August 27, 2007

What is Motivational Speaking – Part Three

Ted Liss was my acting teacher in Chicago back in 1969. Once a week for 2 ½ years I attended his acting class in a smoke-filled room that smelled like coffee and pulsated with the tensions of youth. His acting studio was small and tightly packed with a variety of young adults in their twenties and thirties: models, dancers and actor wannabees like myself.

The format of the class was built around performing monologues and scenes from plays. He’d choose a scene from a play that he thought would stretch you as an actor and break down your inhibitions.

After you finished performing your scene, he’d coach you. He’d focus on moments within the scene that he wanted to polish – make better and more powerful. The coaching sessions were very intense. He’d push you to the very edge of your comfort zone and beyond, challenging you to “double the intensity.” Sometimes he’d make you do the same 60-second sequence three or four times until you gave him the raw emotion he was looking for.

Ted was an amazing teacher. He knew how to get you to give him your best. And in his presence, you wanted to give him whatever he asked for. Because when he was done pushing you and making you “do it again,” he’d step back and let you bask in the applause from the other students.

There was something very loving and kind about his demanding coaching style. It was empowering. He was willing to make you as uncomfortable as necessary in order for you to experience yourself being amazing. The result was that at the end of the class, you walked out into the starry night feeling incredibly good about yourself.

Ted made each of us feel that he believed in us.  I know he recognized something in me that was inside, but that I couldn’t get out on my own.  He also taught me a lot about being a teacher, a coach, and a motivational speaker.


What does this experience have to do with motivational speaking? 


Ted modeled the value of making people feel good about themselves.  He did it through acting class. I do it through motivational speaking, coaching and training.  When I give a motivational speech I strive to balance two agendas. The first is to deliver my ideas, principles and methods with creativity, authenticity and enthusiasm. The second is to empower each and every audience member to believe that they can accomplish whatever it is I am talking about. In other words, to make them feel good about themselves.


I believe that people should walk away from a motivational speech feeling incredibly good about themselves. It’s more important that they feel good about themselves, than that they feel good about you or me.  Of course, if you make people feel good about themselves, they will probably like you, appreciate you, and remember you.  But even if they don’t, you will be doing your job to serve the highest good.  Make them feel good about themselves.


In my book, Never Be Boring Again – Make Your Business Presentations Capture Attention, Inspire Action and Produce Results, I talk about the need to Love Yourself and Let Them Watch.  Love Yourself and Let Them Watch means that you get out of your own way and just be yourself, with love and acceptance for who you are. Authenticity is simply being honest and real, and being willing to be seen.


I also believe that you must Love Your Audience and Let Them Know. That means that you encourage your audience members to live up to their potential. You bookend your concepts and ideas with positive and empowering comments that let them know that you believe in them.


It’s the empowerment piece of the puzzle that makes all the difference. And it’s the empowerment piece that is harder to quantify. For me, it stems from my inner belief in the inherent goodness of people. I truly believe that people can achieve incredible things and that they want to make a positive difference in the world. And I let them know that over and over again.  It comes across in my motivational speeches and corporate trainings. It infuses every comment, every challenge and every idea or concept that I deliver.


You could stand in the front of your company’s board room or on a stage in a hotel ballroom and deliver incredible content, but if it’s just theory – ideas without any human context – so what?  You could read books by famous authors and compile their thoughts on leadership or change or management, but if you don’t believe in your heart of hearts that these ideas are actionable by the people sitting in the room, so what?


Do you speak with passion and compassion? Do you honestly care about the people in the room? Do you believe in them even though you may not know them? Do you let them know it?


I knew that Ted Liss believed in me. When I had a breakthrough, he was joyous and proud. To this day I can still visualize him standing at the side of the room and beaming with pleasure and pride as I basked in the applause of my peers. They were applauding my scene partner, and me, but I was internally applauding him for helping me to make it happen.


The people in your audience want to know that you care. They don’t just want to hear it, they want to feel it. They can tell the difference between a motivational speaker who is saying all the right things but comes off as slick and calculating, and one who says all the right things and means every word.


I believe that one of the critical ingredients that makes the difference between motivational speaking and ordinary speaking is the ability of the speaker to make each audience member feel good about themselves.  Give them hope. Encourage them. Believe in them.  Make them feel good about themselves.


Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is the creator of The Story Theater Method and the author of the book, Never Be Boring Again. He provides keynotes speeches, corporate training and individual speech and story coaching.

His 10 CD – How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech audio learning system, is a workshop in a box. It contains an 80-page follow along workbook.
Learn more at:
Dynamite Speech Home Study Course

Some of his clients include: State Farm, Hewlett Packard, Century 21, Volkswagen, Oracle, The Department of Defense, GlaxoSmithKline, The American Medical Association, The Irish Management Institute, Amgen, The Denmark Ministry of Finance, UPS, The Internal Revenue Service, The National Education Association and many more.

Doug can be reached at: 1-800-573-6196 or 1-719-573-6195 or at: Story Theater Website

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