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Motivational Speakers: When to Play the Fame Game

The Fame Game
When to Play the Fame Game

If you have the budget and the buy-in from your organization to hire a famous motivational speaker, this can be a powerful marketing tool for your event. But how can you determine if a famous speaker fits your bill?

Every situation is unique, says Rich Libner, president of MCP Speakers, a speakers bureau that has recommended both hot and up-and-coming talent for events across North America. After more than 20 years in the business, Libner understands the value of knowing a client's needs and goals before recommending a famous motivational speaker.

The Benefits of Fame

Famous motivational speakers--be they celebrities, athletes, academics or business people--do a lot of your marketing for you. People are curious creatures and North America's tabloid culture means that a famous headliner will automatically attract attention and create a buzz for your event. Hiring a famous speaker can justify higher ticket prices and increase your attendance, particularly for events that are directed to the general public.

As an event planner, however, you want more than just to get people in the door--you want loud applause from an audience that feels it was worth the price of admission. Famous people are often performers, so they are experienced crowd pleasers. Many have a reputation that is based, not only on their celebrity, but on the contents of their speeches. Famous motivational speakers often have books, which give the event lasting impact and--if there is a book signing component to the event--allow the audience to meet the speaker and get his or her autograph.

When Not to Play the Fame Game

Fame, as the saying goes, has its price. Event planners should keep in mind the drawbacks of hiring a famous motivational speaker to avoid costly disappointment.

And cost is the first place to look. A well-known speaker will always cost more than lesser-known talent, Libner says. To hire someone as famous as Jay Leno, for example, the speaker's fee can be justified for high profile fundraising events where fame will guarantee high-volume (and high-priced) ticket sales. A speaker whose fame is limited to one country, such as David Chilton, author of best-selling Canadian personal finance book The Wealthy Barber, will have a lower fee. It's important to weigh the benefits of fame against the realities of budget. Consider whether there are better places to put your money to accomplish the same goals.

The reputation and attraction of famous speakers may come from their celebrity, not their ability to motivate others, so do your research. Choose a speaker who is also famous for her ability to influence and invigorate an audience, not just because she is a movie star or television personality.

Fame can be a distraction, so consider the possibility that hiring a famous motivational speaker may lessen the impact of your key message. And while not all famous speakers are prima donnas, a well-known or very popular speaker may not be as interested in meeting your specific needs, be they explicit objectives for the event, desired take-home messages for the audience or your schedule.

MCP's Famous Four

Dr. Roberta Bondar
Dr. Roberta Bondar

MCP Speakers represents some of the most impressive names in motivational speaking. Here are our "famous four," chosen for their celebrity status and their ability to leave a lasting positive impression on your audience.

Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut and published author, is now a highly requested motivational speaker who has inspired audiences at Yale University, Pfizer, and the FBI. She tailors her talks to meet the objectives of every event and her reviews describe her as "mezmerizing," "inspirational," "enlightening," and "exuding intelligence, great warmth and compassion."

Steve Donahue may have crossed the Sahara Desert, but his motivational speeches are never dry. A master storyteller, Donahue combines wit and warmth to emphasize the importance of the journey in a world where the destination can seem like the only thing that matters. A popular author, Donahue was named Sharing Ideas Magazine's Consummate Speaker of the Year along with Margaret Thatcher and author Tom Wolfe in 1994.

Yossi Ghinsberg spent three weeks alone and lost in the Amazon rainforest, a journey of survival that has been documented by the Discovery Channel. He is now a best-selling author and source of inspiration to audiences worldwide. His storytelling has been called "magical," "breathtaking," and a "truly inspirational experience."

Bill Carr knows that change may be the only constant, but sometimes it's more than we think we can handle. Think again. Using theatrical techniques employed by actors, Carr helps audiences "see ordinary things in extraordinary ways." Available as a keynote or an interactive workshop, Carr's presentations are customized to meet the needs of the audience. He is one of MCP's most popular speakers.

When To Go With Undiscovered Talent

If you don't have the budget for a big name or you want to keep the focus on the message rather than the medium, a reputable speakers bureau will be able to direct you to motivational speakers who wow audiences but are not celebrities--at least not yet.

Former Edmonton Eskimos kick returner, Henry "The Gizmo" Williams, for example, has audiences rolling in the aisles and reaching for their hankies as he recounts his climb from poverty to success as a record-setting pro football player. Cheryl Pounder, a two-time Canadian gold medallist in hockey, is another member of MCP's up-and-coming talent pool. Andrew Brash, a Canadian mountain climber who forfeited his dreams of reaching the summit of Everest to save the life of an Australian climber who had been left for dead by another team, has become a popular speaker who inspires audiences to be their best selves using humour and drama.

Make sure you choose the motivational speaker for your next event based on the speaker's impact and not just their fame. The best way to do this? Look to a credible speakers bureau for advice.


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