If you examine the podium professionals that have top speakers bureau representation, you’ll see members of the business and political elite.
For example, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin brand, is prominently displayed at one of the agencies that represents me. Clearly, he is a business celebrity, in the same way that Donald Trump deserves this moniker.
But strictly speaking, are they MOTIVATIONAL speakers? Not really. Their message may be, “Here’s how I did it,” but the same talk won’t also promise, “And you can, too.”
Trump, for instance, came from wealth. Some of his detractors might chuckle that “He was born on third base, and thinks he hit a triple!”
In fairness, though, he didn’t lose his family’s fortune. He built on it, but that is a far different challenge than starting from scratch. As some say, success is really measured by the distance we have traversed from where we started the journey.
A motivational speaker, to be successful and to have his or her message resonate, needs to tell a story to which ordinary folks can relate.
Consider that bloke that was stuck in the rocks during a hiking trip, all alone. To survive, he had to sacrifice a limb.
That story became a movie, and a testament to overcoming apparent helplessness.
“If he could face that, and handle such excruciating pain, I can certainly manage a boss that’s in my face,” one realizes, leaving a speech made by the survivor.
If you have raised yourself from failure to success, or if you have survived trying times, you have the makings of a successful motivational speaker. If not, you run the risk of sounding like a naive Pollyana.
I can state this even more plainly. To really motivate others, it helps if you have suffered, and your story, your speech, is about overcoming a specific hardship or handicap.
A Little League baseball player wouldn’t be called on by a major league team to motivate its slumping players. “What can he tell us?” they would be wondering.
But if that same youngster went for three years without getting a hit, and then finally popped a walk-off home run in the last at-bat of his last season, clinching the championship for his team, then perhaps he does have a very valuable “Never quit!” message to offer, to anyone, young or older.
So, what career advice would I offer to an aspiring motivational speaker? Transform your tragedies into treasure. Share your worst of times, and tell us how you overcame them.
If you don’t have any serious failures to your credit, then wait a while. Life will certainly deliver at least a few, and when those dark days come, live them fully, while appreciating that your ultimate recovery could help thousands and even millions of others to achieve.