Three Deadly Sins to Avoid When Choosing a Professional Speaker

As I survey the speaker’s market I’ve become a tad weary willfully wearing the title “Motivational Speaker”. All speakers worth their salt seek to motivate or cause action. Maybe it’s just me, but does the mere mention of the term “Motivational Speaker” conjure irritating mental pictures in your subconscious mind? There are far too many stereotypes being propagated regarding speakers. I will address a few of these speaker stereotypes and hopefully simultaneously construct a not-to-do list that aspiring speakers may use on their roads to success in the lucrative speaking industry.

Motivational Speaker Stereotype Number One:

The “Over-The-Top” Speaker

The “Over-The-Top” Speaker or the O.T.T. Speaker appears to have discovered a new fad diet which includes mountains of pure sugar and caffeine. The O.T.T. will at any given moment find it necessary to expend tremendous amounts of energy racing about the platform as if a sniper has them in the crosshairs. During smaller office presentations, The O.T.T. speaker may also be seen jumping atop a desk shouting “Go For It!” or performing their best impressions of former Governor and one time Presidential hopeful, Howard Dean’s famous “YEAAAAAHHHHHH”.

It didn’t work for Mr. Dean either.


I do not desk hurdle. Many professional speakers whom I admire keep their gestures natural and their tones conversational in nature. This is not “Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey” and a speaker’s stage is not a big tent.

Motivational Speaker Stereotype Number Two:

The “T.M.I.” Speaker

In efforts to emotionally connect with the audience, the notorious T.M.I. Speaker offers up way Too Much Information of a personal nature. To the bewilderment of the hiring authority, the TMI speaker utilizes 90% of their time recanting inner-turmoil, teary-eyed, blow-by-blow commentaries of abuse, personal struggles and tragedies. Though touching, the program’s focus is obscured and the message diluted by the T.M.I. Speakers deluging pity party. The T.M.I. speaker fails to realize the goal of any program is to inspire some sort of action of the audience, not to become a martyr or charity case.


Engaging your audience is the goal of any professional speaker, but personal stories should only be used if they directly support and impact the overall theme of your program. Please allow me to cement my viewpoint with a brief story: During my first professional position as a paralegal for a government agency I had the marvelous opportunity to work side-by-side with a number of experienced individuals and mentors. These mentors taught me many compelling business principles that I currently utilize. One day at work on a crowded elevator I struck up a conversation with one such mentor. In the efforts to protect the innocent and the ignorant I’ll refer to the mentor in this story as “Mr. Edwards”.

Me: Hello Mr. Edwards, I noticed you in the lobby earlier today…

Mr. Edwards: Yes, Timothy my family paid me a visit…

Me: Really? Was that your son you were holding earlier?

Mr. Edwards: Oh no, that was my nephew. I can’t have kids, I’m sterile.

Me: Okay

Motivational Speaker Stereotype Number Three:

The “High-Tech, Low-Performance” Speaker

The H.T.L.P. Speaker loves to put on a show! The H.T.L.P’s program not only begins, its middle and its end is littered with state-of-the-art, eye-popping sound-effects and a fantastic frenzy of flashy visuals. In the outset the audience is totally mesmerized, but it becomes grossly apparent that the H.T.L.P. is heavy on the glitz and light on the substance. The H.T.L.P. is a show-person. The H.T.L.P’s entire speech can be boiled down to a bookmark of inspirational quotes which can be readily found by any 12-year-old conducting a 30-second search on GOOGLE. Yes, the H.T.L.P. catches the audience’s attention, but has no inkling where to go from there, except, you guessed it, onto the next variation of visual, vain displays which culminate into sensory overload and useful substance deprivation.


Many professional motivational speakers acknowledge the need to capture the audience’s attention, but should a professional speaker need a truckload of explosives to do it? No. The highly regarded professional speaker realizes that he or she is the distributor of the information being disseminated not some slide projector, movie screen or artificial simulator. The speaker who relies too heavily on electronics to deliver a message detracts from the human-element of their content. Limiting the bells and whistles in the show will allow both the audience and the speaker to focus on the theme and purpose of the program. Clients watching their Rate of Investment (ROI) versus their Rate of Return (ROR) will expect less show, more business and measurable results to justify a speaker’s fee. In short, if the only requirements for an effective presentation are flashy PowerPoint slides and spectacular visuals, there’s no need for a human-being, and I beg to differ.

Wrap Up:

Many elements can be included in a speaker’s arsenal to deliver the utmost impact in their programs. Story-telling, humor, props, visuals, gestures, role-playing, personal anecdotes, eye contact and poignant quotations all serve as a means to effectively communicate the overall theme of a motivational speaker’s message. A speaker shouldn’t rely on any one method too heavily and the ultimate goal must always be to leave the audience with a course of action they are motivated to pursue. After all, it’s what happens “after” we leave the stage that matters most, right? A professional speaker who leaves his client with positive measurable end-results is a highly sought-after resource and no joking matter.