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Behind The Scenes Look at The Life of a Motivational Speaker

Chris Farley played Matt Foley, a “motivational” speaker who lived in a van down by the river in a classic skit from Saturday Night Live. He, and others have given motivational speakers a bad rap. I can say that I am proud of what I do and I don’t want to do anything else—even if I won millions in the lottery I’d still do what I do.

I love every aspect of this “job” because I get to be on a stage making people think, laugh, and sometimes cry. I do the same things when I prepare and practice each presentation.

I l-o-v-e designing slides, handouts, and creating custom programs. Incorporating music, videos, and animation also engages my artistic side.

I’m immersed in a topic and subject matter for weeks at a time when in preparation mode and as I often say, “Often we need to teach the very thing we need to learn.”

It’s also a joy to partner with meeting planners and meet creative, smart, and dedicated people from all over the world—and in many cases, become friends.

Then there is the interaction with the audience and leading fun activities and strategic games to make a point and make learning something more permanent.

Traveling these days isn’t as enjoyable as it once was—flying and airports in particular suck some of the enjoyment out this job—but seeing new places and staying in hotels is still a nice perk.

I thought I would give a peak behind the curtain (literally) of what life is like on the day of a speech.

2:00 AM

I am still tweaking my slides up until the last minute to make sure it’s right.

6:00 AM

I like to be the first one in the room to set up and test my equipment.

6:30 AM

Over the years I have become somewhat of an AV expert and so I am either troubleshooting something or learning how to from an AV technician.

7:00 AM

I’ll do a sound check and then find the breakfast buffet.

7:30 AM

The time on-site with a meeting planner I only know through phone calls and e-mails is so important and I try to make the most of it.

8:00 AM

Attendees arrive. I often greet them or walk around and talk to people to get a feel for the room.

8:30 AM

I actually enjoy hanging out backstage with the staff or alone in a greenroom.

8:45 AM

Someone usually comes to check on me as the crowd is welcomed with opening remarks by either an emcee, CEO, or association official.

9:00 AM

I’m just behind the curtain listening to being introduced and waiting for my walk-in music to cue my entrance. I don’t get nervous, I get excited.

9:05 AM

It’s show time. I always do something big to start because it’s so important to win the audience over early—right away.

10:00 AM

It’s all over in the blink of an eye. The applause is AWESOME and I leave feeling like a rock star.

12:00 PM

I hang around after my speech and listen to the speakers after me and hopefully do a debrief with the meeting planner at the lunch break.

12:30 PM

I’ll usually stay for lunch, pack up and check out, and then it’s off to the airport.

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