Adapted from the TSG Speakers Bureau Reference Guide on Motivational Speakers:
All the labels can be confusing: motivational speakers, inspirational speakers, keynote speakers, public speakers, etc. Are they all the same? Are they all interchangeable? To a degree, there are great similarities, and yes, they can be interchangeable. There are significant differences, though, and we tried to bring some clarity with the “Motivational Speakers” installment of our reference guide.
What defines someone as a motivational speaker?
According to Wikipedia, a motivational speaker is “a professional speaker, facilitator or trainer who speaks to audiences, usually for a fee.” Motivational speakers are often utilized as keynote speakers to open or close events in dynamic fashion. A typical presentation from a motivational speaker ranges from 45 to 90 minutes, although some are as short as 30 minutes or as long as two hours.
Motivational speakers come from many different backgrounds. While the motivational speaking profession requires no formal training or certification, those who speak professionally and succeed in the profession possess the proven ability to lift up, educate and motivate their audiences. The best speakers can engage the audience and share best practices, experiences and life lessons without boring the audience. They do so through the use of humor, storytelling, originality, and the refrain from canned speeches.
What is the difference between a motivational speaker and an inspirational speaker?
Wikipedia describes a motivational speaker as one who has “the proven ability to lift up, educate and motivate their audiences.” In contrast, Wikipedia defines an inspirational speaker as one who “address[es] audiences with the aim of inspiring the listeners to higher values or engendering understanding about life and themselves.”
There are indeed similarities between motivational speakers and inspirational speakers, and someone could be labeled as both simultaneously. One subtle difference, though, is that inspirational speakers are often known for having a warm, encouraging message, sometimes based on a story of overcoming great obstacles. Motivational speakers, on the other hand, may be more dynamic and energetic, with a presentation geared toward “firing up” an audience.
To inspire, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is to fill with enlivening or exalting emotion. To motivate is to provide with an incentive; move to action; impel. Note that inspiration connects with emotion; motivation connects with action.
Who are the most popular motivational speakers?
There are a number of outstanding motivational speakers available to enrich a meeting, conference or convention. Some of the most popular, most requested and most heralded are those whose presentations are both dynamic in style and rich in relevant content, such as Harry Paul, Benjamin Zander, Mark Sanborn, Eileen McDargh, Marcus Buckingham, Jackie Freiberg and Kevin Freiberg. To evaluate more motivational speaker candidates, visit The Speakers Group’s online directory of motivational speakers.