3 things motivational speakers should stop saying from the stage
I was first introduced to motivational talks in early 2000. They gave me such a high, especially when I have just left full-time employment. Like most people, I felt that I could move mountains. And, like most people, that feeling of power quickly subsided in a week. And that got me to seek out the next motivational talk. Again the power subsided. So I went for another one and another one.... I have since gone to rehab. Thankfully, the cycle ended. Now I know that motivation is only a very tiny part of the game plan for success. Like a spark that ignites the engine fuel. Execution is far more important, followed by a healthy dose of reflection.
Recently, I unintentionally found myself in the audience of yet another motivational seminar. The speaker was 'motivating' the crowd to sign up for his internet marketing workshop. Same story, different actor. I cringed.
So as a communication specialist and a practical skeptic, I thought I will offer some tip on what not to say at the beginning, the middle and the end of your pitch.
Motivational speakers, just stop saying these:
1. The beginning:
"I am not trying to impress you. I am trying to impress upon you."
No. Really. You [are] trying to impress the audience. If not how else can you convince the audience that you have earned the right to charge $5,000 for your workshop? To me, this is just another example of ‘humblebrag’.
If you must share your zero to hero story, at least do it quick. At the seminar I was in, the speaker spent 45 minutes talking about his from-winner-to-loser-to-winner story. I wish he wasn't so self-indulgent.
You might be using old photos of your past 'averageness' to tug at our hearts. But really, we are a distracted lot. Photos of your parents, kids, wife are not as exciting as what's scrolling on my Instagram.
If you have no serious wisdom to share from your past life of averageness, please skip this step.
2. The middle:
"If I can do it, so can you."
This is an over generalised morale booster that has been overused. Sure, it is inspiring to know that if an average Joe like you can go from zero to hero, so can I. (Dang, I too am guilty of using this line on others a couple of times. I apologise.)
By using this line, you are just promoting Survivorship Bias — our tendency to focus only on the success stories in a particular area while completely ignoring those who have used the exact same strategies and failed.
There are many more people who have tried doing exactly what Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and countless other high profile industry leaders and failed than succeed. We don’t know about them because nobody brags about their failure.
The only person who is guaranteed to get exactly the successes you got by doing exactly what you did is, well, you! Everyone else should use your strategies as another possibility and just figure out their own game plans.
3. The end:
"My counterparts do <that>. But I do <this> and therefore my workshop is better. It should be worth $XX,000 but I am offering you only $X,000."
This is analogous to the hundreds of diet systems out there. No one system is better than the other. The best system is the one that makes sense to a person and is consistently executed. And this system might not be yours.
We know that most people who attend such workshop usually don’t follow through with execution. I have been guilty of it many times. So, it’s not about your system; it’s about your audience.
Oh, did you just ask me how much is my success worth?
It's worth a good dose of intelligence, critical thinking, street smarts, resourcefulness and connections. It's not worth $XX,000 or $X,000. It's priceless.