How to be an inspirational speaker… its more than what you say…

If you were to recall an inspirational speaker and by that I don’t just mean a motivational speaker, personally I’ve seen inspiring speakers who talk to quite dry subject…. I’m sure that you can see and hear them very clearly in your mind’s eye. You can probably see them on stage delivering a talk and feel their presence and connection.

Being a good speaker is something that many can do, being a great speaker requires some more skill but being an inspirational speaker is something that many aspire and few achieve.


What makes an inspirational speaker stand out? You can feel their presence because their energy is high, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bouncing all over the stage but you can feel the energy in them and hear the energy in their voice. As one of the most inspirational speakers I’ve seen says, “If the speaker’s energy (on a scale of 1 to 10 )isn’t greater than an 8 then they are coming from the ‘me’ and not the ‘we’”. And an inspirational speaker is always about the ‘we’ and not the ‘me’…

Just because people are great coaches and mentors they aren’t necessarily inspirational speakers, it’s a completely different pace to coaching. There will of course be times when its appropriate for a speaker to drop their voice or pause for effect but questions should be left to the end not just questions from the audience but asking questions of the audience as people will disengage to think about the response and either miss a bit of the talk or take time to re-engage and connect.

Inspirational speakers dare to shine, they show up and they play big, and that’s because you can’t give if you are playing small. Playing small is denying your audience access to knowledge and information that you have and they deserve to know and understand. Inspirational speakers can be technical speakers as well as speakers on more general personal and business development.

It’s also likely that an inspirational speaker is evolving all the time and growing not just in their speaking ability but also in their knowledge and understanding.

A truly inspiring speaker isn’t about impressing but connecting and sharing, they are passionate in what they are talking about and how they talk about it… again I’m sure you can remember the passion that’s used even when talking about technical subjects.

When leaders are talking to they know they won’t convince everyone and so they don’t set out to do so – there will always be one dissenter but they cut themselves some slack however they will still be talking about the ‘we’ and not the ‘me’.

An inspirational speaker may be a little confrontational – in part because that jogs people, in part because it gets people thinking and in part because it gives them a bot of an adrenalin rush and that adds to their energy.

Inspirational speakers will talk to and not at the audience and will share with the audience vulnerabilities, some may use humour but never for cheap laughs or to belittle others.

They will be prepared to give their all because if they don’t they won’t get a lot back from the audience as you only get back what you’ve given.

Inspirational speakers won’t fake emotion either and they are prepared to go there first which makes it ok for the audience to do the same, it gives them permissions. And in doing so they can help people to realise that it’s OK not to be OK all the time.

When talking to an audience these speakers are always in their flow zone, where what they have to say is coming through them and not from them, even if it’s a factual talk. When in the flow zone the way people talk, and the way information is imparted is radically different and the audience not only feel this but also will absorb the information at a different level and absorb more of the information.

They know that in some cases you can only let the horse know the water is available as you can take the proverbial horse to water but you can’t always make it drink.

Inspirational speakers know that if you help just one person at a time that its OK, in fact it’s more than OK it’s worthwhile. And they also know that if they take a step back and start playing smaller that at least one person will lose out and that’s not OK.

If talking about injustice they remember that the way to hit back at injustice is to step up and not to use anger as that creates more injustice and injustice will propel whereas purpose pulls. They use the power that injustice gives them to do good and the energy come through.

When someone has listened to a speaker they will remember how they felt long after they remember what the speaker has said when listening to an inspirational speaker even more so.

An inspirational speaker will always be congruent with their message, what they say is real, they are full of life, they use a range of volumes and tone and energy in their voice when speaking. They never suffer from the disease to please and don’t speak from the head, they speak from the heart. They share experiences and stories and next time we’ll talk about leading with a story.

And they always have a structure to their talk and their message

“When speaking in public, your message – no matter how important – will not be effective or memorable if you don’t have a clear structure.” 
- Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

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