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How Motivating Are Motivational Speakers... Like Really?

Jack happened to find a TEDx Talk that popped up on his Facebook feed. Except that this talk became a sudden ‘a-ha’ moment for him. Delivered by the popular conference speaker Ellis Watson, the talk was about disrupting yourself to take risks and never stop learning.

Jack instantly decided that he was going to go home and learn something tonight. Yes, he would be tired after the long commute, and he would be returning home to his attention-hungry children. He would also end up missing that crucial NBA playoff. But so ‘motivated’ was he, that he wasn’t going to let any of these challenges stand in his way!

That evening, Jack went home to experiment with a new recipe for lasagna he'd downloaded from YouTube. And wonder of wonders, it turned out to be delicious! The accolades from the missus and children instantly motivated him to keep up with the learning process. The next day, Jack decided to check out a few more cooking videos during lunch. That's when disaster struck - a couple of colleagues caught Jack watching the videos, and quickly made him the butt of jokes by calling him 'The Masterchef Husband'!

By the end of the day, Jack was in no mood to try anything new. Watson’s words were forgotten like those boring history chapters from school, and things were back to square one.

Motivational Speaker

So... Do Motivational Speakers Really Work?

The diplomatic answer would be Yes... and No. Motivation finds a way to creep into our lives. Right from the typical 'rags to riches' stories to the tales of people being courageous enough to quit their corporate jobs and embrace a life of travel, we get baited into clicking on such links purely for two reasons:

How did they do it? How can I do it?

Like Jack, many of us will try to emulate certain steps from the theory, fail to succeed and brand the entire formula as a failure. The truth is that motivational challenges cannot be achieved via generalisation. They have to be customised based on the person and the problem.

The problem that Jack faced was about being judged, and the fear of becoming a laughing stock instantly demotivated him. This shows that the motivational speaker’s speech did affect him, but not strongly enough for it to become a way of life.

But... Does it work?

There are different types of motivational speakers. There are those who’ve personally undergone unimaginable hardships to succeed in life. There are others who simply treat it as an occupation, a way of earning their livelihoods. The truth is that there is no scientific evidence that can prove the efficacy of motivational speakers. But those who participate in such seminars and believe in it, swear by it.

Take the case of the international motivational speaker, Tony Robbins. His six-day seminar tickets are available for a whopping $5000. Robbins essentially doles out a crash course on life during his seminar. His website suggests that through the course, you can “connect with your ultimate purpose and ignite your passion to achieve the ultimate vision of your life, career, finances, health and relationships".

So maybe, motivational speakers do work! It wouldn't come as a surprise then, to call upon a motivation speaker where his/her subject of expertise (motivation) is most needed - at the workplace, for the employees.

Motivational Speakers For Your Employees

Companies often bring in coaches and motivational speakers who can get the employees to take a step back and see the big picture. These speakers are not necessarily from the same sphere of work. For example, Google once invited Jane Goodall to share her experience during a TGIF meet. Goodall has dedicated her life to save chimpanzees. Her story was riveting and inspirational enough to receive a standing ovation!

Many people do remember her talk in general, but do not know the way to incorporate its lessons into their own lives. They aren’t and may never be Jane Goodall. However, it did inspire the audience to pick a cause they love and start working on it. It was all about making a difference, no matter how small.

From a company's perspective, you need to think through on the kind of motivational speakers you bring to your employees. It is most likely to be a mandatory session, and the most important thing to realise is that motivation cannot be mandated. It comes when one is first willing to open up and learn. Here are some tips for organising an excellent motivation session for your colleagues.

1. Motivation is a choice

Not everyone would like to be a part of a motivation session (even if they know that you are going great lengths to get the speaker). You can start by giving out a choice and laying down the direct benefits of attending the session. You can even share previous videos of your speaker. Also, organise the course during a regular workday so that people don’t have to compromise on family time to attend it. Make it simple and easy for them to choose to be a part of the session.

2. Motivation comes from touch-and-feel inspiration

Share a background about your audience with your motivational speaker. It may allow them to tailor their session a bit so that the audience can relate to what they are saying. If you have a reasonably young staff that has joined you right after college, many may be looking for inspiration and direction. If you have the middle-aged millennials, they might be fighting hard to overcome stress at work and home, juggling parenting and presentations. If you have a slightly older and mature staff, they may be motivated by doing things that make them feel young and happy.

3. Motivation comes from action

Your staff should be able to implement the lessons learned from the motivational session in their daily life. Allow them to track and share their milestones and be sure to reward them every time they succeed.

4. Motivation comes from leading the way

Motivation needs to trickle down and percolate into your organisation. For this, the higher-ups need to exemplify what the motivational speaker says and lead the way for the rest of the staff to follow.

5. Motivation comes from marginal gains

The theory of marginal gains is that performing just a little bit better in multiple areas can get tremendous benefits. If you see an improvement, it is worth an applause.

6. Motivation comes from fear

Baby birds don’t learn to fly unless they lose their safety net and get pushed out of the nest by their parents. In a specific sense, the reward attached to success is as much a motivator as a downside attached to failure.

7. Motivation comes from knowing your strengths and weaknesses

4-year-old Rehaan wanted to participate in a local drawing competition. Rehaan’s mother went to great lengths to ensure he practised his topic every day, sometimes while loving it, sometimes while hating it, but always learning and getting better. Rehaan ended up winning a prize at the competition. It made the little boy realise his strengths, and that effort and dedication would be rewarded. The same example can be emulated for the employees. It is all about motivating them to hone their skills and work harder on their weaknesses.

8. Motivation needs to be frequent and consistent

The problem with listening to motivational speakers is that a lot of the initial enthusiasm disappears after a while. To sustain it, each employee can become someone else’s motivation buddy. It’ll help keep track over a period.

Good motivational speakers are hard to find, especially those who mould their techniques and tactics according to the cultural differences and type of target audience. It is essential to actively collect feedback at the end of every session and then track how inspired your employees are feeling on an ongoing basis. As H. Jackson Brown Jr. Said,

The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today”.

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