I’ve heard countless motivational speakers, but through listening to seven speakers an evening at many MoMondays in Toronto, I have figured out the magic formula.
The MoMonday events, which are spreading to other North American cities, mix people who earn their livings as keynote speakers with folks who look they have never before held a microphone. Between acts, the old friends I bring and the new friends I make at our table chat about who we like best.
Secretly, I think most of us would love to be reality talent show celebrity judges or at least phone in our votes. But impresario Michel Neray knows that turning motivational speaking into a competitive sport would deter people like to the teacher who moved us about the joy of amputees in Rwanda or the young wrestler who let us feel her jubilation at winning an Olympic medal.
Still, it seems natural to compare when you hear so many speakers back-to-back. Because they talk for only 10 minutes each, I can pay close attention. From several MoMonday evenings, here are the six tips I’ve come up with for aspiring motivational speakers:
- Tell a story. Lists, acronyms and other presentation techniques do not work in motivational talks. Your point, the motivation, will flow from the story.
- Include enough details so that we can relate but not so many that we are grossed out. For example, the speaker who disclosed his childhood sexual abuse told us just enough that we could feel his pain and marvel at his forgiveness. The woman who complained generally about her crappy year did not win our sympathy or entice us to follow her formula for success.
- Be funny. Almost all the best speakers have opened my heart with laughter, then punched me in the gut with their truth.
- Paint pictures. I can still see the woman who talked about making a successful sales call in a cat woman costume. Seeing as PowerPoint is not available and props are seldom used effectively, the speakers chosen by my judging panels rely on their words to create lasting images.
- Avoid “early Oprah,” as fellow judge Leslie called it this week — woo-woo words, pseudo scientific jargon, meaningless certifications and other high-fallutin’ terms most of us are reluctant to admit we don’t really understand. Plus “early Oprah” does not mix well with alcoholic beverages and macho men.
- Be yourself. Often the professional speakers are not as compelling as the amateurs. Our judging panels set the bar higher. We usually roll our eyes, shake our heads or mutter “too slick.” We don’t want to hear a canned talk you have given to thousands; we want an intimate conversation with you.
Of course, it’s easier to judge than do. So today I submitted my speaker application for MoMonday.
From my first ballet recital at four to my recent gigs motivating people to write like they talk only better, I love an audience. But can I win over this crowd? What will those celebrity judging panels say?
Got any advice?