While there are certainly many awful speakers who have graced the stage over the years, they are not bad because of being motivational, they are simply bad speakers. Jeff Hurt had a great post the Velvet Chainsaw Mid-course Corrections Blog about the need to train speakers on how to teach. His piece "Conference Improvement Means People Improvement" began by stating that "The quality of a conference’s education program cannot exceed the quality of its speakers." He is right. Speakers set the tone for events. Jeff is an expert on educating people about how great conference education is not just smart people lecturing. There is more to how people learn than just the content. Speakers need to learn how to help people learn.
But learning is not the whole picture either. If people learn and do nothing we only go part way. The goal of presentations needs to be to get people to retain the information and then to take action to make improvements in their lives, careers, communities, etc...
Some believe that content is king, and will ignore the public speaking skill level. But speaking skills do matter. I believe it is not too much to ask to have presentations that are educational, entertaining, engaging and motivating. Speakers are not a commodity, and finding the right one for the right audience is a difficult task. Seasoned meeting planners do not pre-judge the presenters they hire based on titles and pedigrees. Instead they vet the experience level and the ability to impact an audience, coupled with the relevance of the topic.
There certainly needs to be content and a meaningful message. However, I can't recall ever seeing a talk where there was not any educational intention. There are levels of content, but all talks I have ever seen have a topic. Motivation cannot stand alone.
Not all content is the same, and some topics are more suited for certain audiences. This makes speaker selection one of the most important things that a planner will ever do to ensure a great event. It is paramount to remember that content is not always "King".... it is more like a "Mayor". To have success it must be surrounded and supported by a good city counsel. In a speech this support comes from speaking style, experience, humor (for most topics), research and observations, stories, and motivation.
If you cringe at the thought of "Motivation", take a minute to ask yourself if it is based on the definition you are applying to the word. The key question is "What is the opposite of motivation?". What is the answer? (if you have a good one, leave a comment!!!) De-motivating? Static? Sucks the energy out of the room?". These terms are never the goal for a live event. But when people are moved to take action on what they have learn, lives can be changed for the better.
Some say "Motivation" is not sustainable, but the World English Dictionary defines the word "Motivation" as:
The process that arouses, sustains and regulates human and animal behavior
If it is done right, sustaining action is part of the definition!
I am not arguing for fluffy talks. Instead I think you must have the whole package to have a memorable and meaningful conference that has impact on the attendees.
Have A Great Day
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com