Everything You Wanted to Know About Motivational Speakers

What defines someone as a motivational speaker?

For a long time, it seemed that anyone who spoke professionally was labeled as a motivational speaker, regardless of the actual content of their presentations. Lumping all professional speakers into the category of “motivational speakers,” though, presents challenges for meeting professionals and frustration for speakers who feel that “motivational speaker” is the appropriate category for them.

According to Wikipedia, a motivational speaker is “a professional speaker, facilitator or trainer who speaks to audiences, usually for a fee.” Motivational speakers are often utilized as keynote speakers to open or close events in dynamic fashion. A typical presentation from a motivational speaker ranges from 45 to 90 minutes, although some are as short as 30 minutes or as long as two hours.

Motivational speakers come from many different backgrounds. While the motivational speaking profession requires no formal training or certification, those who speak professionally and succeed in the profession possess the proven ability to lift up, educate and motivate their audiences. The best speakers can engage the audience and share best practices, experiences and life lessons without boring the audience. They do so through the use of humor, storytelling, originality, and the refrain from canned speeches.

How are motivational speakers utilized in meetings, conferences and conventions?

A motivational speaker is typically engaged to generate an immediate response among presentation participants, boosting enthusiasm and energy while delivering relevant, practical content coinciding with a meeting’s theme or objectives. Meeting planners seeking more in-depth content typically engage a speaker to lead a workshop or seminar session that generally lasts between three hours and several days.

What is the difference between a motivational speaker and an inspirational speaker?

Wikipedia describes a motivational speaker as one who has “the proven ability to lift up, educate and motivate their audiences.” In contrast, Wikipedia defines an inspirational speaker as one who “address[es] audiences with the aim of inspiring the listeners to higher values or engendering understanding about life and themselves.”

There are indeed similarities between motivational speakers and inspirational speakers, and someone could be labeled as both simultaneously. One subtle difference, though, is that inspirational speakers are often known for having a warm, encouraging message, sometimes based on a story of overcoming great obstacles. Motivational speakers, on the other hand, may be more dynamic and energetic, with a presentation geared toward “firing up” an audience.

To inspire, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is to fill with enlivening or exalting emotion. To motivate is to provide with an incentive; move to action; impel. Note that inspiration connects with emotion; motivation connects with action.

Who are the most popular motivational speakers?

There are a number of outstanding motivational speakers available to enrich a meeting, conference or convention. Some of the most popular, most requested and most heralded include Tony Alessandra, Afterburner, Peter Vidmar, Carol Grace Anderson, Marcus Buckingham, Jackie Freiberg and Kevin Freiberg. Additional motivational speaker candidates can be found by viewing the rosters of professional speakers bureaus.