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Why a Motivational Speaker Bombs

Posted by Jody Urquhart on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 @ 12:32 PM

motivational speaker for healthcare conferenceI have been a professional speaker for over 12 years. In the beginning, I bombed a lot. In fact, I may have set a record, a dubious distinction!

These were challenging times for me, but the conflict helped me develop my message, build up my confidence and better understand an audience.

How do you know you bombed? It's simple: the speech does not go well, you don't feel connected to your audience, and everyone hates you!

Failing at giving a speech is interesting. I have seen many boring guest speakers who still fare okay. They may be disorganized, nervous or hard to listen to, but audiences still like them (or are neutral).

Motivational speakers bomb because the audience has higher expectations than the speaker delivers on. Motivating someone is compelling them to think, act or feel differently. Even if you are Donald Trump, you can't positively influence people who don't like you. There are several things that cause a speaker to bomb and make the audience dislike you.

Why a Motivational Speaker Bombs:

  • They are too generic. Their content is rehashed ideas found on the Internet, or blatantly stolen from others. The minute an audience member recognizes a generic story, for example, the speaker loses all credibility.
  • They have no point. Their message is scattered or is not congruent. No matter how clever a story or illustration is, it needs to have a point and it needs to be tied to the objective of the speech.  The speech must have relevant content.
  • They are dry. If speakers don't balance content with audience engagement (interaction, humor, relevant stories) they will miss the mark. Too much content is hard to focus on and audiences lose interest. 
  • They are not prepared. A conference speaker who is scattered, distracted or has his head buried in his notes or PowerPoint is not truly ready to give a speech. The rushed, distracted nervousness puts the audience on edge and detracts from the message.
  • They are not relevant. I was a speaker for a health care conference when one of the other motivational speakers made the mistake of using farm employee examples. The audience looked confused and bewildered. Maybe he didn't realize the audience he was addressing was health care professionals, or maybe he just believed they all grew up on farms!
  • They try to be funny, but are not. It is painful when someone tries to tell jokes that just aren't funny. The audience is handcuffed to listen to the failed attempts at levity and they resent it. Humor should be a part of every presentation but not necessarily in the form of jokes, and humor shouldn't be the whole show. A sure way to bomb is to use cheap humor (about race, sex, gender, etc). These jokes are always in poor taste and always have the potential to offend people.

Great speakers put things in perspective and have a dynamic stage presence. None of this is possible if they lose credibility with the audience.

Tags: motivational speaker, motivational speech, speaker for a healthcare conference

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