What Makes a Great Motivational
Speaker in 2021

There are thousands and thousands of keynote speakers listed online and with specific speakers bureaus, but only a small percentage are very effective motivational speakers. So what makes a great motivational speaker?

The best motivational speakers will help the audience move towards a goal and get them to act in a better manner to reach that goal through specific suggestions and take away value. 

Motivation is created by a number of different forces that get you to act. They can be neurological, emotional, social and biological. The difficulty lies in the fact that many people want the goal but they don't want the work, struggle, and time that it takes to get there. Much of this is fear based behavior, they are afraid of failure, they are afraid of ridicule, and oftentimes they are afraid of success. A motivational speaker - especially ones with the ability to weave a wonderful story and hold an audience enraptured - can provide fuel to drive through those challenging times before you get to a goal. 

Great keynote speakers are often very entertaining, it's always wonderful to hear stories of survival, triumph, and achievement; but if the speaker does not have the skill or knowledge to help the audience create new and better behaviors, then they'll only be left with a good story.

What are the top qualities of a good speaker? 

1st let's start with what it takes to be a great speaker. At the top of the list is experience and practice. Speakers who get on the stage and think because they are confident, they can wing it. However often leave audiences feeling empty or robbed of their precious time. A really good keynote speaker has the following five qualities:

1. Authenticity

A great keynote speaker can be on stage in front of thousands and thousands of people and make you feel like he or she is talking just to you at a cocktail party. They aren't rehearsed, they aren't theatrical, they aren't behaving in a way that makes you think there are a performer, they're just telling you a story. Some people have a boisterous excited funny storytelling style, some people have a deeply connected one, and some a very intimate storytelling style . One style isn't necessarily better than another, but the key component is the authenticity of the speaker. They're talking to you like they would to their best friend or at least they make it seem that way.

2. Passion

I’ve been a motivational speaker for five years now and the reason I started speaking in front of audiences was to share the incredible research that I have done over the last decade in the field of neuroscience. It’s information that I never knew, despite being interested in the science of the brain. When I found out all of this information I just had to share it with the rest of the world. My book hit #5 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list because it was written with passion and purpose, to help people live better lives.

You can compare this with a man I met on my way to Everest base camp, who seemed to be dragging and lacking energy, when I met him. I was worried about the altitude and his health so I stopped to chat with him. He told me he was climbing Everest and on his way to base camp for a six week stay with a well known guiding company. He was clearly not very excited about the prospect. I asked him what he was doing and why and he told me he wanted to be a keynote speaker but didn’t have anything to talk about, so if he climbed Everest it would immediately make him in demand as a speaker and would be able to make a lot of money.

3. Embrace the suck

This is a term a lot of my Navy SEAL friends use  and what it boils down to is not being afraid to do the really hard work, and fail often. A great speaker has to try several different approaches, and practice over and over and over again. Persistence and discipline is prevalent in world class speakers as they are in world class athletes. This is especially true when a speaker agent tells you you're not good enough, or someone online makes fun of your presentation or subject, or you feel like you aren't worthy of getting paid to speak. The hard work, the failures, the ridicule, are all part of the suck.

A great motivational speaker has to embrace that. Why? Because that's what everybody else goes through to reach their goals and has to stay motivated through. So your own personal experience can be a source of great motivation.

4. Humor, happiness and energy

A really good motivational speaker uses humor effectively, and is happy in their job. What this shows up as on stage is an infectious energy that can also help motivate the audience.

5. Experience & Expertise

Take a look back at the man I met on the way to Everest base camp, he was not an expert in the subject, and he had very little experience. He was paying a guide service to drag him safely up a mountain. Yeah it has become more like Walmart on Black Friday midnight, than a true Himalayan challenge. Now if you listen to a good friend of mine Laval Saint Germain you are riveted for an hour that passes in the blink of an eye. Not only has he done the seven summits without oxygen, the only Canadian to ever climb Everest without oxygen, but he also rowed solo across the Atlantic 8 ocean. He has five lifetimes of experience for most adventurers, and the fact that his son died, on his 21st birthday and he's willing to talk about how he dealt with the loss in grief, the failure and danger of his adventures, and being an airline captain at the same time makes him an incredible expert in his field.

