“Why do you think there are so many motivational speakers around?”

Could it be that hiring a motivational speaker doesn’t work?

Oh sure, the message a motivational speaker delivers works for a day or two, or maybe even a few weeks but, sooner or later, the happy feelings disappear, everyone settles back into the same old rut and the call goes out, “Quick, they’ve lost it. Bring in another motivational speaker to fire them back up.”

Rather like the story of the person who bought a new car and then a month later went back to the dealership, pulled the salesperson aside and said, “tell me about it again.” The motivation had gone and the happy feelings of anticipation had evaporated. The buyer needed to feel good again.

Motivation, like happiness, is a fleeting state of mind.

Motivation by it’s very definition is temporary: the word actually means to provide someone with a motive, or reward, for doing something. The human brain bases every decision it makes on the anticipation of a reward. In the case of motivation this usually means some form of stick, carrot or accolade: in other words we’ll stop beating you, give you a reward and tell you how wonderful things are. These motivational incentives are external and put control of your fate in the hands of other people.

In the case of happiness it’s the anticipation of a reward—when the outcome is uncertain—that brings moments of happiness. Professor Andrew Oswald, a behavioral economist at the University of Warwick in England studied the brain patterns of 18,420 participants using MRI data and came to this conclusion. That’s why we’re motivated to play the lottery, tell stories, shop, dream, fall in love, watch reality shows, play Solitaire, visit casinos, try new recipes, line-up for the latest iPhone, read motivational books, watch motivational TV shows and listen to a motivational speaker. Professor Oswald’s study is published in the National Academy of Sciences Journal.

But do these ‘make them happy and motivate them’ situations work with today’s audiences. They are increasingly hungry for meaning and fulfillment. People cry out in frustration to themselves and to each other in private because they know they are capable of more. They feel their lives lack purpose, direction and depth, their work lacks vitality and becomes mechanical. Company’s look to a motivational speaker to rally and energize them yet hundreds of millions of hard-working, well-intentioned people remain uninspired: they have lost their sense of awe. This is hardly surprising when you consider that:

  • millions of introverts are forced to masquerade as extroverts just to make a living and it doesn’t always come easy. They need an inspirational speaker not a motivational speaker.
  • millions of children are being raised by parents who have no people skills. Motivation can make them soft, decadent and narcissistic. They need inspiring.
  • we’re encouraged to be leaders and yet we live in a culture of blame and excuses. You cannot be a leader if the word “blame” is a part of your vocabulary. If you make excuses and blame others for your situation, be it the politicians, the doctor, the union, the weather or your ex: you place control and responsibility for the events of your life and your work outside of yourself. Thus forfeiting your ability to respond to circumstances. Leaders must inspire themselves and those around them.
  • we’re raised to avoid risk at all cost even though it’s the only way we can innovate and grow. If a motivational speaker persuades a person to step out of their comfort zone to try something new they’ll step back in again as soon as the message that motivational speaker delivered wears off. It takes inspiration to step out of your comfort zone, challenge the status quo, shake things up and keep doing it. Humans, corporations, communities and relationships only grow when there is a whiff of uncertainty in the air. Inspiration is the key to sustained growth and innovation.

Motivational Speaker or Inspirational Speaker?

Nicholas Boothman Motivational Speaker, Keynote Speaker, Inspirational Speaker and Author

Nicholas Boothman

When selecting your next motivational speaker it’s worth considering who in your organization needs motivating and who will benefit from being inspired.

It comes down to something called “locus,” or location, of control. In personality psychology, locus of control refers to the extent to which some people believe they control the events of their lives, while others place control of their lives in the hands of powerful others like doctors, politicians, the union, the boss, the weather, an ex-wife or husband and fate.

The concept of “locus of control” was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become a fundamental indicator of which factors influence motivation, inspiration and happiness. Rotter published a scale that measures and evaluates external and internal locus of control. Rotter’s research demonstrated that people who develop an internal locus of control believe that they are responsible for their own success while those with an external locus of control believe that external forces, like luck, determine their outcomes.

I recently heard a so-called expert telling a radio audience, “it’s almost impossible to quit caffeine cold turkey.” A person with external control would probably believe the expert and say, “See, that’s why I can’t quit. The expert says it’s impossible.” A person with internal control would probably dismiss the expert’s opinion as rubbish.

This example illustrates the dividing line between motivation and inspiration and, because most audiences are comprised of both internally and externally activated people, your next motivational speaker must craft his or her ‘motivational’ speech to fully connect with both.

Motivational Speaker vs. a Fully-Connected speaker

It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling real estate, designing concept cars, recommending the lamb chops over the chili con carne, looking for the perfect partner or giving the State of the Union address, you have to fully connect with your audience if you want to inspire them. They must feel they can trust you, have confidence in your logic and feel a strong tug at the heart strings.

“I trust you, you make sense and you move me.”

In other words they have to feel, deep down, “I trust you, you make sense, and you move me.” Without trust there is no communication and there can be no connection with the audience because all relationships are built on trust. Without logic your words and your ideas will not make sense. And without emotion people don’t feel good. Eighty percent of the time people make decisions based on their emotions, even though they think they’re being rational.

Happiness, at work and at play, comes from doing what comes naturally. The French call this “joie de vivre,” the joy of living. The ancient Greeks had a great word for it, “enthusiasm.” In English we call it “passion.” When trust, logic and emotion come together human potential goes up several notches to where passion and inspiration make great things happen.

Many a motivational speaker can deliver on one of these three fundamentals, some on two: only the great communicators on all three. Fully connecting – delivering on all three – is the hallmark of a truly inspirational speaker.

Motivational speaker or inspirational speaker? You decide.

The conference industry is filled with inspiring people who consistently challenge the status quo and shake up the business. They strive to provide unforgettable event experiences, constantly seeking out new ways to inspire audiences to love what they are doing.

It takes a special kind of passion and energy to challenge the status quo and shake things up like this. Al Pacino summed it up recently in an interview when Charlie Rose asked him, “How come you got all those amazing roles when thousands of other actors wanted the same roles?” “Because I didn’t want them,” Pacino replied. “I had to have them.”

Do you WANT a great speaker or do you HAVE TO HAVE a great speaker. WANT is motivation. HAVE TO HAVE is inspiration.

Learn more about Nicholas Boothman on his Speaking Page or contact Nicholas Boothman directly for speaking engagements and view his multi-million selling books available in over 30 languages worldwide. For an insider article on Keynote Speakers, be sure to read Keynote Speaker – The Different Types!