What can an inspirational speaker really do for your business?

5 Mins

In a corporate world that is so focused on measurable returns and outcomes, it may be considered surprising that speakers are still bought in. After all, how can you really measure the impact of a speaker? Are they worth the budget that is spent on them, especially with some speakers charging a significant amount of money?

When we think of great speeches that have been delivered throughout history, arguably one of the most impactful of all was Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” address of 1963. But did any tangible action or change of attitude come about as a result of the speech?

“While many commentators observe that the March on Washington had a negligible impact on the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, none deny the importance of the event in awakening the national consciousness,” Clive Webb, professor of Modern American History at the University of Sussex once said.

So when we listen to a keynote speech at a conference, we may not leave the room and immediately take action as a direct result of what we have just heard. But it is very likely that something will be stored in the memory bank and consciously or subconsciously, referred to again – in some cases, many times over. For me, the snippets of memory that pop up tend to come from stories about some seemingly ordinary person doing something extraordinary.

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An Olympic Gold medalist, a World Record breaker, a pioneering adventurer – these people are never born extraordinary. They are all born as someone’s daughter; they grow up as someone’s sister, friend, niece and perhaps go on to become someone’s partner, mother and maybe grandmother. A familiar path that is followed by the vast majority of “ordinary” people. A medal around someone’s neck does not change that. But at some point that same person is inspired to divert onto a different path and they translate this external inspiration into internal motivation. It is this motivation that creates high performers in sport and business.

When I was captain of the England women’s rugby team, I was very aware that it was not my job to motivate my team. If I needed to do that then they should not be there. Motivation is a very personal thing and only really works if it comes from within. 

This, I believe, is the same in business. There is no business for motivational speakers, but there certainly is for inspirational speakers – which is what Inspiring Women provide. Throughout my rugby career I was inspired by other athletes; in my retirement and now, as I run my business, I am inspired by the people I meet and come across. Those people, with an incredible determination to succeed, inspire me because I would like to be like that. So I like to hear Inspirational stories; in fact, best of all, I like to share Inspirational stories.

But how exactly do we turn inspiration into motivation? How do we become internally motivated like the high performers who inspire us? Is this something that only a few people have the capacity to achieve? How easy is it to create a culture that allows such hugely impactful internal motivation to grow?

An externally inspired workforce has the belief that they can achieve, but more significantly, an internally motivated workforce will achieve. Future articles will look more closely at this shift from positive external influence to powerful internal drive; how to take inspiration from the stories that we share at Inspiring Women to directly improve performance levels.

Catherine Spencer is founder of Inspiring Women.

Meanwhile, speaking in public can be hugely stressful, but there are techniques to relax and become an expert keynote speaker.

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