Who are the top 5 motivational speakers in 2021?

There is no real effective way to tell who the top 5 motivational speakers are, each speaker's Bureau claims that theirs is the best, each speaker with high ratings can claim they are the best. But if you are looking for 10 amazing speakers who will motivate your audience to action, and leave you feeling like you want to do something difficult, to reach a goal, to set yourself apart and live a life of happiness, love and amazing experiences then these 5 speakers have received amazing awards and accolades throughout their career. 

1. Tony Robbins - One of the best personal motivators of all time, he's not the best for business but when it comes to individuals wanting to attain the life of their dreams you can't beat him.

2. Laval Saint Germain - Motivation is driven by authenticity and you won't find anyone more authentic than Laval. His feats are awe inspiring and his approach is simple and down to earth so he leaves audiences feeling like they can do great things as well.

3. Patrick Sweeney - The Fear Guru has an amazing life story before he even started into neuroscience. Hearing his humble beginnings and success despite abuse would be enough, but the Olympic level athlete turned multimillion dollar entrepreneur creates a very compelling story that's just the start his life threatening battle with leukemia changed him forever and that led to a decade of neuroscience research and a bestselling book called Fear Is Fuel, the book and his talks have changed businesses and CEOs, athletes and coaches, and teams all over the globe.

4. Amelia Rose Earhart - If you can imagine being named after one of the most famous females of all time, you've got a lot to live up to. Amelia set out to become a pilot and do what her namesake couldn't, fly a single engine plane around the world . In an incredible twist of feet and a roller coaster ride up and down as she goes after her goals, leads audiences to be motivated by her grit in positive attitude.

5. Tim Grover - If you didn’t see him in the Netflix documentary about Michael Jordan and the Bulls “The Last Dance” you missed a great performance. Tim had a very unusual upbringing - dead bodies and immigrant parents is all you need to say. He knows how to improve and motivate and his story is always entertaining.

What subjects do motivational speakers talk about?

There are not specific subjects a motivational speaker would talk about, rather the insight a motivational speaker constructs, one piece at a time to build an entire castle of motivation based on psychology. The psychology of motivation is critical if you want the audience to actually take action.

Buyer beware - Many motivational speakers know nothing of the neuroscience or psychology of motivation. A high school football coach attitude is not what sophisticated executives who have struggled through a take over, a pandemic year, or a merger need to motivate them. They need someone who knows the science and subtleties of the brain’s reward and fear system.

How do motivational speakers inspire audiences?

The primary way a motivational speaker will engage and inspire an audience is to lead them to a question. The key motivational tactic is to get the audience to be curious, see a new or different point of view and then walk them down the path, through engaging story-telling, to a new expected or envisioned outcome. Once they see the outcome they can obtain for themselves; happiness, success, fulfilment, confidence, whatever it may be then the audience is primed for the call to action.

The call to action is the step or steps the motivational speaker wants them to take to change their lives. With Patrick Sweeney, the Fear Guru, he always asks the audience to “scare themselves every single day.” Does he mean to jump out of an airplane or climb El Capitan in Yosemite every day? No his goal is to get people out of their comfort zone because there is proven neuroscience the more you are able to do that discomfort on demand the more you access your brain’s courage center.

Accessing the brain’s courage center is what changes your life - and Sweeney brings his audience along this fascinating path through his personal story of being a terrified flyer after seeing a crash as a youth, avoiding great opportunities because he was so scared, then nearly dying from leukemia and coming out of the hospital convinced he’d overcome that fear and eventually becoming a stunt pilot. It’s these types of stories with calls to action that make people believe they can do great things and even impossible things.

5 Tips to become a great keynote speaker

Play Video

Check patrick's availability

Patrick is one of the world's most sought after live and virtual speakers. His schedule for 2020 is already well booked, so don't wait.

Follow three easy steps to get the best speaker for your team:

Step 1: Inquire on his availability & set a time to discuss your needs 

Step 2: Your team and Patrick connect virtually to craft the most impactful event.

Step 3: Change your audience's life with a presentation they will remember forever. 

step 1: Find out if Patrick's available for your event