How To Write A Motivational Speech

Okay, so you’re ready to write a motivational speech – and hopefully you’ve read the other articles that I’ve written about the things you need to do before you write the speech. If you have done nothing more than pull out a blank piece of paper and a new pen, then you are not prepared. If you’re lazy like me and don’t want to find the other articles I wrote, here is a recap of what you need to do before you write that speech.

  1. Know who you’re talking to (even if you really won’t know who you’re talking to – have a general idea of the kind of person – for example, your speech might be aimed at somebody stuck in a bad relationship)
  2. Know the point in talking to them  (to help them get out of that bad relationship, or recognize the signs that they are in one)
  3. Know your story (or stories) and why it helps others  (you made it out of your bad relationships – you can relate to them – encourage them – and show them how to get past it – you know what they need to hear)
  4. Know what people can learn from your story  (same as above)
  5. Know the overall lesson you want to teach, and what points you want to give them to help them do it on their own (how to recognize they are in an unhealthy relationship, three signs – three ways to end a bad relationship)
  6. Know how you want them to feel about themselves  (mistakes are human, they can do this, they deserve better, you understand what they’re going through, etc.)
  7. Know what is necessary to tell them and what is not  (they don’t need to hear every sordid detail of your relationship – just the highlights)
  8. Have an outline of the progression of that speech from opening to closing (maybe have an idea of a powerful way to open and close, what stories you want to use to illustrate each point, etc.)

Okay, so now you’re ready to put pen to paper. And, yes, I realize that some of you don’t use pens anymore. Believe it or not, the same rules still apply to those who type on a computer.  I can’t walk you through every step of writing your speech (though I’ve come pretty darn close) – because a speech is a creative body of work, unique to you, that talks like you talk, and allows your own personality to shine through.  If everybody followed the same template for writing a speech, then we’d have some really boring speeches out there. Wait. We do have some really boring speeches out there. See? I’ve proved my own point.  So while we don’t want to have our speech read like a textbook, there are still some basic elements that motivational speeches should include. These are the basics. Write your speech out first without worrying about how well written it is. Just get it down on paper. Focus on what needs to be said, not how you want to say it. Later you can go back and add flavor, swap out words for better ones, etc. For now, just write it. And make sure your motivational speech includes these elements.

A Strong Opening

This means a powerful, interesting, different way of starting a speech. Don’t start by thanking people, and don’t start with the moment you were born. As soon as we hear you talk about your birth, we are checking out because we know it’s going to be a LONG story and we hate LONG stories.

A Set Up – What’s the problem that you have come to address? State it.

Why You Are Here – State the reason you have come today.

Why You – Why are you the one to help them fix this problem? Have you been there? Is this your area of expertise?

Overall Lesson – This is what you are here to help them do.

Points – Here is how they can take what you are telling them and apply it to their own lives. Make your points brief, clear, to the point, easy to understand, and don’t need a lot of explaining.

Stories to Illustrate the Points – People don’t like to be told, they like to be shown. Have stories/jokes/illustrations that prove your point – that show how your point applies to life.

Switch It Up Often – People have short attention spans. So do audiences. Try to shake it up as often as you can. I see a speech or a story as a melody – with ups and downs – never one flat line of information. There are many things that will help you change the pace, the mood, the tempo – whether it be your voice, your gestures, your words, the plot, dialogue to action, serious to funny, etc.  Always be aware that your audience gets bored and needs for you to keep up the energy.

Have Some Humor – People love to laugh. You’re a motivational speaker, so you may not have comedy club material. Still, put a little fun into it. People don’t want all serious all the time. They don’t want depressing. If you can make them laugh, you entertain them, get their attention, revive them a little bit, and just make them feel good. Don’t stress about it – just be light and silly sometimes or make an occasional joke – or just come out of your comfort zone. Take some comedy classes and improve to help you do this. Make sure whatever you do, it fits your personality. Ask others what is funny about yourself.

Write With Personality – Please don’t talk to us like you’re Shakespeare, or a highly sought after professor. Just talk to us – like you would anybody else. We connect with you when you are real. If you turn into somebody wooden and intellectual, your audience will check out. Just tell your story in your own words. And allow your own personality to flavor the story. When people read my funny stories they often say, “That is so you.”  That tells me that my words fit my personality – and that makes me more believable.
Serve Them / Think About What They Need To Hear  – Remember, this isn’t about you – this is about them. Sure, it’s your story – but you’re telling it to them so that it will help them. Always think about your motives when you write that speech.
Be Humble / Not About Your Perfection  – So many speakers think that they have to get up on the platform and be perfect, look perfect, have all the answers – but that is not what connects you to your audience. If you’re too perfect they won’t relate. They want to see how you messed up, where you’ve been, how far you’ve come, that you made mistakes too, and still do, that you were once in their shoes. Keep it real. When people see that you are humble and human, they start to think “if she can do it, so can I”.  We want leaders who are humble – and we want speakers who are humble too.

Be Authentic – Understand what makes you different – and embrace it. Don’t try to be somebody else – copy somebody else – write like somebody else. Be YOU. Use your gifts and talents, your stories, your life experiences. Trust me – it is enough. Authenticity is EVERYTHING in this business. Clone yourself like the others and you will never give them a reason to pick you over the others. The key is to be different – in a way that is true to who you are.

Be Passionate  -  For gosh sakes, say it like you mean it. So many speakers get up there and forget to tell their face to join the party. You better sell is when you’re up on stage. Sell you story – make them care – make them hear you. Get excited – have fun. You are not up there to be some wooden puppet who looks like you are scared to death. Relax, enjoy it. If you’re not passionate about what you’re saying, I would question your right to be up there saying it. If you don’t buy what you’re selling, neither will they. Get back in touch with why this story is so important to you, and to them. Passion is contagious.

A Strong Closing  – Aside from a strong opening, a strong closing is the second most important part of your story or speech. Close with power. AND LEAVE. Don’t stand up there and then ask if they have any questions. Don’t end with power and then say “oh, and one more thing” ten more times.  Every word you say and every gesture you do that follows your powerful ending lessens that powerful ending.  End it and leave. And they will remember you.

Okay, those are the basics of a good motivational speech or story. I’ve left some things out – like details, character, how to use humor, saying more with less, etc. But those things can come later – after you have written the bare bones of your story or speech. Do this part and then we’ll meet back again and talk about how to add the flavor to your story. Good luck, and have fun. I’m here if you need me.

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