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Motivational speaker

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Tony Robbins at seminar

A motivational speaker is a speaker who makes speeches intended to motivate or inspire an audience. Such speakers may attempt to challenge or transform their audiences.[1] The speech itself is popularly known as a pep talk.[2]

Motivational speakers can deliver speeches at schools, colleges, places of worship, companies, corporations, government agencies, conferences, trade shows, summits, community organizations, and similar environments.[3][4]

Early motivational speakers[edit]

One of the earliest known motivational speakers credited for what was considered his revolutionary work was Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)[5] an American essayist, poet, and philosopher.

Techniques and theories[edit]

The two main theories for why motivational speakers may need to be externally searched out is to fill the need of content theory or the process theories.[6]

The content theories were created by different philosophers, such as Abraham Maslow, Clayton Alderfer, Frederick Herzberg, and David McClelland. They focus on the inner workings and think of an individual and what will energize, stop behaviors, and keep it sustainable for long-term needs. These theories acknowledge that every individual is unique and has different needs in order to motivate them.

The process theories focus on the explanation and analysis of different people and what will energize, stop behaviors, and keep it sustainable for long-term needs. Brought into perspective by Victor Vroom, B.F Skinner, Ruth Kanfer, and Albert Bandura, it addresses the needs of learning and expectancy and realizes that individuals will make choices based on reward and compensation.

Speakers try to show their audience about the positive outcomes that can happen in life and focus on the possible opportunities rather than the limits that people set for themselves.[7] Using positively-connotative words rather than negative ones and gives charismatic verbal and non-verbal social cues. Using their posture, eye contact, body language, facial expressions, and by dressing appropriately they can engage with the audience in a non-verbal way. They can change the tone of their voice, speech pattern, accent, and pitch to emphasize and show emotion behind what they are saying.


  1. ^ Gilbert, Marsha (December 2002). "Why the motivation business is booming". Ebony, volume 58 No.2. Johnson Publishing Company. p. 136. ISSN 0012-9011. Retrieved 2016-05-25. Black motivational speakers are Black but they challenge and transform Black, White and Brown listeners of every creed and orientation [...]
  2. ^ McGinn, Daniel (July 2017). "The Science of Pep Talks". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  3. ^ "Motivational Speaker Job Description, Career as a Motivational Speaker, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job". careers.stateuniversity.com. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  4. ^ Buchanan, Leigh (1 December 2010). "The Art and Business of Motivational Speaking". Inc.com. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  5. ^ PINSKER, SANFORD (2001). "Was Ralph Waldo Emerson Our First Motivational Speaker?". The Virginia Quarterly Review. 77 (3): 509–513. ISSN 0042-675X. JSTOR 26440814.
  6. ^ Penberthy, Cecil (May 2001). "Factors To Be Considered When Utilising the Services of External Motivational Speakers". Rand Afrikaans University: 24–28, 36.
  7. ^ Hussain, R., Alam, Y., & Zahid, M. S. (2022). ‘Awaken the Giant Within’: Linguistic Explorations into the Art of Delivering Motivational Talks. Jahan-e-Tahqeeq, 5(1), 60-70.