They say, "How's everybody doing?" And when they get a lukewarm response, they berate the audience: "Come on, you can do better than that!"
They use the most tired and dusty sports clichés (or the starfish story or the jar of rocks story) about things like leadership, perseverance and grit -- no matter who's in the audience.
They ask one rhetorical question after another, because they don't really want the audience to participate; they just want to reinforce their own opinions. (I heard this one recently: "How many of you like 'easy?'" Uh yeah, I do. And then, "How many of you like 'easier?'" Yes, it went on all the way to "easiest.")
When the audience doesn't raise their hands or participate in some way, the speaker uses sarcastic humor to make it seem like it's their fault for not getting it.
Their patter becomes repetitive: "Right? Am I right?" after every point. Or they try to get you to shout out a catch phrase that starts to lose its meaning after 20 times. Or they ask your permission to deliver each section of their talk, even though you know they're going to deliver it anyway.
Wonder why they keep getting booked and showing up at events you attend? They keep getting booked because of who they are.
They're celebrities or CEOs (or celebrity CEOs). They've won Olympic medals or founded a successful company or survived an avalanche and wrote a book about it. Sometimes they paid big money to sponsor an event, and speaking is part of their sponsorship package.
Who they are has nothing to do with how effective they are as speakers. I've seen some of the most successful CEOs give some of the worst presentations. But those guys (and women) will be back on a stage again next week, because they've done something impressive in the world and people want their valuable opinions, lessons and inspiration. (Or they're spending a lot of money to be on those stages as sponsors.)
So I want you to remember three things:
1. Don't assume that someone is on a stage because he's a good speaker.
They may not be able to put a presentation together or say ten words without some cheesy catch phrase, but they have proven themselves successful in some way, and the people who hire them know this will draw a crowd. Regarding sponsors, if anyone can be a sponsor if they have enough money, then you really have no guarantee that this person will say something worth listening to or will deliver it an a way that makes you care.
2. Don't assume that, because a person is on a big stage, they should be emulated.
There are many, many bad habits perpetrated by motivational and keynote speakers, and most likely, no one is telling them. I have attended workshops where the audience was not allowed to submit anonymous evaluations. If you had a criticism of this speaker, how comfortable would you be leaving your comments if they weren't anonymous?
Granted, we ALL have bad habits. We're human. But it's a lot harder for a high-level exec or celebrity speaker to get honest and neutral feedback from their minions, especially if they're not asking for it.
3. You can make a name for yourself, too!
You may not get the biggest gigs, but you can motivate, teach and inspire better than some of those on the biggest stages.
Speak about the things that are important to you and your target audience in a way that they are able to internalize and synthesize your message, take it home with them, and actually take action!
Use your humanity, humility and humor to connect with and influence your audiences better than a big-name executive with a soulless delivery.
Embrace your own metaphors and stories that illustrate persistence and perseverance in achieving your successes.
Your message is important, it's desirable, it's what somebody needs.
There are a lot of role models out there that are not worth following. You don't have to model yourself after the canned, derivative speaker who's got nothing new to say and is only there for the money (although you can make a respectable income)!
You are worth an audience's time and money. Now go earn it!
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