Everything There is to Know About Motivational Speaking

Motivational speaking is a superpower that allows you to inspire others to transform their lives. Unlocking the potential of that superpower requires you to be a student of public speaking and the art of motivation.

You have to understand what it takes to become a motivational speaker, the elements of a good motivational speech, how to write and deliver your speech, and the qualities all great inspirational speakers possess.

You’ll get all that here, plus 2 sections of motivational speech videos so you can examples of motivational speakers in action.

Table of Contents:

  1. How to Become a Motivational Speaker
  2. The Elements of a Great Motivational Speech
  3. Tips for Writing a Motivational Speech
  4. Tips for Delivering a Motivational Speech
  5. Qualities All Great Motivational Speakers Possess
  6. Examples of Famous Motivational Speeches
  7. Great Motivational YouTube Channels
  8. Motivational Speaking FAQs

How to Become a Motivational Speaker in 7 Steps

1 – Study the Science of Motivation

Motivational speaking is less about being a great speaker than it is about knowing how to motivate people.

Study everything you can about motivation. Drive by Daniel H. Pink is a great book for really learning the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation, or self-motivation, comes from within. Extrinsic motivation comes from some other source. People go to a motivational talk for extrinsic motivation, but if the speaker hooks them with a great opening and keeps that momentum throughout, the audience leaves with self-motivation.

There are several other great resources on the science of motivation at your local library or bookstore. Study them all. The more of an expert on motivation you are, the better you will be at motivational speaking.

2 – Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

You can be excellent at motivating people in one-on-one conversations, yet freeze up in front of a large crowd.

Develop your public speaking skills while you study motivation. Read as many books on public speaking as you can.

Turn your daily commute into a mobile university and listen to public speaking podcasts and audiobooks.

Mastering the theory behind good public speaking only gets you so far, though. The only way to get good at public speaking is through practice.

One way to practice on your own is to practice giving speeches while in front of a mirror. This lets you see your facial expressions in real-time.

You can also practice by recording yourself giving a speech and studying it afterward. This allows you to analyze your nonverbals, like tone of voice and body language. It will help you identify and fix bad habits.

Finally, get practice doing the real thing by joining public speaking groups like Toastmasters. These groups allow you to get reps speaking in front of a crowd while also getting constructive feedback along the way.

3 – Identify Your Ideal Audience

You will not be able to motivate everyone, no matter how good you get at motivational speaking.
When you zero in on motivating one specific type of person, you are much more likely to make a true impact. It’s just like identifying your ideal customer in business.

All of the examples of motivational speaking audiences below are motivated by different things:

  • Primary school students
  • Secondary school students
  • College students
  • Personal development questers
  • A spiritual congregation
  • Business leaders
  • Members of a specific organization

Who do you want to motivate? Identify their demographics, as well as their dreams, fears, and goals.

4 – Create Your Core Message

Your core message needs to revolve around you – what about your story is inspiring to others? That story forms the foundation of every speech you will ever give.

Your core message directly ties to your ideal audience. If you want to be a motivational business speaker, then your ideal audience needs to be business leaders.

That means your core message needs to revolve around some aspect of your business experience.

Whomever your audience, make sure your core message first highlights a personal struggle that is also the personal struggle of your ideal audience. Then, it should offer the solution you used to overcome that personal struggle.

5 – Learn From Watching Motivational Speakers in Action

Modeling successful speakers is the best way to be successful.

The best way to do this is to attend a bunch of motivational speeches in person, but that can get costly and time-consuming.

The next best thing is to use YouTube to study videos of motivational speeches. Pay attention to the parts that move you and figure out why they moved you.

The goal here is not to find someone to copy. Rather, you want to pick up little techniques from dozens of sources to form your own authentic style.

6 – Understand the Business Side of Speaking

You are the product of your own business. It is up to you to create marketing materials that sell the benefits of booking you as a motivational speaker.

You have to prospect for leads and close sales.

Consider creating the following to showcase your experience and expertise:

7 – Practice Through Local Motivational Speaking Opportunities

The last step in becoming a motivational speaker is to start booking speaking opportunities.

Now, even though you will still operate as a business in terms of marketing yourself, you will have to offer to speak for free to get your first motivational speaking gigs.

Once you gain experience and your brand starts to spread on social media, you will be able to get booked for a low fee. Then the process repeats as you work yourself up the ladder.

Knowing how to become a motivational speaker is just the first part of the equation. Next, you need to know the components of a great motivational speech, then how to write and deliver an inspirational speech of your own.

The 5 Elements of a Great Motivational speech

1 – Structured With a Beginning, Middle, and End

The most effective speeches have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Audiences are used to consuming information this way since all forms of media follow this structure.

