What is a Motivational Speaker?

What is a Motivational Speaker?

Motivational speakers challenge audiences to make significant positive changes, whether in their personal or professional lives, or both. Often requiring people to act boldly and do something completely out of their comfort zone. With inspiring and uplifting presentations, a motivational speaker can re-establish a lost or misplaced sense of focus, commitment and passion within individuals.

With most of our lives dictated by daily routine and repetition, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing what we always do, thinking as we always think, and settling for average. Within businesses and organisations, there is often a need to reignite a passion within employees. Other times, there may be a need to focus on specific areas such as increased productivity, hitting sales targets, managing change, teamwork or effective leadership.

And this is where motivational speakers become invaluable.

They show the audience what is possible when you fulfil your potential and how to achieve greatness in the face of adversity. They inspire confidence and teach their audiences to think differently – giving them the motivation, tools and techniques to make positive change.

What does a motivational speaker do?

There's more to being a motivational speaker than simply possessing an infectious energy and having enthusiasm for public speaking. Motivational speakers draw upon their own incredible and often unique life stories, personal experiences and successes as a proven illustration of what can be achieved, sometimes in the face of overwhelming adversity. 

Human nature dictates that we are inherently averse to both risk and change. At a very basic level, how many people make New Year resolutions to join a gym and get fit, then with the best will and intention, never make it further than the induction?

Former city-worker and renown NMP Live motivational speaker, Jim Lawless (pictured above on stage), says there are only two ways to motivate people, whether that’s at home or in the workplace; manipulation – external motivation, and inspiration – internal motivation. 

You can manipulate someone — the carrot and stick principal — “do what I want and you’ll be rewarded”, but the consequences of not doing it will be grim. Or you can inspire them and ignite their passion from within, providing the framework and the necessary ingredients for people to find their own motivation.

The most fulfilling way of motivating people is surely obvious; empowering individuals to achieve their goals will fuel growth and ensure long-term success.

Types of motivational speaker

Many speakers can ‘motivate’ an audience to make a change or act in a certain way; for example, politicians and community leaders might 'motivate' or ‘inspire’ their peers, constituents or community to adopt a certain attitude, vote a certain way, or take positive action. But when we talk about "motivational speakers" per-se, we are generally referring to speakers who are paid to speak, and regularly address seminars, conferences, schools, business audiences and the community.

Motivational speakers come from all walks of life, with hugely diverse stories, experiences and successes. From the world of elite sports to adventurers and explorers, CEOs and captains of industry that have steered businesses to huge successes. 

Their unique experiences, knowledge, insights and ability to motivate an audience are highly sought-after by companies and organisations who wish to benefit from presentations that will instigate change, and leave a lasting and powerful impression.

Within this broad title, there are two often-interchanged ‘types’ of speaker:


Speakers that are hired with a specific remit to instigate immediate change and provide the audience with some practical takeaways, methods and teaching. Delegates are then armed with the tools and knowledge to take action - be it in their personal lives, collectively as a team/organisation, or as individuals.

An athlete, for example, may talk about how employing a ‘marginal gains’ strategy took them to Olympic success and will draw parallels to how that same strategy can be translated into the workplace. So, there may be an immediate call to action for the audience to evaluate every single area within their lives where they can find the smallest improvements and gains.


Whilst some speakers will set an agenda for the audience to leave their presentation with an immediate call-to-action — an instruction to go forth and make an immediate change — other speakers will be less direct and, instead, will leave the audience inspired by the bigger picture – perhaps in awe of their accomplishments or triumphs over immense adversity. These speeches aren’t designed to invoke any specific or immediate change, but instead, inspire individuals in a much broader way.

An adventurer or explorer, having regaled the audience with stories of extreme endurance, pain, near-death experiences and huge setbacks, may simply leave them inspired by what can be achieved when you put your whole heart and passion into achieving your goals and dreams.

Popular speech themes and topics

There are many themes and topics within the remit of a motivational speaker, and these will often contain crossover between them. For example, an objective of improving teamwork and collaboration within an organisation may also involve making a significant change; whilst achieving peak performance may require overcoming obstacles or encountering adversity along the way. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the key topics and broad themes on which motivational and inspirational speakers talk.

Overcoming Adversity

Anyone who’s achieved notable success, whether it’s in business or their personal lives, will have endured and overcome varying degrees of failure in their pursuit. For some, overcoming adversity might mean tackling a succession of unexpected minor setbacks, whilst for others, it could be facing a single incident of extreme, overwhelming or life-changing adversity. What better way for an individual to inspire their audience than by demonstrating, with first-hand experience, what’s achievable when all the odds are stacked against you.


If your objective from hiring a motivational speaker is to improve teamwork, efficiency and a cohesive way of working, whether at a macro or micro level within an organisation, learn the strategies and tactics employed by those who have exemplified the concept, such as elite military leaders, World cup winning teams, Olympic team winners and record-breaking explorers. Teamwork speakers will share practical lessons, and methods they’ve developed or employed, which can be translated to your world and will become effective tools for motivating and inspiring your team to work better, together.

Peak Performance

Whatever the size of your company or organisation, everyone wants to extract the best out of their people and have them excel beyond their current performance limits. You may feel your employees are not reaching their full potential, falling short of their targets, or you may be facing new challenges or industry pressures which require refocusing mindsets. Peak performance speakers demonstrate what is achievable with high performing teams and individuals alike, and show what is possible when you set your heart and mind to a goal.

Personal Development

As the title suggests, Personal Development is centred entirely on the individual, rather than more collaborative themes such as teamwork. Speakers provide their audience with the metaphorical tools and inspiration to improve their personal motivation and productivity, and this will encompass their personal as much as their professional lives. Personal Development as a theme includes a wide range of sub-categories and topics such as work-life balance and well-being, happiness, overcoming fears, moving out of your comfort zone and sustaining motivation and focus.


Why are successful people successful? They, together with the world’s most successful companies, all share one overarching similarity: the ability to innovate, adapt, and change. There are many reasons an organisation may hire a speaker on change. And of course, ‘change’ is very broad – it will mean different things to different people. Change is often linked with personal development if the speaker is inspiring ‘change’ within an individual. It will often be the case that a company itself is going through significant change – perhaps a take-over or merger, downsizing, or a shift in focus or direction. Whether you’re looking for someone with a business background to speak directly about change in the workplace, or you require the speaker to inspire your audience with a unique story outside of your own environment, speakers on change come from all industries and walks of life.

How can a speaker bureau help?

There are thousands of speakers on the motivational speaking circuit, spanning all fee ranges and industry sectors, from the unknown to globally known names. So deciding who’s right for your event can be daunting, time-consuming and somewhat of a minefield. Where do you even begin? Don’t worry. At NMP Live this is what we do day-in, day-out, and we’ve done it for two decades.

Contact us today to speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable agents. They will take the time to discuss in detail, your aims and objectives, audience and budget. And they will work with you to suggest a number of speakers to fit your brief. Our agents know about each speaker and are able to advise on their areas of speciality, where they particularly excel and whether they’re likely to be within budget and right for your event.

Whichever speaker you book, they will deliver a captivating and engaging talk that will motivate and inspire your audience to push beyond the limits of their comfort zone, realise their dreams and achieve their goals.

Start your search by reading our guide on how to choose the best motivational speaker for your event, browsing our roster of motivational speakers and view our list of ten of the best motivational speakers.

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