How to Deliver a Motivational Presentation

cheersMany of our presentations deliver “just the facts.” Budgets, updates, status reports; these are generally full of facts and details. Less frequently, we are called on as leaders to deliver a motivational message. Initiating a new project, pulling together to improve our deliverables, asking people to volunteer or donate money, or even hosting a retirement party; these speeches or presentations by their very nature need to appeal to the emotions of the listeners. Here are some keys to success when you are tasked with giving a motivational talk:

1. Tap into your passion. It is always good to believe what you are saying, but in a motivational talk it is essential. Why is this important? How has it impacted you personally, or your team or your family? What emotions do you have that you could use to fuel your delivery? If you don’t feel much you may not be able to project enough commitment.
2. Focus on what the audience stands to gain from listening and/or taking action. It is easy to get wrapped up in what this means to you, but it is also essential to remember—and stress—what it means to the listener. Put yourself in their shoes while you are creating and while you are delivering your talk. Isn’t it really about them anyway?
3. Have a powerful opening and closing, including a call to action. You must capture their attention at the beginning if you want them to pay attention and be moved. Tell a story, ask a question, or show a very short video clip. Make listeners feel something at the beginning and end. And don’t be afraid to call them to action; what is it you want them to do? Donate money? Work harder? Run a 10K for charity? Don’t hesitate to spell it out.
4. Take advantage of storytelling and human interest aspects. We love stories, especially when the hero faces a big challenge and eventually wins the day. Make sure your story uses names, places and dialog to paint a compelling picture. Build some drama, then bam! A strong close.
5. Use quotes, video clips, music and photos to create atmosphere and emotional pull. Facts and figures are fine, but add in some color and emotion. What have others said? Show, don’t just tell what happened. Capture real faces and people’s actual words. Add some humor if you can.
6. Don’t read your slides; instead, engage the audience in a conversation. Ask them a few well-chosen questions to foster engagement. Break away from slides to add your reactions. Or consider skipping the slides altogether, and tell the story in your own words.
7. Include rational arguments and pertinent facts to balance emotional appeal. Emotions are going to be powerful in a motivational talk, but you still need logic. Don’t go crazy with facts, but choose the ones that make the most impact. Cite reputable sources for your facts. Put just a few facts on your slides. Or consider using an attractive infographic just this once.
8. Script and rehearse thoroughly. Don’t trust this one to luck! Get a small audience to rehearse with you and go over it enough times, start to finish, that you feel it is fluent (but not memorized.) If it is going to be recorded, then rehearse some more so that you feel it is truly polished and you are confident that you can speak from start to finish without a break.
9. Time it carefully so it doesn’t become a ramble. TED Talks are about 18 minutes long, or shorter, so they are generally highly polished gems. Use a timer in each of your rehearsals so you know you are keeping to your time frame. Longer isn’t better in a motivational talk.
10. Get an unbiased second opinion of your logic and persuasion. Remember that small group that was there to help you rehearse? Choose people that will challenge you. Where is your logic weak? Which stories miss the mark? Where are the big moments you want to stress, maybe slow down? Is your opening as tight and impactful as possible? Does your closing hit the mark? And how are you at answering key questions? All these should be part of your rehearsal. Don’t take this feedback personally; just keep polishing that motivational talk until it shines.
Motivational talks may be more demanding, and may take more time, but a great leader learns how to deliver them well.

Consider this your stretch assignment; in the next 30 days do a motivational talk and follow these guidelines to make the most of the opportunity.