It takes a certain kind of rhetorical skill to inspire others to work harder or feel inspired or change their attitudes or opinions. A motivational speaker uses any number of persuasive speech tactics in order to motivate his or her audience into taking such actions. A reformed drug addict may inspire adolescents to avoid substance abuse, for example, or a former CEO may speak to the company's current sales staff in order to boost morale. The ultimate goal of an effective motivational speaker is to persuade his or her audience to make some kind of personal or professional change within themselves.
A former New York City detective named David Toma is perhaps one of the most recognized motivational speakers in the United States. Toma personally witnessed the devastating effects of drug abuse while working undercover in some of the worst neighborhoods in New York City. When he retired from police work, Toma became a motivational speaker, traveling to thousands of schools across the United States to deliver a passionate speech against the evils of drug addiction. During these events, hundreds of adolescents would surrender their personal drug supplies to Toma and commit to a new drug-free lifestyle.
Other motivational speakers such as money advisor Suze Orman or life coach Dr. Phil McGraw have a different type of audience in mind when they deliver their motivational speeches. Orman is known for her motivational lectures targeted at specific demographics, such as young married couples or single women. Her advice on money matters is designed to motivate audience members into taking more personal responsibility for their finances.
An effective motivational speaker generally has earned some form of street cred in a particular field, such as professional sports or entertainment or politics. His or her reputation as an expert on the subject often precedes the actual presentation. For an audience, having the chance to hear a well-respected sports figure or a famous actor speak in their church or school can be an inspiration in itself. Some of the best motivational speakers take advantage of their celebrity status in order to lead the audience into a deeper issue, such as drug abuse or teen pregnancy.
Some motivational speakers travel on a planned circuit of speaking engagements, while others may be hired to speak as special guests. Professional motivational speakers such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, author of Your Erroneous Zones and other inspirational books, may also supplement their motivational speaking income with book series, motivational DVDs or audio tapes, and television appearances. Some even teach others many of the techniques necessary to become a successful motivational speaker.