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Public Speaking Tips: Motivational Speaking or Personal Words of Encouragement

Updated on May 23, 2013

The writer at seventy-six

Here the writer is presenting to an audience of  nearly a hundred people at a special dinner
Here the writer is presenting to an audience of nearly a hundred people at a special dinner | Source

Motivational Speeches. Are they long-term effective?

As a Toastmaster and former member of three other speaking organizations, I have heard hundreds of motivational speeches. I cannot recall the specifics of any of them. No, not one. There is nothing that comes easily to my recall on how I could grow in my chosen fields of Creative Writing, Public Speaking and Self-understanding.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the residue lingers on

Oh, there were plenty of generalities – still are. “Reach for the stars!” “Keep on keeping on.” And “Never, ever, ever, ever, give up.” All good stuff. Keep’s one pumped for minutes, sometimes hours. If it’s particularly good, motivation continues days after having heard such, the residue lingers on. But changing one’s life for the better, bringing about an insight, an ‘ah-ha’ moment that leads to a long term motivation…I’m not quite so sure.

One-on-one praise lasts far longer

On the other hand, a quiet, sincere sentence, heard from a person one respects as a mentor or teacher, can change us in deep and lasting ways. Even an aside overheard by people you believe are authorities in a subject you are interested in can make a difference. This observation by another about you can motivate you consistently down the years. Such remarks can engender a turning point in your life. I recall here a few instances of my own where this has happened.

He said, "You have the gift, son," and that made all the difference

When I was in my early thirties, I decided to go ‘back to school’ to study. I’d left school at fourteen. I chose a privately run evening college. An old retired English teacher by the name of Harold Went asked me to write an essay. This is I did. Actually I wrote a short piece, more a story or episode from life than an essay in its strictest sense. On reading it, Mr. Went said, “Tom, you have the gift. You are a writer.”

His observation and the right words helped it come about

He was right. But his words helped make it right. He was the motivator. Forty-five years later and with millions of written words behind me I know it to be a correct observation. I have won prizes in writing. Nothing particularly big but prizes nevertheless. I am a writer. Or at least this is one of my primary roles. And I love it!

Her words affected me far more than any motivational speech ever has

A few years later I attended an evening college class on public speaking. After the first presentation I gave, the class teacher, a Mrs. Connie Lindsay said, “Tom, you have a gift of words. You have a way of putting things when you are speaking…” or a message to that effect. Well! I seemed to expand inside at that. Here was an experienced teacher, probably then in her sixties, who had heard a great many tyro speakers, praising me! Possibly she said this sort of thing to everyone. If she did, she didn’t broadcast it. I believed her. Connie’s words made me want to carry on with speaking. They affected me far more than any motivational speech I’ve ever heard.

An "overheard" remark can be just, if not more, powerful

Much later, about a dozen years back, I was a member of the National Speakers Association of Australia. The patron, professional speaker and speaking guru, Walter Dickman, was running a course on presenting. There were a dozen or so of us in the class. In a coffee break someone took Walter aside and asked him who he thought was the most promising speaker of the group. Quietly, so he wouldn’t be overheard – though he was, by me – Walter nodded his head in my direction. “Him - Tom Ware.” This, from a man who had spoken to audiences numbering up to 2,000 people, and all over the world. Walter was later to invite me to speak to an organization in which he was a member.

If you think they're good - let 'em know it!

So what I am saying is that if you really want to bring out the best in someone, to motivate them for the long term, give them personal one-on-one encouragement. Don’t flatter, of course. Be honest. But if you feel they have a gift, if you believe they have real potential; an uncut diamond ready to be revealed – let ‘em know. Don’t make a fuss about it. Just quietly say what you think. It could well make the difference between their developing that gift, or letting it attenuate into nothingness.

In Public Speaking, tell 'em in such a way it will change their lives

Motivational speeches are fine. I do not disparage their use. They uplift. They temporarily inspire. But to reiterate…If you wish to make a real difference in someone’s life, tell ‘em what they’re good at. And tell them in such a way that it will change their lives. They have to know you mean it. Do this, and you truly will be a ‘motivational speaker.’


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  • Tusitala Tom profile image

    Tom Ware 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Even second or third hand is better than none at all, but I concur your sentiments. It's so easy to encourage or discourage with just an uttered sentence or two. Such is the power of words on our emotions.

  • Pennypines profile image

    Lucille Apcar 4 years ago from Mariposa, California, U.S.A.

    You are so right, a word of praise or even a word of encouragement makes an enormous difference in your sense of accomplishment. Invariably I would receive information second or third hand on my performance, almost never to my face. I wondered often if the person who uttered those words realized the impact made had they said them to me personally.