Frequently Asked Questions – Motivational Speaking

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers on the subject of improving your motivational speaking techniques.

These come from someone with over 30 years' experience in commerce and industry and with extensive knowledge of motivational speaking and training.


What is the most important aspect of successful motivational speaking?

The outcome.

If you have influenced your audience in your intended direction and persuaded them to change their behaviours or adopt new ones, you will have succeeded.

Feedback of the "very entertaining speech" variety is not, in itself, a measure of success unless it's accompanied by positive action as a result.

What's the most important personal characteristic required for success?

There isn't one but three:

  • Conviction - if you clearly don't 100% believe your message then why should you expect others to? This is closely linked to personal confidence of course.
  • Knowledge - conviction alone is useless if your audience perceives (rightly or wrongly) that you don't really know what you're talking about.
  • Pertinence - you must be speaking on a subject that is relevant to the audience. If it isn't, you won't change their behaviours even if they think it was a great and interesting speech.

You can't separate these three things.Isn't technique important?

Yes, very much so. You can learn lots about team building and motivational speaking techniques from experts in the field out there.

However, good technique alone can't compensate for a lack of the above three things.

Is motivational speaking always effective?

Yes when done properly but there has to be a degree of common sense applied.

One aspect of that is audience intelligence gathering. You need to know that your audience is at least potentially receptive to your message.

To give a crude example, you can address a forum of vegetarians all you like and using the best techniques but you're not going to motivate them, to any significant degree, to change to a meat-based diet.

To put it another way, don't expect motivational speaking techniques to overcome a "mission impossible" objective for your dialogue.

Is this technique only applicable at formal sessions?

No, motivational speaking can and should be applied in many casual and informal environments. It's most certainly not reserved for big speeches and presentations.

For example, it's an excellent technique for team managers and leaders to master. If you can't motivate your team constantly by your communications and demonstrated behaviours, then you're lacking a key skill required for leadership success.

Why have you mentioned personal behaviour examples?

Essentially, your audience (whether formal or workday colleagues) will usually spot immediately that you're saying one thing and doing another.

This has been known about since the beginning of time and is often summarised by the old saying "practice what you preach". We can all think of examples from politics where public figures have been arguing that we should all do "XYZ" when events have shown them to be doing something quite different.

So, the join between the positions you adopt with motivational speaking and your own behaviours must be totally seamless if you're to avoid being seen as a hypocrite.

The WA Institute of Martial Arts is one of the most professional and innovative martial arts centre in WA. One of our specialist areas involves helping people develop the techniques required for motivational speaking - notably including the self-confidence that requires.

Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash


How to remember your speech – first tip of the Pivotal Tips Package

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You’re not stuck with your voice

pivotal voice

Nor should you take it for granted. Your voice can have a profound impact on how successfully you influence and persuade others. Your voice effects how seriously you are taken... how respected you are... the results you get with clients, co-workers or vendors in business, with lovers or spouse and children in your personal life.

Your voice can be a powerful secret advantage you very deliberately use for influence and persuasion (just as actors and people paid thousands of dollars per minute to record commercials do)—or it can be a handicap (like it was for Markus on The Apprentice), undermining the impact of everything you say.

Here’s why.

Voice works on a subconscious level even more than on a conscious level. There is ‘voice detection technology’ used by law enforcement agencies and in corporate espionage. It works much like a lie detector—but without the person being judged knowing that it’s happening.

However, every individual has similar “technology” installed in their own subconscious. It judges truth, veracity, substance, gravitas and authenticity constantly in all the voices that try to influence you. This goes on all the time and is one of the five “feeds” from the subconscious to the conscious that directly determines whether you are accepted, believed and paid attention to.

For example, does your voice quiver when you quote your price or fee? It might not seem that people notice, but they do.

In fact, in a study done at UCLA, Dr. Albert Mehrabian found that up to 84% of your success depends on your ability to skillfully ‘play” your speaking voice.


Susan Berkley. Professional voice over training and voice coaching via online training courses, workshops and seminars for voice over talents and voice actors.

William Kamkwamba on building a windmill

William Kamkwamba, from Malawi, is a born inventor. When he was 14, he built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, working from rough plans he found in a library book called Using Energy and modifying them to fit his needs. The windmill he built powers four lights and two radios in his family home.

Onstage, Kamkwamba talked about his invention and shared his dreams: to build a larger windmill to help with irrigation for his entire village, and to go back to school.

Following Kamkwamba's moving talk, there was an outpouring of support for him and his promising work. Members of the TED community got together to help him improve his power system (by incorporating solar energy), and further his education through school and mentorships. Subsequent projects have included clean water, malaria prevention, solar power and lighting for the six homes in his family compound; a deep-water well with a solar-powered pump for clean water; and a drip irrigation system. Kamkwamba himself returned to school, and is now attending the African Leadership Academy, a new pan-African prep school outside Johannesburg, South Africa.


Public Speaking comment from Nathan: William was able to give an engaging and motivational talk without having so much as a high school education. Most people who are inexperienced presenters tend to use the same crutches: default PowerPoint themes, bullet points, notes, few pictures. But not William. Notice the simplicity of his slides. Many of them are full-bleed photographs. He doesn’t use bullet points and he speaks in a natural, conversational tone. Most importantly, his message comes from the heart. Building windmills, and engineering in general, is something that he loves.


Public Speaking quote from Henry Ward Beecher

It's such a lovely old-fashioned quote, isn't it? "Whip with a switch" from the days of horses and horse carriages. And I would think that if you used a switch without leaves it would certainly tingle, though these days we shudder a little at the thought of beating the poor animal.

Nevertheless, writing as he was, in his time, Henry Ward has made a timeless point - waffling does not drive home searching truths.

And there's another wonderful term "searching truths". Ah! If all the points I make when I speak cause my audiences to search their beliefs and themselves, I would be very happy!

I wish you (and me) speaking experiences that drive us and our points home ... in fine style!