The best motivational speeches are the ones that stick in the minds of the audience and inspire some type of positive action or change. Unquestionably, the most motivational ones seem to traverse history and time and succeed by taking their listeners on a journey of sorts. While simplicity is the key to keeping people engaged, the story that you tell is equally as important. So, how do you create a motivational speech?
When we envision some of the greatest speeches in history such as Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream” 1963, Nelson Mandela’s “I Am Prepared to Die”, 1964, Sojourner Truth’s ‘Aint I a Woman’ 1851, or Julia’s Gillard’s ‘Misogyny Speech’, 2012, they all have a few things in common: Namely, passion from their speakers and a definitive message, a reflection on their personal experiences or struggles, clarity in conveying the key message, and ultimately, a call to challenge the status quo and think differently.
Journalist Steven John argues that they are also able to live on, sharing:
“Truly great speeches transcend time and place, offering wisdom that speaks to every era and stirring souls long after their speakers’ tongues have silenced….[W]hat history’s most famous speeches have in common is an undeniable quality.”
Barack Obama is a public figure who is well revered for his excellent speeches, and this is partly thanks to the director of his speechwriting team, Jon Favreau. Excitingly, Favreau has highlighted a few pertinent ways to make your speeches memorable. Irrefutably, the best speeches motivate us to be better and make a positive change.
Here are some top tips for writing a motivational speech:
- Focus on the story you want to tell
While words are, of course important, Favreau reveals that the story is of the greatest importance when giving a motivational speech. Interestingly, he suggests first asking yourself “what story am I trying to sell?” Once you know the story, you can add in an argument and anecdotes. This point is reiterated poignantly by the author of Arabian Nights, Tahir Shah, who wrote: “stories are a communal currency of humanity.” Thus, stories connect us, and motivational speeches are all about connecting to the audience through stories.
- Keep things simple
We live in the age of information overload, and thus, simplicity is often key if we want to convey information that stays with people. Favreau reveals:
“Long speeches are the easiest to write. They are also the most forgettable… Audiences today can only handle so much information before they start losing focus. You should aim at twenty minutes max. That requires tremendous discipline, especially if you’re in an organisation with a lot of people in the mix. But remember that a speech about everything is a speech about nothing. Narrow your story down to the essential point.”
- Utilise emotions
Finally, “there is no persuasion without inspiration.” Naturally, inspirational speeches are, of course, filled with passion and emotion. As such, focus on issues that you know mean a lot to your audience and use empathy to tap into their feelings and needs. However, it is also about authenticity and it is essential for speakers to honestly share their own vulnerabilities and stories rather than sharing only that which they think their audience wants to hear.
While, motivation speechwriting is certainly an art form in and of itself and it relies on a number of factors such as simplicity, authenticity, inspiration, and clear communication. As a first step to writing a truly motivation speech, find the story that you want to tell the world.