Motivational Speaker Tips: Do You Sell From The Platform?

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Should Motivational Speakers Sell From The Platform  - Products I sell

Motivational Keynote speakers make money by delivering their message in many ways beyond that one-hour keynote speech. We sell books, CDs, DVDs, Box Sets, Workbooks, Webinars, Coaching, Consulting, and anything else that involves our message or our brand.

Sometimes the speaker makes more money (if not all their money) from back-of-the-room product sales than their actual fee. So I get it. We have to make a living, and these are valid ways to do so.  I never want to stand in the way of someone making money for their talents. I applaud the spirit of the entrepreneur.


We are also hired to give our audience a motivating experience. That is my FIRST goal. And so I spend a lot of time determining how much I sell from the platform – if at all – and whether selling from the platform lessens my impact on stage.

Selling From The Platform

Selling from the platform is when you use your time on stage to let that audience know what you have to sell.  Some speakers are very subtle about it and others very much in your face. Some speakers will use the entire speech to convince you to fork out $50,000 for the real speech with all the super secret information. We all have a different approach to selling from the platform and some clients forbid it.

So my way is not the right way. It’s just my way – my perspective.

And while you may choose yours, there is something very important to consider when determining how much you sell from the platform. You have to consider how this will affect the impact of your message.

How Do YOU Feel When You Find Out Someone Is Trying To Sell You Something?

The easiest way for me to determine what is fair for my audience, is to put myself in their shoes.  How do I feel when it’s being done to me? The other day I found a video online that hooked me immediately. It was a “private” video (not so private if I found it) on the future state of the economy.

They reeled me in and I wanted to know more. I clicked on this super secret private interview and began to listen. I was intrigued. I was hooked. I didn’t breathe. They were telling me what was coming and how I could brace for it.  This went on for about three minutes and then I heard the words that immediately changed my experience.

Today we are offering you a special opportunity…

And my balloon burst. My experience went instantly from excitement and motivation to distrust and betrayal. “Oh, now I get it. You’re just trying to sell me something.”  I turned off the video and left the room.

Let’s think about this for a minute. The video might have been telling me something one hundred percent completely absolutely true. The people who did that video might just have the magic solution I need to survive the future. But because they tried to sell me something, I discounted the video, the people being interviewed, and anything related.

Is it just me?

Am I the only one who is turned off as soon as I get an idea that the speaker is trying to sell me something?

That’s what you have to figure out. You have to decide what’s best for you and your audience. Maybe there are enough people who drink the tonic that you don’t need to worry about the ones who don’t. Maybe you feel that what you are selling is so valuable that they must know about it right now.  Maybe you’re not being paid a dime, and the least they could do is let you pitch your product.

Wherever you land is your decision.

I just think it’s something that warrants some discussion. There must be a reason so many clients forbid speakers from selling product from the platform. There must be a reason that you aren’t ever allowed to pitch product from a platform at an NSA (National Speakers Association) sanctioned event – and when speakers do there is violent push-back.

In case you are wondering what I decided was right for me……I decided that as a motivational speaker I can’t afford anything that might alienate my audience. Politics will alienate people, so I don’t go there.

Preaching to people will offend, so I don’t go there.

And selling to people might negate the power of my message and make them question my intent, which is to empower them.  So I choose not to mention product from the platform ever. Do I lose money? Probably. Do I care? No. I prefer to let go of some product sales in order to make room for all the people who book me for speeches because they felt a genuine connection.

I leave you with this one final thought:

People Want To Buy But They Don’t Want To Be Sold  (Not sure who said it, but it’s true.)

Should Motivational Speakers Sell From The Platform - Me with my products


  • I’m with you on this one Kelly. I have purchased from speakers that are so motivating and inspirational I want to know more… and typically they have never mentioned the products on stage.