13 Secrets the Best Motivational Speakers Know
Experts agree: Whether speaking to a few coworkers or an auditorium of hundreds, these few simple secrets from motivational speakers will make or break you.
- The key to a good speech is to have a surprising truth. Find something that everyone thinks is one way, and explain that really it’s this other way. If you can achieve that, you’ve hit a home run.
Silence is deafening. Most people think the way to add emphasis is to raise your voice. But if you really want to attract attention, be silent for a moment. I always pause before I say something important, and all the heads that were looking down jerk up.
- Don’t make it about you. Here’s the key to good networking: Think about what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. When you meet new people, don’t make the mistake of marketing yourself. Instead, think about someone you know who would be helpful to them. Connect two people, and suddenly you’re a hero.
- Delivery matters. When I have an important speech, I record it and listen to it repeatedly so there will be no mistakes whatsoever.
- Don’t let the unexpected stop you. Last spring, I was giving a speech in a multiplex theater, and the power died. It could have been terrible, but it was great. First one person turned on his phone’s flashlight to light me up. Then everyone did. And I just kept going.
- Educate yourself. Never before have we had more power to educate ourselves. If you give a smartphone to a Masai warrior in Africa who’s never seen technology, he will have access to more information than the president of the United States did in the year 2000. That’s a stunning statistic; take advantage of it.
- Want to get noticed? I built my career by soliciting exotic international gigs where I had credibility because I was an American from Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, I got credibility at home because I was speaking internationally. That one trick made me an established keynote speaker.
- Smaller audiences are murder… …because people lose focus. The sweet spot is any group of about 150 to 200 people; that size allows you to establish a collective crowd reaction.
- Get your juices flowing. Stuck in a creative rut? Try this: Look to your left and focus on whatever random object is there; then think about how your life or your problem is like that object. It’s a simple exercise, but it can help get your creative juices flowing.
- Pick a victim. Often I’ll pick out a person in the crowd who has a big sourpuss expression, and I’ll make it my mission to make that person laugh. If I can do that by the end of my speech, then that’s success for me.
- Be prepared to start from scratch. You have no idea what they do to us backstage. One time I had a keynote speech that was cut from half an hour of talking time to seven minutes because the speakers in front of me were going on too long. So I ripped up the speech I had, wrote a few notes, and winged it.
- When I’m speaking, I can see you. Really. If you’re texting, I know. If you’ve got buds in your ears, I know. Usually I let it go. But if you’re distracting the people around you, I may have to call you out.
- The best speakers don’t always command the highest fees. Case in point: Rutgers paid Jersey Shore reality TV star Snooki $32,000 in 2011 for two Q&A sessions. That was $2,000 more than it paid Nobel Prize–winning author Toni Morrison to deliver a commencement address.