What Scares Me About A Motivational Speaker

I have to admit, I cringe a bit whenever someone refers to me as a motivational speaker.

I look deeply into their eyes trying to see what they picture when they use that term. Are they envisioning the same whacky performance guy or girl that I am? Or, the guy from the van down by the river? 

van down by the river

But, what is it about the term motivational speaker that truly scares me? Because, in my most honest moment, of course I hope my words are motivating. I hope that every speech I ever give motivates someone to think differently, see differently, and spring into action, differently. So, as I dig a little deeper, I think these are the 3 attributes of the whacky speaker guy or gal that gives the term a bad name:

  • Cheesy Jokes — we’ve all seen the canned punch line or story that probably came directly from a joke book. Humor is great and is needed to create a comfortable environment, but too often can feel forced.
  • Lack of Authenticity — I never want to be associated with anything that isn’t authentic. The best motivational speakers are motivational first because they are real, genuine, authentic.
  • Words, But No Action — speeches are not about words, they are about creating an experience that moves us to action. People can spot it from a mile away when our words don’t line up with our actions. The best keynote speakers use stories and messages to lead toward action.

So, I guess I have to continue to work through my own issues of what scares me about the term motivational speaker. I guess I need to allow myself the freedom to define what the term means to me. And, more importantly, I get the privilege of trying to bring humor, authenticity, and action to every speech that I’m lucky to be asked to contribute.

Is this encouraging? Perhaps motivating?

Now I’ll go find my van down by the river.

Travel Gracefully,


Jason Barger is a globally celebrated author, keynote speaker, and leadership consultant. More importantly, he’s striving to be an above average father, husband, and friend.

Follow on Twitter @JasonVBarger and learn more at JasonVBarger.com