The beginning of your speech introduces your topic, the middle expands on your topic, and the end summarizes the key takeaways about your topic.

2 – Use of Stories Modeled After the Hero’s Journey

Look at a lot of the top-viewed TED Talks and commencement speeches on YouTube. What they all have in common is the use of a personal story.

We are all the hero of our own story. Every hero experiences a reluctant call to action. It is the first obstacle they have to overcome before their journey really begins.

You want to use your own story of overcoming that reluctant call to action to inspire others to do the same.

3 – It is Created and Delivered With a Passionate Energy

Everything needs to start with passion. If you aren’t truly passionate about helping your ideal audience, you will never be a successful inspirational speaker.

The audience of a motivational speech feeds off of the energy of the speaker. Having passionate energy doesn’t just mean running around a lot or speaking loudly.

It’s about being present in the moment and letting your emotions soak your words before you say them.

4 – It Contains Inspiration to Make a Positive Change

A motivational speech differs from other types of speeches in that the audience is there to change their life in some way.

The middle of an inspirational speech usually contains stories, examples, and analogies that show how the speaker was inspired to make whatever change they are talking about.

5 – It Gives the Audience an Actionable Strategy for Making Lasting Change

Finally, a great motivational speech gives the audience an actual strategy for changing their lives. Complexity does not matter as much as compliance.

The strategy you give must meet the following criteria:

  • Specifically addresses the obstacles outlined in the beginning of the speech
  • Simple enough to comply with daily
  • Gets results if the directions are followed

Now that you know the elements of a great motivational speech, you’re ready to move on to writing a speech of your own.

7 Tips for Writing a Motivational Speech

1 – Start With Clearly Defining Your Audience

This is easy when you are guided by the steps to becoming a motivational speaker that we discussed earlier.

If you are booking the right motivational speaking gigs, the audience of every speech you write is your ideal audience.

Regardless, you have to do some extra research into every event you are booked for to really know your audience.

2 – Pick the 1 Message You Want to Stay With the Audience Long After the Talk is Over

Most people forget at least 80 percent of a talk they hear for the first time.

What is the one thing you want your audience to remember about your speech months after the talk is over?

Build your speech around this one point. Make sure you stress it both at the beginning and end.

3 – Make the Start of Your Speech Powerful

You have about 3 seconds to hook the attention of your audience. The first words out of your mouth need to be powerful.

Since a motivational speaker needs to connect emotionally with their audience, their speech often starts with a personal story.

The beginning of the story starts at the point in their life where they were facing the same obstacle their audience is facing.

4 – Write out Any Stories You Plan to Use and Link them to their “Point”

Stories aren’t just for the beginning of your speech. They help connect and reinforce the points you make.

Write out these stories from beginning to end and document why the story is valuable to the audience.

Make them short and impactful. You won’t be reading this story word for word, so make them easy to tell.

5 – Write Like a Poet, Not a Novelist

Novels are meant to be read, while poems are meant to be spoken. A speech obviously falls in the second category.

Don’t over-complicate your words or write long, flowery sentences.

Be direct and efficient with your words.

6 – End With a Road Map for Achieving What You Want Your Audience to Achieve

The end of your speech needs not only a clear call-to-action but a clear course of action.

Write out a step-by-step process for overcoming the obstacle you talked about at the start of your speech.

Design the road map with compliance in mind. Make it simple to follow and turn into a routine.

7 – Create Slides After You Have Written Your Speech

Don’t fall into the trap of writing your speech on your slides.

Instead, get the long version out on paper first. Write everything out word-for-word.

Then, create your slide for each point with the goal of capturing the essence of the point in 1-3 short sentences.

12 Tips for Delivering a Motivational Speech

1 – Make Sure the First Time You Are Giving Your Speech Isn’t to Your Audience

Great delivery of a motivational speech comes from hours of practice.

Deliver the speech to yourself by recording it on your phone.

Enlist the help of friends and family to serve as your test audience.

2 – Come up With a Pre-Speech Ritual to Set Yourself up for Success

Even the most seasoned motivational speakers battle nerves before they get on stage.

They deal with it by having a pre-speech ritual that gets them in the “speaking zone”.

Develop a pre-speech ritual that is tailored to how you motivate yourself.

3 – Tailor Your Speech to Your Audience Size

How you talk to an audience of 1,000 is different than how you talk to an audience of 10.

Make sure the style of your inspirational speech fits your expected audience size.

Smaller crowds are a great opportunity for a speech that has an extended Q&A session.

4 – Show up Early to Interact With Some Crowd Members

This is going above and beyond what is technically required of motivational speakers.

