As a busy motivational speaker, I have made a study of the meetings industry and the business of speaking. Over a decade ago I made the decision I wanted to serve corporate and association audiences as a keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies / EmCee. Am I among the best motivational speakers? Well that is subjective. But I do enjoy what I do and am proud to be part of this dynamic profession.
It Is Not About Fame
The best motivational speakers in the world are not only the famous motivational speakers. We often think of people like Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Oprah Winfrey, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, Eric Thomas, Zig Ziglar, Les Brown, Robin Sharma, etc.. These great speakers are inspiring people, but to find a speaker that is right for your conference is not about fame.
When we say “best” there are many ways to slice that pie. Who is the best for any one event is not the same. Keynote speakers are not a commodity item. What works for a high school assembly is not necessarily going to be the right fit for a corporate sales event. There are many layers to determining who will be the right fit.
There is no correct speaking fee or budget. The organization hosting the event has to make decisions based on the economics of their events. Celebrity speakers cost more money> Obviously hiring one of today’s top 10 motivational speakers would be amazing, but it is not realistic for every meeting.
Once you have figured out your budget, you can begin your search for the best motivational speaker for your conference. No matter how much money you have to spend, there is a great speaker available for your event.
Finding The Best Speakers
When seeking motivational speakers you have to be clear on the purpose of the role in your event. Is this a plenary speaker, a breakout speaker, a closing keynote speaker, etc..? The types of speakers serve different purposes and provide unique outcomes. A motivational author is not the same an industry consultant in their “how” and “why”. Be clear as to what you desire, and then begin your search.
When looking for a speaker a good place to start is to talk to other to discover their list of recommended professional speakers. Beyond your peers, another great source is to ask the speakers you have employed in the past. The best motivational speakers have friends who also speak for a living and know who is good. Finally, you can call a speakers bureau. These businesses are designed to assist meeting planners in discovering the right speakers for their events.
7 Traits of the Best Motivational Speakers
While no two motivational speakers are the same, the ones I admire have some unique traits that you will not find with everyone you hire. Depending on the goals you have for your event, some of these may not resonate with every planner. But all are worth considering.
- They have experience. Speaking is not easy. Many say that public speaking is one of their biggest fears. To be among the best motivational speakers one has to have had a lot of experience on stage. It is common these days for people to jump into the business of speaking without having fine tuned their presentation skills. To really be great, a speaker should have presented over 100 times. A rule of thumb among those with longevity as speakers is you do not discover your real talent until after 300 professional level talks. It is a good idea when hiring speakers to ask about their experience.
- They are a storyteller. A great speaker knows how to tell great stories. The human brain is wired to learn through parable. If you look back in history you will find that generations were educated via stories. The brain retains the information when it is weaved into a compelling story. In recent years many speakers sold themselves based only on credentials. Yes, smart is good. But smart can also be dull. Hire experts who know how to tell stories.
- They engage with your audience before, during, and after your event. Too many speakers have the skill of getting to the airport 20 minutes after saying “thank you very much”. They speak and leave. But many audiences want to have time to engage with speakers. Look for speakers who will write articles in advance or produce video, know how to be interactive during their talk, and ones who will stay afterward to talk with people. Also, a speaker who will participate on social media with your attendees is a bonus.
- They have expertise. With so many people getting into the speaking business, many are speaking on topics they think will “sell” vs talking about subjects where they have passion. You want a speaker who has done the work and the research on their subject area, not just someone who sees a popular topic and jumps on the bandwagon.
- They use humor. A funny speaker does make a positive impact. While those who are boring roll their eyes at humor, the speakers we usually remember are the ones who are fun and funny. Humor is one way of being interactive in a keynote. When humans laugh together they bond over a shared experience. This does not mean the speaker needs to be a comedian, but hiring a funny speaker can give a boost to the shared experiences of your participants.
- They stay on time. The best motivational speakers can fit their talk into whatever timeframe you give them. They do not argue with the planner about getting an extra 15 minutes more. Seasoned professionals speakers can adjust their keynote address to match the needs of the event (even at the last minute).
- They are flexible. In a world where meeting organizers are looking to create unique experiences, the same old “sage on the stage” speaker will not work. The best motivational speakers are willing to work with clients to customize fresh programs. This may not mean an hour of talking, and might mean they have to be engaged in more than one hour of the event. Speakers who are flexible are the ones who will be working in the future.
Thom Singer is a business motivational speaker and a professional master of ceremonies / EmCee. He is the host of the entrepreneur podcast, “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” and the author of 12 books. Thom speaks regularly to corporate and association audiences about how to get across the gap between potential and performance. If your team is looking to reach their full potential, then Thom might be the best motivational speaker for your event.