Motivational Speakers

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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A lot of people are surprised to learn that motivational speakers are more than just a loose-knit bunch of ex-CEOs, former athletes, and spiritual leaders. In fact, many professional speakers are members of their own trade organization. It's funny to think of someone as a professional speaker, but more than 3,500 people qualify as such, and that's only counting the registered members of the National Speakers Association.

In addition to these accredited motivational speakers, there are thousands and thousands of others who make a full-time career (and a lucrative one at that) from the podium. Most people are familiar with keynote speakers, who typically deliver hour-long or 90-minute talks that constitute the evening's "main event." What most people don't realize, however, is that there are dozens of other types of speakers.

Common Types of Motivational Speakers

Inspirational speakers are some of the most popular guests at dinners, banquets, seminars, training sessions, and charity events. Why? First, inspirational speakers have often bested some major obstacle in their lives such as cancer, racial or ethnic discrimination, or physical handicap, all of which makes for a compelling story. Second, many audience members have contended with some sort of personal tragedy in their own lives, which makes inspirational speakers' stories all the more relevant and educational.

Celebrity speakers are another widely sought-after group of guests, for obvious reasons. Presumably, these celebrities have done something to warrant their fame, though in our reality TV-obsessed culture this is arguably less and less the case. Still, speakers who enjoy wide recognition for their achievements can be an event planner's best friends. Put Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, or Michael Jordan on your stage, and you'll have no trouble selling out your 1,000-dollar-a-head auditorium seats.

Lesser-Known Types of Motivational Speakers

Not all motivational speakers boast 40 billion dollars worth of assets, a presidential legacy, or six NBA championship rings, and yet the professional speaker circuit still manages to thrive. That's because the bulk of speakers consists of normal folks who have managed to attain some sort of stature in their chosen field. It could be arc-welding, deep sea exploration, or simply software sales--it doesn't matter. What does matter is that the speaker is able to connect with audiences in a meaningful way.

Oftentimes, these educational speakers are brought in to train employees to use a specialized piece of equipment, a new sales technique, or a customer care system. From the event organizer's point of view, this represents a real value, especially if he or she is the head of the corporation, school, or charity that stands to profit from the lecture. If a CEO can spend 5,000 dollars to help 100 employees sell 100 dollars worth of additional goods each, that CEO has just doubled his or her money, at least in theory.

How Motivational Speakers Work

Some motivational speakers spend the bulk of their days doing something other than speaking--that's why they're qualified to address large groups. There are, in fact, some speakers who do nothing but speak full time and have done little else of distinction in their careers. To some event chairs, this is wholly beside the point; if they can deliver a first-rate speech, that's all that matters. Others would prefer to have a speaker with an established track record elsewhere.

In either case, the majority of motivational speakers have someone else organize and facilitate their engagements for them, especially if they're considered "high-profile" guests. The result of this has been the growth of speakers "bureaus" that function as brokers or middlemen. These representatives can be hugely helpful in the process of booking a speaker and cementing his or her travel arrangements and accommodations, so they are not to be overlooked by event planners eager to save a buck. To the contrary, they can end up saving these event chairs hundreds or even thousands of dollars, not to mention major headaches.

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