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Class Act: Top 10 Tips for Using a Motivational Speaker to Inspire Youth

Andrew Brash
Andrew Brash

Kids today.

Now, more than ever, they need the courage, ethics and critical thinking skills to solve complex problems. Adults the world over are counting on them.

The reality, however, is that many of today's youth, from the tween to the twenty-something, are disillusioned and disenfranchised. Today's adults are leaving them with a legacy of war, environmental degradation and poverty, where a person's worth is too often judged by the size of their bank account.

How can adults help them rise to the challenge?

Many teachers, administrators and community leaders are turning to motivational speakers as a way of reaching and inspiring youth. Rich Libner, president of MCP Speakers, has worked with school boards, college administrators and youth leadership to bring messages of hope to young people. They need to feel they can make a difference, says Libner, and motivational speakers have proven time and again that the actions of one person matter. It's the kind of learning that goes way beyond the classroom.

Inspire the youth in your life with our top 10 tips for using a school or youth-oriented motivational speaker.

  1. Pinpoint what is holding your group back
  2. Identify the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead
  3. Seek expert advice
  4. Remember that timing is everything
  5. Choose a speaker who can connect with youth
  6. Involve youth in planning the event
  7. Get the most fame you can afford
  8. Think of what personal experiences will have the most impact on your group
  9. Inspire the adults so they can pass it on
  10. Tie the speaker's lessons to ongoing projects and activities

1) Pinpoint what is holding your group back

Maybe it's poverty. Broken families. Lack of positive role models. Hopelessness. Fear of the future. Poor self-esteem. The more specific you can be about the needs of the youth you are trying to reach, the more successful you will be at finding a speaker who can make a difference in their lives.

2) Identify the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead

While it is important to recognize the power of the past, a good motivational speaker should provide the inspiration and tools for youth to succeed in the future. Think about the unique challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for your group and pass this valuable context on to your speaker.

3) Seek expert advice

You wouldn't expect to put together an event menu without the advice of a caterer or mike a conference room without the assistance of a sound technician. So don't hesitate to contact a speakers bureau when looking for a motivational speaker for your school or youth group, advises Libner. A speakers bureau will help take the uncertainty and guesswork out of speaker selection. The relationship is really a partnership, Libner notes, with both parties sharing the same goal: a standing ovation. A speakers bureau will also offer event planning support, including help with travel arrangements, audio-visual requirements and back-up planning in case a speaker must cancel. The host organization doesn't pay anything for the speakers bureau's services, since payment comes from the speaker.

4) Remember that timing is everything

Choose the right moment for a school or youth motivational speaker. Endings and beginnings are both excellent opportunities to employ a speaker--think graduation or during the first week of high school or university. At these important moments, young people may be more receptive to a motivational speaker's message, either because they are concerned about the future or open to possibilities. Motivational speakers can also be used to help celebrate successes--for example at an athletic banquet or an event to congratulate honour roll students--or as a way to motivate achievement prior to exams.

5) Choose a speaker who can connect with youth

Some motivational speakers use their young age to connect with the audience, but don't feel your motivational speaker must be a peer to be effective. It is more important that the speaker, regardless of her age, creates a believable bond with the students and quickly inspires trust. Humour and personal anecdotes are important ways to connect with youth, but beware of speakers who use controversy, obscenities or devaluing of adults as a cheap way of building rapport with the crowd. A skillful motivational speaker will orient the presentation to different learning styles so everyone stays engaged.

6) Involve youth in planning the event

Nothing gets buy-in faster than having the power to shape the outcome, so make sure that youth have the opportunity to contribute their ideas to the event. Not only will they feel valued but the final product will better respond to their needs.

7) Get the most fame you can afford

Young people are immersed in a celebrity-conscious culture so use this to your advantage. Know your budget and secure the most well-known talent you can. 

8) Think of what personal experiences will have the most impact on your group

Motivational speakers typically share their personal journey as a way of teaching and inspiring others. Andrew Brash, for example, is a mountain climber who abandoned his own climb to rescue someone who was left for dead by another expedition. Matt Hill, actor, athlete and co-founder of Run for the Planet, speaks to audiences about fulfilling dreams against the odds and the power of a role model. Will an elite athlete who grew up in poverty, a cancer survivor, a mountain climber or a Paralympian be the most compelling speaker for your youth?

9) Inspire the adults so they can pass it on

It can be difficult to get all the middle schoolers or all the freshmen in your city together in one room to benefit from a motivational speaker. In-service the adults who spend time with the youth and you can multiply the benefits a thousand-fold. Motivational speakers can present to teachers, parents, professors and service agencies. They can even present to student leaders as a way of helping the leaders inspire and motivate their peers. Hosting a small in-service rather than a keynote event means those in attendance will feel more like participants than audience members. Increased interaction with the speaker through a workshop or discussion format can extend learning.

10) Tie the speaker's lessons to ongoing projects and activities

Revisit the principles, strategies and messages from the motivational speaker's talk during the rest of the year. This will deepen the learning and allow students the opportunity to try out techniques.

Tips on Booking a Motivational Speaker