The Secret Shortcut To Success In Motivational Speaking

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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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The Secret Shortcut To Success In Motivational Speaking - The Stage

The Laughing Cat Phenomenon

Thanks to YouTube, our society has reached a new level of obsession with instant fame – a new platform for the unknown to be famous in a day – where a video of a laughing cat gets more views than the presidential debate. Business people are spending great amounts of time and energy and money trying to get the attention of their buyers, and somebody’s laughing cat gets four million hits. We are the instant gratification society that believes you can have it all, and have it fast. But unless you’re a laughing cat, it’s just a myth.

The Super Secret Shortcut to Fame and Riches as a Motivational Speaker

There is no shortcut.

Yes, that’s the dirty little secret they never tell you. There is no way to skip over the most important stage in the business of motivational speaking – paying your dues. Yet so many of you are spending a lot of time and energy trying to find it – looking for the magical shortcut to fame and riches. Sometimes spending more time and energy looking for the quick path than was necessary to take the slow one.

Many speakers seek the elusive OZ behind the curtain to make their speaking dream come true. When the truth is that there is no OZ. Success can only be found when you have walked every step of the yellow brick road – piece by piece.

Follow The Yellow Brick RoadThe Secret Shortcut To Success In Motivational Speaking - Yellow Brick Road

It is on this road that you learn to speak well. You learn to face rejection. You craft your speech. You get a feel for the stage. You learn what works and what doesn’t.

This is the road where you start out working for free and slowly build up your fee as you establish credibility and a reputation.

It is not simply about the passage of time. It’s about the passage of well-spent time. It’s about making the calls, sending the emails, crafting the postcards, handing out business cards and following up on leads.

These are the years when you study the industry and get to know your buyers – where you make mistakes and learn from them.

These are the years (Yes, I said years) where you really hone your message and tighten every moment of your speech.

With each passing brick, you gain a new comfort level on stage – reach a higher plane of understanding – and see your art reach the level of a master.

When you follow the yellow brick road, and pay your dues, you become more than the flash-in-the-pan speaker who is nothing more than a one-trick pony. You become a master musician, who has sweated over every note, to create a true masterpiece.

Nobody on the stage at the Grand Old Opry got there after one lesson. Nobody playing on the field at the Super Bowl got there from a lucky break. You see them all at the destination. You don’t see the broken trail of yellow bricks they left behind.

Stop spending precious time and energy trying to produce the laughing cat, and use that energy to work your business one brick at a time. And when you reach your destination, it will be solid and long lasting. You will have paid your dues. And you will reap the rewards. And you will be remembered much longer than the laughing cat.


  • Dave Lieber

    For me, it came down to stage time. The more I got, the better I got. This may depress some but it wasn’t until my 1,200th professional speech that I figured out how I wanted to do this!

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  • Linda Larsen

    BRILLIANT, Kelly! I’ve been speaking professionally for over 20 years and I’m STILL not at the top of that mountain yet. What I’ve learned is that the Yellow Brick Road to Success really doesn’t ever end. We can ALWAYS get better at what we do! Thanks for this fantastic post!

  • kellyswanson1

    Thank you all for commenting. Now get back to work! :)

  • ImanWoods

    Kelly, I love how this could be applied to photography or pretty much any endeavor. There are no shortcuts.

    I heard a quote early in my career: “the amount of time it takes you to climb to the top is directly proportional to how long you’ll STAY at the top.”

    No one hit wonders for me please.

  • I accept the fact that I always go to youtube to watch something that I like. Even some services that it might help me know some ideas or information. This is indeed a part of shortcut to success for business that offers product and services. Thanks for sharing it.

  • I love this analogy. And I see the same problem with dreamers — especially dreamers who dream of writing a book, but haven’t written anything past 10 concrete pages since their high school English teacher made them. They haven’t yet developed a platform, a niche, or understand just how much research and planning goes into writing a book. Writing a book is hard, hard work that takes a lot of dedication and perseverance along with the ability to accept rejection and feedback without taking it personally.

    Too many think that they will just sit down in one weekend, crank out a best-seller and it will magically make them famous. If you can’t commit to a daily writing practice of 1000 words and post regularly on a blog, how do you expect to write a book? It’s like saying you are going to swim the English Channel because you were a good simmer in high school 20 years ago and you’ve done a bit of swimming “here and there” and your plan is to just jump into the channel and start swimming. Dreaming is a muscle that you have to work at to make stronger and get better before your dreams come true. Great advice.


  • You totally nailed it Kelly! I can’t tell you amount of time I spent on conversations with clients who would literally send me a link to the latest viral video and ask “Can we do something like this?”

    No shortcuts. In whatever you’re dream is. That’s what makes it worth getting there, right? Great post!