My friend Kevin wrote a piece on his blog about Motivational Speakers or Participation Speakers. On one level he is right, audiences are better served when the speaker includes them in the experience, however, that is not the whole story.
As long as I have been studying the business of speaking there have been discussions that paint the "motivational speaker" in a negative light. Education vs. motivation. Style vs. motivation. Content vs. motivation. Participation vs. motivation. And let us not forget Chris Farley's portrait of the motivational speaker. YIKES.
However, synonyms of the word motivate include: induce, move, provoke, prompt, cause. These are exactly what you want from a speaker!
What is the opposite of motivation? Demoralizing? Lazy? Apathetic? Unmotivated? Sucking the life out of the room?
Do you really want to hire a lazy, demoralizing, apathetic, unmotivated speaker who sucks the energy out of your audience? Ummmm, NO. I have never heard a meeting planner who desires that from the person on stage, but lots of people work to undermine the power of motivation in presentations. While not enough by itself, you would never want to remove or lessen the motivational aspects of any talk. It does not often happen by accident.
While Kevin is spot on that participation speakers (the newest buzz-word) make presentations interesting, this style is not in competition with motivation. It is easy take shots at the word "motivational" as we have let some position the word as "bad". I do not mean to pick on Kevin, as he is a great blogger, a smart person, and his point is spot on.... but his juxtaposition undermines speakers who really do inspire audiences to take action, create change, and transform the people who hear them speak.
I think he meant "entertainment" alone is not enough. TRUE. But entertainment is not the same thing as motivation, substance, or meaning (Paris Hilton and the folks on Jersey Shore are proof of that).
If given a choice of a bad speaker who tosses in audience participation or a spectacular and experienced "motivational speaker" who only speaks to the crowd, most will take the later. Adding parlor games does not make the speaker better. It is the experience, style, message, commitment to the audience, and the ability to motivate that creates a meaningful experience.
EVERY SPEAKER SHOULD BE A MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER!!!
Have A Great Day