essential. Still, even more is asked of successful motivational speakers. They must understand and embrace the business of their craft; how to market, sell, and deliver it.

As might be expected in a career that is so wide-ranging, there are no state licensure requirements for motivational speakers. However, the National Speakers Association (NSA) offers the voluntary Certified Speaking Professional designation to speakers who meet specific standards of experience and earnings and can provide client endorsements.

Are Motivational Speakers happy?

Motivational speakers rank among the happiest careers. Overall they rank in the 99th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

This finding is expected and encouraging. Motivational speakers often speak about how to be successful, engaged in better relationships, and happy. If they are fulfilling their motivation to lead others to happiness, then surely they must be happy.

What are Motivational Speakers like?

Based on our pool of users, motivational speakers tend to be predominately artistic people. While there may be some science to motivating and inspiring people, the work is essentially creative, imaginative, emotional, and artistic.

Steps to becoming a Motivational Speaker

Becoming a motivational speaker is more about experience than education. Certainly, many speakers have a university degree. But it is also true that many do not. This is because success in the field is not necessarily equated with academic expertise or knowledge.

It is, rather, often the outcome of fate or happenstance, of facing unexpected challenge, of overcoming it, and of finding in the journey a relevant and inspirational story worthy of sharing with an audience. Therefore, standard or required steps to becoming a motivational speaker, such as a ‘earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree,’ do not exist.

The path to the career is always individual and unique. And it is this truth that makes the occupation so fascinating, because anyone with a compelling story to tell – and the skill to tell it – can become a motivational speaker. Where the career paths of all motivational speakers do intersect is the point at which they have identified their experience as exceptional and potentially inspirational. At this stage, there are concrete steps to follow, which can ultimately set a speaking career in motion.

Motivational Speakers are also known as:
Inspirational Speaker Keynote Speaker