While I don't claim to be (anywhere near) the best Personal Development Speaker in the world, if you were to Google the search term Motivational Speaker you would typically find that my name usually comes out somewhere near the very top of the list of about two million matches. Now, let me quickly add that this fact has pretty much nothing to do with my speaking skills or my profile, and everything to do with Johnnie's ability to do what he does with those amazing tech skills of his. I don't really understand how he does it, but I do know that he's good and I'm glad he's on my team.

The two most obvious consequences of this Google ranking are:

a) I get a bunch of speaking work (nice). Thanks Baldy.

b) I get a bunch of emails from people who want advice on how to become a Personal Development/Motivational Speaker (not necessarily the same thing), like this one I received the other day....

Hi Craig,

The area that I am interested in is Personal Growth (not for me - although that's a continuous journey). I would like to coach/mentor/motivate - I think that covers it!! So I suppose one would have to know, what qualification should one have? Coaching? Training? Uni degree?

Thanks so much for your time,


In the next three working days I have four speaking gigs and in 2008 I will deliver over one hundred presentations and workshops here and overseas, mostly to corporate audiences. In the last three weeks I have worked in Fiji, the U.S. and of course here in Australia. It is rewarding, challenging and fun, and I love doing it.

I don't know that I'm really the person to write a 'how-to guide' on becoming a Personal Development Speaker but I constantly get asked similar questions about the same topic so I guess it can't hurt to briefly share my thoughts on the matter, keeping in mind that this is not in any way the definitive guide to becoming a successful coach, motivator or speaker, it is merely a snapshot of what I've learned along the way, some random tips and what I've found to be true for me.

Here we go; Motivational Speaking 101...

1. There is no set formula or process to becoming a successful Personal Development Speaker.

2. Some of the most successful and powerful speakers have no tertiary qualification or formal training in human performance, psychology or behavioural science. In fact some of the highest paid speakers in the world never finished a university course, or for that matter, any type of course at all. I fell into this field because I realised that creating life-long positive change (what we all want) has very little to do with our body (the field I was in) and almost everything to do with our head. I discovered that my biggest challenge wasn't telling people what to do, why to do it, or how to do it, but actually getting them to do it (consistently). Change ain't about knowing, it's about doing, and it's in the doing (or should I say, not doing) that people fail.

3. While there is no mandatory 'pre-requisite' or course for this field, it is important to be a student of life nonetheless. "The world is my classroom and every day is a new lesson." Become an expert at observing humanity and you'll learn every day.

4. Having a vaguely 'appropriate or relevant' qualification (communication, psychology, management, philosophy) doesn't necessarily mean that you will be more suited to, or equipped for, the job, however, it may be of value.

5. If you're not inspired or motivated, you probably won't inspire or motivate anyone else. I see this with Trainers in gyms all the time; very knowledgeable but about as inspiring as a bowl of soup. You might wanna get inspired yourself, before you try to inspire anyone else.

6. Get in front of groups and talk, anywhere, anytime. And talk. And talk. And keep doing it until you get good at it. And then when you're good... you can charge for it. You can't become a good speaker unless you're speaking often. So, find yourself an audience whenever you can. As with improving any skill, it's not about understanding the theory (only), but about applying it. Often. In my twenties I did hundreds of talks for free. I'm sure at least one of them was good. Or maybe not.

7. Study other speakers. Don't copy them but learn from them. What do they do well? What are the skills, qualities and attributes which make them so good?

8. Know and understand your subject matter inside-out. Don't memorise it, live it. Your presentation shouldn't be a theory that you share but a reality that you live. Then you'll speak with confidence and authority. Walk the talk. You can't teach (effectively) what you don't do.

9. Develop you own product, style, message. Have you own USP (unique selling proposition) - something which differentiates you in the market place. Replicas and clones are boring. And common.

10. Always operate with integrity and humility. Build respect, trust and a quality reputation as a presenter and educator. By the way, don't confuse humility for weakness. Humility actually requires real strength.

11. Don't focus on the money. Focus on becoming the best you can be and the financial rewards will be a by-product of that success. Lose the rock star mindset and patiently, methodically and consciously work at becoming a quality speaker.

12. Be clear and certain about what you want to share. What are your key messages? Be succinct and don't waffle. Use stories which re-enforce your message. Give people practical, useful information and strategies which can be applied as soon as they leave the presentation.

13. If you use a power-point slide show (if you must), don't have 300 slides!! Less is more. Don't have too many words on each slide and don't use more than twenty slides in a one hour presentation (at the most!).

14. Talk with people not at them. Less lecturing, more conversational chat. People won't connect with you if they don' think you're like them (in some way).

15. Don't be precious. If you constantly need to have your ego stroked and you can't deal with criticism then this ain't the career for you.

16. Don't be cheesy. As a Personal Development Speaker your goal is to help people effect long-term change in a real and practical way, not to run around a room and whip them into a temporary self-help frenzy. And please do your best not to use smoke machines or rock music as a backdrop. The eighties are over. Some speakers are stuck in a time warp and permanently smell like Parmesan.

So there it was; a brief snapshot into (my version of) the world of Motivational Speaking. I don't know if that was at all interesting, helpful or relevant to you, but at least now I can simply refer the wanna-be motivators to this post rather than penning all those individual responses. See; I'm really being lazy.

Author's Bio: 

Craig Harper (B.Ex.Sci.) is the #1 ranked Motivational Speaker (according to Google). He is a qualified exercise scientist, author, columnist, radio presenter, television host and owner of one of the largest personal training centres in the world.

Motivational Speaker - Craig Harper