It allows you to build a rapport with the audience members who are most interested in what you have to say (they showed up early, after all).

It also helps you identify ways you might have to tailor your speech to fit the audience.

5 – Don’t go Over Your Time

There is a fine line between “I want to hear this speaker again” and “This speaker talked way too long”.

Leave your audience wanting more. If your allotted time is 30 minutes, shoot for 25 minutes at most.

This helps plan for any scheduling hiccups and leaves time for audience engagement.

6 – Make Use of Strategic Silence

Silence is your friend, not your enemy.

Pause to give your audience a chance to digest a point or laugh at a joke.

Use pauses as a way to control the pace of your speech.

7 – Always be Ready to Roll With the Punches

Every experienced motivational speaker has a story about unforeseen circumstances.

Schedules get messed up. Equipment malfunctions.

Never let any of this stuff affect your energy and leak into how you deliver your speech.

8 – Be Strategic About the Tone and Pace of Your Speaking

Most people forget about tone and pace when they think of non-verbal communication.

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.

Use tone and pace to emphasize points you really want to stick.

9 – Get Out of Your Head and Into the Moment

You can’t worry about memorizing your speech word for word.

Practicing your speech isn’t about memorization – it’s about knowing what you want to say well enough so you can go off-script.

Trust yourself to let what you practiced show up when you’re on stage.

10 – Make Use of Strategic Movement

Body language is the other crucial element of how your message is received.

This is why recording yourself practicing your delivery is so useful.

Study that recording and pay attention to what you are saying with your body when delivering key points.

11 – Leave Time for Audience Engagement

Don’t eat up all of your time talking and then run off stage.

Leave time for at least a couple of questions from your audience.

Try to come up with a list of questions beforehand that you think the audience might ask.

12 – Stick Around Post-Speech to Informally Interact With Your Audience

You don’t have to stick around for the whole event.

Just 20 minutes after your speech goes a long way.

This is a great time to develop new connections that might lead to sales or other motivational speaking opportunities.

Before we get into some examples of motivational speeches, let’s look at the qualities of great motivational speakers.

9 Qualities All Great Motivational Speakers Share

1- A Good Story to Tell

The best motivational speaking comes from a personal triumph over a difficult obstacle.

Every good motivational speaker has an interesting story to tell.

2 – Storytelling Ability

a great personal story is useless without the ability to tell a good story.

The best inspirational speakers can keep an audience hanging on every word of a story.

3 – Good Communication Skills

You have to know how to talk to people if you want to motivate them.

Great speakers are also great listeners.

4 – Understanding of Human Behavior

Successful motivational speaking is dependent upon understanding how people think and behave.

Effective speakers know how to diagnose and correct bad behavior patterns.

5 – Self-Awareness

You need to always be working on yourself if you want to inspire others to work on themselves.

Successful inspirational speakers have a strong sense of self and push themselves constantly.

6 – A Fearless Confidence

Fear cannot be a controlling factor of your life if you want to motivate others.

Great motivational speakers approach everything in life with a fearless confidence.

7 – Authenticity

The only way to motivate others is to always been 100%-authentic.

Excellent speakers have a unique personality that shines through everything they say.

8 – High Level of Empathy

You have to genuinely care about people to get them to change.

Truly motivational people are driven by a deep desire to help others.

9 – Magnetic Energy

Those who succeed in inspiring others attract attention like a magnet.

Great motivational speakers are able to quickly convert that attention into trust.

9 Examples of Famous Motivational Speeches

1 – Tony Robbins – Why We Do What We Do


Tony Robbins gave this talk to a TED audience of 1000 people with motivational speaking experience.

One of the first things he says is “I’m not here to motivate you”. This is a good example of tailoring his opening to his audience.

It covers a lot of great information on the why behind the things we do.

2 – Steve Jobs – 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

This is arguably the most motivational commencement speech of all time.

It produced such famous Steve Jobs quotes as “ stay hungry, stay foolish” and “love what you do – everything else is secondary.”

This speech is a great example of using multiple personal stories to both structure a speech and reinforce a concept.

3 – Les Brown – It’s Not Over Until You WIN

Les Brown gave this speech to a stadium full of people.

He starts by having the crowd imagine a dream they have for their life. This gets them actively involved right from the beginning.

He makes a bold statement by saying he believes we can achieve any dream we can conceive, and then launches into how he is proof of that.

4 – Arnold Schwarzenegger – The 5 Rules to Success

In this famous motivational speech, Schwarzenegger starts with a bit of humor.

Then, he outlines what his speech is about – the 5 rules to success. The meat of his speech goes over each rule and is woven together by personal stories.

This speech is packed with great advice on how to succeed through hard work.

