So you want to learn how to give a motivational speech. Maybe it’s for a motivational speech for work, or maybe it’s for a school project. You have an idea of what you want to speak about, but how do you actually create your talk? How do you give a motivational speech? And what makes a talk “good”?
In this post, you can read answers to all of those questions. You’ll learn tips to go through the process to create a great motivational speech from idea to completion. And you’ll learn how to write and give an inspiring motivational speech. Need examples of a motivational speech? Some examples will be at the end of this post!
What is a motivational speech?
A motivational speech is simply a talk meant to get your audience to see or do something. Many of the practices that you can do to prepare for a motivational speech apply to any other type of talk!
The best motivational speakers on the planet only have one or two talks they do and those talks are insanely good. Start by developing just one, really amazing talk that resonates deeply with your intended audience. The best marketing for your motivational speaking business is a great talk, so it is worth it to put in the hours for this part. Yes, even if your first speaking gig is a free talk at a community center.
Keep in mind: Your audience is always going to be asking two questions: “so what?” and “now what?” So what means, what does this have to do with me? Now what is what you want the audience to do as a result of your talk. Give them action steps to implement what you taught them. If they hear you speak but literally don’t do anything differently, what’s the point?
Giving a motivational speech is almost like mapping for a road trip. If you are going to go on a road trip, it’s easier to have a paper map or Google Maps to tell you where you’re going. But if you just get in the car and you start driving, and people are in the car asking you where we’re going, you’re in trouble! But by organizing and structuring your talk, you can lead the audience to your conclusions. And you can effectively answer those two questions: “so what?” and “now what?”
How to give a motivational speech
Want to learn how to write a motivational speech? Read on for 3 steps to make it unforgettable:
1. Begin with the end in mind and tell a story
Have you ever been left at the end of a speech wondering, “What was the point of this talk?” Don’t do that to your audience. When creating your talk, determine the destination that you want to take them to. Once you pick a point, then you can work backwards and reverse engineer how to get your audience to that place.
The best way to do the point of your talk is to find where your audience’s needs converge with your passions. Think about what problems you like to solve and what topics you want to talk about and look out into the world. Who is asking for solutions to those problems? Become the expert on that audience and commit yourself to meeting their needs. (for more on finding your big idea, check out this episode of The Speaker Lab podcast)
Okay, so now you have your topic, the idea you want to communicate. Now what? One of the best ways to create a memorable, relatable talk is by integrating first-person stories. You don’t have to have lost a limb or scaled Mount Everest. Keep an eye out in your everyday life for little moments that can contribute to your message. Write them down and integrate them into your talk. As you get more speaking gigs, you will very quickly learn which stories are a hit and which are total flops…which is all part of the process!
Humans relate to stories. We connect to stories. Funny stories. Sad stories. Inspirational stories. We love stories. So tell them. Lots of them. Stories will keep your audience engaged and are also easier for you to memorize. Telling stories that you lived and experienced generally makes the story better for you and the audience. For the audience, they can often times find themselves in your story. For you as the speaker, it’s much easier (and more powerful) to tell a story that you lived versus one you read in a book.
2. Write out your material
Professional speakers don’t just make stuff up. They don’t write a few thoughts on a notecard and then shoot from the hip for an entire presentation. They take the time to write and carefully craft their material.
Oftentimes speakers want to have Powerpoint or Keynote slides to use as notes for their presentation. This is lazy. Don’t do this. Any slides you use should be an enhancement not a replacement of your talk. If you’re just going to stand up there and read off the screen, what does the audience need you for?
Use Powerpoint to show images that make a point. Some speakers will build their talk around their slides. Start with the talk FIRST and then determine if slides are needed or necessary. Slides are generally most effective for showing images or videos that can’t be conveyed in words. For example, if you were in some death-defying crash and that’s part of your talk, it’s one thing to tell that story, but it’s incredibly more powerful if you show pictures or video of it all.
Consider writing out your material. Professional speakers don’t just write a few thoughts on a notecard and then shoot from the hip for an entire presentation. They take the time to write and carefully craft their material. There is no right way to create a talk. You don’t need to memorize your talk like a script, but manuscripting can help you to think through the entire presentation and to know exactly how it all flows together. Some speakers prefer to have an outline with several bullet points and flesh it out from there. Every speaker is different. Find a process that works for you. (For more on fleshing out your talk, check out this episode of the Speaker Lab podcast here.)
3. On stage, be an amplified version of you
The bigger the venue, the bigger you need to be on stage. The way you would communicate to a group of 10 people is very different than how you would need to communicate to a room of 10,000. Both should be an authentic version of you, but simply amplified to the setting. The bottom line is don’t try to be something you’re not on stage. Be you.
Keep it slow and steady. When you are talking really fast, it becomes difficult for the audience to follow. It’s hard to keep up and process. Plus the faster you talk, the harder it is to understand what you’re saying. So slow down and enunciate. Give the audience the chance to keep up with where you’re going.
Don’t be afraid of the silence. The silence to a speaker can feel deafening but it can be powerful. Silence shows confidence that you’re in control of the talk and the room and you’re continuing to guide them towards a common purpose. When you make a strong point, don’t rush to the next line. Stop and let it hang there. The silence is your friend.
For some reason, there’s this misconception that the audience is out to get you. Like they are rooting for you to fail. Nothing could be further from the truth. The audience wants you to do well. They don’t want it to be a train wreck. If they’re going to spend their precious time sitting in your session, they want it to be good. They are on your side. So relax. Take a deep breath and enjoy yourself.
By following these steps, you can set yourself up for success. Many external variables help make a motivational speech go well. Beyond working these steps before giving a motivational speech, you should try to put as many of those variables in your favor as possible. Don’t stay up late the night before at a reception. Don’t eat a massive pasta bowl before you go on stage. Try to avoid speaking during a slot when most of the audience will be distracted. If all the variables are stacked against you but you crush your talk, it can still come across as “meh” to the audience.
Keep in mind: Speaking is like playing jazz – you don’t have to give a talk the same way every time. You can improvise and mix it up sometimes, and you don’t need to plan out every hand gesture or movement or exact line you’ll use. Some of that is fine, but also be present enough with the audience that you can play jazz when the moment calls for it.
If you have a dream to inspire others with your message, you’ve probably considered taking your passion to the stage. Becoming a motivational speaker might sound like a charmed life in many ways. And while it does take hard work, it totally is. Want to go deeper and learn how to become a motivational speaker? Check out our article, “How to Become a Motivational Speaker” here!
In the meantime, here are a few rapid fire FAQs about motivational speeches. Happy speaking!
What are some examples of a motivational speech?
Some of the best motivational speeches have been at graduations from a school or training. One example is David Foster Wallace’s famous “This is Water” speech, delivered at Kenyon College in 2005. Foster Wallace’s big idea, that liberal arts should be about taking a step outside one’s own point of view, is brought home by his analogy of a fish that can’t discern the water it swims in.
Another example of a famous motivational speech is academic researcher Brené Brown’s breakout 2010 TEDx Houston talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”, which became a top 5-viewed TED Talk online.
Looking for more examples of a motivational speech? Check out this article here.
How much money can you make as a motivational speaker?
The runway to a successful business is often slow. But many speakers make 6+ figures a year within a couple years of starting their speaking business!
What degree you need to become a motivational speaker?
It does not matter! You can have no degree or a PhD in whatever field you like and still be a great motivational speaker.
Can anyone become a motivational speaker?
How long does it take to become a motivational speaker?
This may vary quite a bit, primarily based on your state in life.