Six Secrets To Becoming A Wildly Successful Motivational Speaker

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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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Funny Motivational Speaker Shares Success Secrets

How do I get BOOKED as a motivational speaker?

I’ve answered this question before. But since I get asked this question at least three times a week, I’m going to address it again.  It’s not an easy question to answer, but most speakers want an easy solution. That doesn’t exist. If you want to be a motivational speaker with a full calendar, then you need to be prepared to work your butt off for years, never taking your foot off the pedal, always staying three steps ahead, never ceasing in the quest to get better.  If you want to do this to get rich quick or have your moment in the spotlight, then get your cat to dance on YouTube in a ballerina suit. It will be easier and faster. This is not an easy business. If you want to be a teacher, you know what classes to take and the path needed to get a job.  But there is no chartered path in the speaking business. Every person follows a different path. There are lots of books and articles and workshops and online “academies” created by random groups to help you find your way. But there is no universal degree and a checklist.  You’re on your own to figure this thing out. Well, except that you found me. So you’re not totally on your own. I’ll share what I’ve learned every step of the way – starting with my six secrets to being wildly successful in this business.  Yes, I said “wildly” – because just being successful is so vague.  Let’s shoot for the moon. And to reach the moon, there’s no question that you need these six things to get there.

  1. A message people want to buy. How will your message help them better their lives and/or businesses on Monday morning? This message must be specific, relevant, and easily taught and understood. Your story is not your message.
  2. Said in a way they haven’t heard before.  While customer service may be something they ALWAYS need and want, you must find a way to talk about it that’s fresh and relevant and cutting edge. You’re standing in line with thousands of speakers who are all teaching customer service.  You’d better have a unique angle.  Your story, your hook, the view from where you sit is how you find your unique angle and perspective to give to the world.
  3. Clarity on your market and your position in it. You need to be razor focused on who you are marketing to, why they buy, how much they have to spend, who they’ve seen before, what their pain/pleasure points are, how to find them, and how to stand out when you get their attention. You need to know what your competitors are charging, how you want to position yourself in terms of fees, and how you compare to others in your price point.  You need to be constantly studying this industry.
  4. An impressive website and online presence that ATTRACTS people to you.  This business is not a cold calling business. This business is word of mouth – word of mouth driven based on your performance, not how many people you tell about yourself.  Your website must represent you and your brand in a way that is congruent with your fee.  The pictures you chose, the videos, the text, the wording, the tagline, the programs, the testimonials, the accolades and achievements, the products you offer – all paint the picture. It’s your first impression and your last impression to a market that goes here to “check you out.”  A website that screams trainer will not get keynote business. A website that screams entertainer will not get consulting business.  When clients books motivational speakers, they aren’t booking a data dump – they’re booking an EXPERIENCE.  That website better show them what kind of EXPERIENCE they will get when they bring you in to open or close their conference. They are looking to be motivated. So SHOW them here.

    Use social media channels to do what you do – not tell people what you do – and stay active. This isn’t just a place to socialize. It’s a place to build your audience and develop relationships and put your name out there to the world – to build a reputation, a band of followers who are fans of your work.  This is where your audience can follow you, your clients can stay in touch, and your name can be front of mind for YEARS.  This is how you feed the internet with what you teach and what you do for an audience that gets your website higher and higher in the search engines. You want to be a motivational speaker? GO BE ONE. Now. Open up your laptop and DO IT.  SERVE BEFORE YOUR SELL.  Sorry to yell. It’s just that important.

  5. Put on a damn good show. I can’t stress this enough.  How many speakers have you seen? How many were any good? How many speeches do you remember?   The good news about this tough industry is that most speakers suck. There. I said it. But it’s true. Most speakers are boring or just okay.  Most speakers just get up there and talk.  The ones who REALLY stand out. The WILDLY SUCCESSFUL speakers are the ones whose speeches you never forget. Why? Because they put on a damn good show. They use stories and humor – juggle – paint – deliver content in a different way – spend hours on video and PowerPoint that actually entertains instead of just holds your notes.

