Be a Motivational Speaker at Schools: Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a motivational speaker. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in motivational speaking.

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Requirements for Becoming a Motivational Speaker

Motivational speakers use their own experiences to inspire and empower other people, including students, business people or community groups. This career is often pursued after success in another field has already been achieved. While formal education isn't necessary, public speaking courses or workshops may be useful for aspiring motivational speakers. The following table outlines the core requirements to work in this field:

Common Requirements
Degree Level No formal degree is required, although public speaking courses or programs can be helpful*
Certification Voluntary certification is available*
Experience Experience gained through professional speaking organizations can be helpful**
Key Skills Communication skills, sales and marketing skills, presenting and performing skills; ability to connect with many different kinds of people*

Sources: *National Speakers Association, **Toastmasters

Step 1: Develop Expertise in a Topic for Presentation

Motivational speakers must have compelling experience or expertise they can use to inspire others; this experience doesn't need to be in any particular field. Aspiring professionals should choose presentation topics that could be meaningful to others; in a school context, that could involve a discussion of academic or career paths. Research and content development are required in order to expand these topics beyond individual experience so that they're relevant to various audiences.

Step 2: Obtain Speaker Training

Many colleges and universities offer public speaking courses through their continuing education departments. These courses allow students to deliver practice speeches and obtain feedback. Topics of discussion include audience engagement, pronunciation techniques and compelling content.

In addition, some private organizations hold training seminars and workshops for aspiring motivational speakers. Attendees may learn about marketing techniques, business plans, PowerPoint presentations and memorization strategies.

Step 3: Gain Experience

One way to gain professional speaking experience is to volunteer. Some professional organizations, like the Journalism Education Association, allow students, teachers and other professionals to submit proposals for volunteer speaking engagements. In addition, aspiring motivational speakers who have school-age children may volunteer to speak at their schools.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Networking with other speakers is one important benefit of joining a speakers organization. Additional benefits can include access to industry journals and discounted rates on professional conferences. In some cases, professional speaking experience is a requirement for new members.

Step 4: Find Representation

Motivational speakers are sometimes represented by a speakers bureau; these organizations help qualified speakers locate job opportunities. In order to be considered for a speakers bureau, individuals usually need to submit a DVD copy of their best presentation, a personal biography and an explanation of their credentials. Other submission requirements may include press clippings, references and a current speaking schedule; there is no guarantee that applicants will be accepted.

Faculty, students and staff members of universities may be able to join their school's speakers bureau. Applicants usually need to submit a biography and an explanation of their presentation; in many cases, all candidates are admitted.

Success Tip:

  • Obtain certification. The National Speakers Association offers voluntary certification to its members and members of affiliated organizations. In order to qualify, speakers need at least three years of experience.
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