5 – Tony Robbins – New Year, New You


This motivational talk from Tony Robbins opens with a shocking statistic – 95% of people abandon their New Year’s resolution by January 15th.

He quickly moves on to outlining how the purpose of this talk is to make lasting change. The meat of the speech breaks down a step-by-step process for making real change.

There is a bunch of great information on framing goals in a way that is easy to internalize.

6 – Admiral William H. McRaven – 2014 UT at Austin Commencement Speech

Admiral William H. McRaven connects with the audience by telling them he also graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and he injects some self-deprecating humor.

This is such an effective motivational speech because it uses data to show how that if each member of the graduating class changes the lives of 10 people, they can change the world.

He poses the question: “What will the world look like after you change it?” He then gives lessons about change learned from a career in the Navy SEALs.

7 – Jocko Willink – Extreme Ownership

The beginning of Jocko Willink’s TED talk is an excellent example of how to use silence and pace of speech to draw the audience in.

The meat of his speech is about the lessons he learned from war.

It’s also written and delivered in a way that is almost poetic.

8 – Inky Johnson – Facing Challenges


Inky Johnson begins this speech with a story about a man having a heart attack on his flight.

This speech is an example of a speaker who is an excellent storyteller.

The topic focuses on an actionable strategy for changing how one thinks about challenges.

9 – Oprah Winfrey – 2013 Harvard Commencement Speech

This commencement speech from Oprah starts with a genuine expression of excitement to be speaking to this audience.

One of the most notable points from this speech is Oprah talks about her failure with OWN, which is a failure that happened after she already achieved wild amounts of success.

It contains great wisdom about how to overcome negative thoughts about yourself.

7 Motivational YouTube Channels

1 – Motiversity

Motiversity is a motivational YouTube channel that specializes in compilations of motivational speeches. This is an example of one of their most popular compilations.

2 – MotivationHub

MotivationHub is a motivational channel that focuses on cutting up famous motivational speeches and creating a “music video” out of it. Check out the above video for an example.

3 – Goalcast

Goalcast is all about creating inspirational videos that help people set and achieve their goals. A lot of the videos are compilations of speeches set to a custom soundtrack.

4 – Fearless Motivation

Fearless motivation takes the concept of the music video and makes it motivational. They focus on tough-love motivation. The video above is a good showcase of their tone.

5 – Ben Lionel Scott

Ben Lionel Scott’s channel has some of the most popular motivational videos on YouTube. This channel takes a similar approach to other inspirational YouTube channels on this list.

6 – MulliganBrothers

The Mulligan brothers follow the music video style that a lot of these other channels use. A lot of their videos focus around a mashup of a singular person’s wisdom. This video is gym motivation from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

7 – Titanium Success

Titanium Success is a motivational YouTube channel for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners. There are tons of videos that focus on self-improvement, running a business, and understanding human behavior.

Other Motivational Speaking FAQs

How is a Motivational Speaker Different Than Other Types of Speakers?

All speakers are motivational speakers in a way, but those who call themselves motivational speakers focus solely on motivating their target audience.

Personal development speakers focus on some aspect of improving the self, while motivational business speakers focus on motivating people to improve business performance.

What Are Motivational Speakers Like?

Motivational speakers have all different types of personalities.

We already covered some of the qualities to look for in great inspirational speakers.

Should I Become a Motivational Speaker?

Only you can answer that question.

Becoming an inspirational speaker is not something you do because of the salary.

You should become a motivational speaker if you feel deeply compelled to motivate others.

How Does a Motivational Speaker Benefit my Event?

Booking a motivational speaker is a great option if you are looking to get an emotional reaction from your audience.

Good motivational speakers often provide the best ROI because they provide the audience with an actionable roadmap for overcoming an obstacle.

How do I Find a Motivational Speaker to Book for my Event?

The first step is to identify your audience. For example, are you looking to motivate business leaders or motivate a youth group?

Next, use a tool like SpeakerHub to narrow in on some of the best motivational speakers within your budget.

Then, Google the speakers you are interested in to see if they have any content that will help you learn more about them.

Finally, contact the ones who really interest you to talk about your motivational speaking gig.

To recap, this article covered:

  1. How to Become a Motivational Speaker
  2. The Elements of a Great Motivational Speech
  3. Tips for Writing a Motivational Speech
  4. Tips for Delivering a Motivational Speech
  5. Qualities All Great Motivational Speakers Possess
  6. Examples of Famous Motivational Speeches
  7. Great Motivational YouTube Channels
  8. Motivational Speaking FAQs

Leave a comment below if you have any questions about one of the sections. Give us a share on social media if you found any of this useful!

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