    I’m not going to define show for you. It has lots of different faces. Lots of different styles – from scripting to spontaneous conversation.  There is not one way to deliver a speech.  The only wrong way is to do it like everybody else.  You blend, you lose.  And here is the biggest secret of all………………the show isn’t found when you’re teaching your content. The show is found in the stories that you wrap that content in.  The content is the icing on the cake. It justifies your fee. It gives them something that will change their life for the better. But it isn’t what makes them remember YOU. And to get booked, you need them to remember the SPEAKER as much (if not more) than what the speaker taught.

    I’m so tired of hearing speakers say, “I’m not a speaker. I’m an expert who speaks.”  Okay. Fine. You’re an expert. And you get up and teach what you know. That makes you a lecturer. And how cool that you can find a place to lecture outside the classroom.  Power to you. And very nice that you can use the internet to sell your content. Congratulations. That’s nothing new. They’re called books. They’re called webinars. You’re a lecturer in an online classroom. Nothing wrong with that. But if you want to get booked as a keynote speaker, you’d better do more than get up there and give us a lecture.  We don’t hire speakers for a lecture. We put them in breakout sessions and workshops for that. We hire keynote speakers – especially motivational keynote speakers – to do more than dump content. We hire keynote speakers to come bring something more – to get our attention in a BIG way – to entertain – to encourage and inpsire – to make us laugh and feel – to take us on a journey. Trust me, when that committee is sitting around deciding on their speakers for their conference, they use a different set of eyes when picking the breakout session speakers than they do on the general session speakers and keynoters.  And you’d better believe that the audience expects more from that keynote speaker than they do the guy teaching HR regulation in a conference room by the toilets.  (By the way…nothing against doing breakout sessions. I do them all the time.  But this article isn’t about becoming a wildly successful breakout session speaker.)

    Too many speakers are spending all their time and energy and attention on selling and marketing and branding a crappy product.  They are trying to sell themselves out of the chorus line – and scratching their heads wondering why they aren’t getting booked. You aren’t getting booked because you aren’t really that good.  I promise you, that if you get up on that stage and blow them away, you will send hundreds of raging fans out into the world. The more you do it, the more they multiply. People who didn’t just clap politely and forget about you by dinner, but people who LOVE you – people who tell others about you – people who are sitting in the right place at the right time when someone says, “We need a speaker, who should we get?” and your fan (who saw you three years ago) says, “I know the perfect person.”  I know I sound like a broken record, but some people still aren’t listening. If you want to be wildly successful as a motivational keynote speaker, then your speech is your best marketing.

    In the words of the great actor/comedian Steve Martin, “Be so damn good, they can’t ignore you.”   That’s been my mantra for years. And, trust me, it has paid off.

    There are plenty of coaches in this speaking business. More than plenty.  And they will all claim to help you get business. Not sure how many are actually doing it.  Business coaches are fine. But don’t go to a business coach until you have something WORTH SELLING.  Create a phenomenal speech first. Then go learn how to sell it.  Just good enough doesn’t win in this industry and this economy. Shoot, even great doesn’t cut it. You want to be wildly successful? You be wildly good on stage. And don’t worry that you don’t have it in you. All it takes is a really good script, and learning how to deliver it like a pro.  Yes, talent plays a big part in this business.  But a good script can make up for talent. I promise.

Need help creating your keynote masterpiece? Join us at one of Kelly’s Keynote Camps.   Best investment you can make in your business. Change your speech, change your business.


Come join us in Kelly’s NEW Super Cool Top Secret Speaker Clubhouse!

By the way…If you are thirsty for more information on this business, then join me in my virtual speaker clubhouse.  Once you join the clubhouse, you will find LOTS of material waiting for you on the art and business of professional speaking. And every time I get new ideas, I will add them to the clubhouse automatically. It’s the resource that never stops giving.