Why Motivational Speakers Are Outdated

BECAUSE the motivation dies as soon as we leave the session. That's right; we put the big answer right up front instead of you having to read the entire post.  But you should still read the entire post. 

The problem isn't that people need to be motivated. EVERYONE is motivated...just for their own reasons; we just have to find out what those reasons are. We must empower them to unleash their own motivations, and very often that doesn't happen with a motivational speaker because those speakers are trying to motivate the audience in their own style. It doesn't even happen with "speakers" because people don't learn from listening.

Think about yourself: you have days where you feel motivated and then you have days where you'd prefer sitting in a chair staring at the wall for three hours. This means that motivation is fickle. Motivational sessions are great, until they are over. That motivation lasts maybe 23.5 hours. After the motivational speaker, we go back to life and the next thing on our list: responding to texts, emails and calls; going to our next meeting or class; grabbing something to eat; taking a nap; whatever.

Students need space in between the learning to digest the information, make sense of it, and decide what to do. That's nearly impossible when someone is "speaking" the entire time. Think about yourself: haven't you ever said, "Just give me a moment to think" or "Hold on, I'm thinking" or "I've got a great idea, let me go into my cave and focus on it for 14 days and then I'll let you know what I'm thinking." 

We don't need motivational speaking, we need practical application and time to reflect on how this impacts us. You know just as well as I do that the problem is people are used to doing nothing after class, after learning something new, and after motivational speakers. So, let's create the space during the experience. Wait, you can't call it an experience if it's just a lecture. Oh, that's the point.  :)

BECAUSE people learn in the silence. What does that mean?  It means that we learn in the pauses, in the reflection, and in the meditation. Don't you have your best ideas in meditation, in the shower, while driving, or falling asleep?! We learn in the spaces in between life. We can't deliver lectures to learners anymore; that's not how people learn. 

Learning is only one part of the equation, or what we called Empowered Learning. We've designed all of our seminar experiences around the Learn-Say-Do-Reflect Model. It's called Empowered Learning, and it's about providing an experience. We can't teach someone to ride a bike or drive or how to use their new technology without putting them on the bike or in the car or the device in their hands.

Ben Franklin is quoted to have said:

Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.

In this 21st century, we have an attention-deficit span. It's only about 4-20 minutes. The average song you listen to is about 3-4 minutes. The average YouTube video watching time is about 3-5 minutes. Any scene in a movie runs between a quick moment and no more than 15 minutes before switching to a new scene. It takes no more than 15-20 minutes to read any article in any paper. TED Talks are 18 minutes. Stories in the news last no more than a few minutes unless they are documentaries.

What does this all mean? We can't lecture or speak to students (of any age) for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. The attention is gone. People start wondering what's next. They check their smartphones. They look at the clock. This happens not only during lectures and motivational speakers, but also during even great movies. When the world was hoping for an exciting Superman movie full of action and fighting and punching things (because in previous movies he only lifted or threw things like a non-Superman), they got Man of Steel. Then the world complained that there was too much action and fighting and punching things in the final act. People said it was too long; it was just nine minutes.

Seriously, we have to switch things up. We have to empower people. We have to help them remember what they're learning. That doesn't usually happen in a motivational talk.

Also BECAUSE of YouTube and TED Talks. We can watch speakers any time. We have motivation at our fingertips and in more places than not, it's free! We need the interaction, the engagement, the experience. We can Google anything. We can find infographics on anything. We can find case studies on anything. We can find blog, vlogs, podcasts, tweets, and sometimes snapchats on anything. It's called the Internet. 

We live in the Information Age...and there's too much of it!!! There's 120,000+ books and texts on leadership development with 3,000 more being published each year. We don't have a content problem; we have a filter problem. We must filter that content through the context of who we're trying to connect with and teach.  

Content is what we're pouring into people. Context is everything that makes those people unique. It's what their day has been like before the presentation. It's the circumstances that form the setting of an event. It's their age, interests, attention span, engagement level, and beliefs. It's all of the things that could change the meaning of the experience.

All of these reasons are why we're not speakers. We're not motivational speakers. We're not content experts. We are Context Experts. We are Facilitators. We are Collegiate Empowerment. 

So where do we start???  We start by focusing on context. Context is about how people learn. Context is about knowing who is in the audience. Context is about being able to facilitate conversation with the audience. Context is about building relationships of trust where the participants believe the presenter so much that they follow through and follow up. 

We start by co-creating educational experiences with spaced learning. Spaced learning is about the space in between the words in the "lecture." <Begin author rant> Please STOP booking lectures, inviting students to lectures, and having lecture chairs. We can watch lectures on video. There's little interaction and engagement from lectures. We need a facilitated and empowering learning experiences. <End rant> Spaced learning is about engagement, conversations, and one-to-one interaction. Spaced learning is about exercises, simulations, demonstrations, and students teaching students. Spaced learning is about reflection--yes, giving participants time during the session to turn their insights into actions. 

We start by eradicating the idea that motivation speakers lead to practical application. Practical application is about knowing why (most importantly) we're doing or planning to do the things that we do. Practical application is about knowing what exactly we need to do immediately to get to the next level. Practical application is about how to move forward and with what expectations. Practical application is about follow through on promises made to oneself during the learning experience. 


We're here to make waves in the education industry. For far too long, the standard of learning has been the lecture and the motivational speaker. The inherent trouble is that people learn in the silence, in the space in between the words. We learn through discovery. Collegiate Empowerment is a new kind of school where students, professionals, educators, campuses, and our own facilitators enrolled experience a new kind of education.

You see, empowerment doesn't happen during a lecture. It doesn't happen in a classroom. It happens when we experience a significant emotional event that inspires us to break the mold and follow our vision.

OUR VISION is a world in which college students get what they want and need so they graduate with a sense of purpose and live with a sense of meaning.

And that's what we do at Collegiate Empowerment. We're not motivational speakers. We're educators. The word education comes from the Latin root "educaré," which means  to draw from and bring forth. It's not about dumping information in. It's about finding the connection with what's already in our knowledge base and bringing it to the forefront, bringing it to action.

Let's make waves in the education industry together.