Ronald Mayanja, a motivational speaker and the chief executive officer at Ability Explored, trains people in public speaking.  PHOTO/ Michael Kakumirizi


Is motivational speech overrated? 

What you need to know:

Individuals should critically evaluate the messages and intentions of motivational speakers to ensure they are receiving value and not being taken advantage of. 

The business of motivational speaking never ceases to amaze, according to Prosper Magazine’s findings. This is because motivational speaking, by its very nature of delivery, tends to trigger different reactions.

Motivational speaking revolves around speeches intended to motivate or inspire an audience. As a result, motivational speakers may attempt to challenge or transform their audiences. 

They may share personal anecdotes, offer practical advice, and provide strategies for overcoming obstacles and achieving success.

People listen to a speech in Kampala last year. Motivational speaking revolves around speeches intended to motivate or inspire an audience. PHOTO/ MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

However, a poll seeking to examine this growing phenomenon in the country, especially among corporate companies, entrepreneurs and the middle class, reveals interesting findings, most of which are either witty or dismissive and in some cases an aura of positivity looks eminent in the responses.

For example, some respondents narrate encounters with motivational speakers who appear to assure them that it is possible to start a poultry farm with a single feather! Another noted that a motivational speaker once said that castles can be built in the air as long as one believes so.

The poll also reveals that some motivational speakers appear geniuses at the expense of their clients – audience. And another quipped: “They themselves need to be motivated.”

A claim of dishonesty by way of entertaining daydreams and grandiose plans that are nearly impossible for the dreamer to achieve were also levelled against some motivational speakers who by hook or by crook think motivation and hope is one size fits all.

But it was not all doom and gloom – perhaps the best motivation as some voices questioned the intention of examining motivational speaking, saying obviously a force for good.

One respondent wondered why motivational speaking should be deemed as unrealistic, arguing that it is just that – to motivate.
According to the respondent, the burden of proof is not on the shoulders of the motivational speaker as long as it impacts one’s life journey which often takes different paths. Another respondent said sleeping minds have been awakened by motivational speakers including those who have no idea of what they are talking about.

Ticking the box
Individuals should critically evaluate the messages and intentions of motivational speakers to ensure they are receiving value and not being taken advantage of. 

Mr Ronald Mukasa Ssenkubuge, a business and personal life coach, tells Prosper Magazine that it is not necessary for motivational speakers to exaggerate a point.
“I don’t think one should necessarily exaggerate a point, but it is important to emphasize important ideas,” says Mr Mukasa who is also a financial literacy coach and business consultant.
He continues: “The key goal of every speaker is to activate a desire to change a specific behaviour.”

Mr Ronald Mukasa Ssenkubuge, a business and personal life coach makes a speech during the Nation Media Group staff meeting in Kampala. PHOTO/ FILE

This may require that a speaker paints an alternative reality with a view to create clarity. This can also be achieved by emphasizing specific ideas over others or juxtaposing.
According to Mr Mukasa, a speaker should continuously, “be a student of their chosen subjects.”

He says:  “You need to appreciate that there is more out there to learn than what you currently know. I also believe that you may have to concentrate on a specific area and not attempt to speak on everything. In this way, you can optimize the value you give those who listen.”

On the quality of motivational speakers, Mr Mukasa believes it is a matter that is best left to the market to decide because different messages are meant or appeal to different audiences.

“When you listen to a message and it appears off-base, you may just not be the target audience,” Mr Mukasa emphasises, “The speaker’s goal is to water the seed of hope and belief in every individual which is often suffocated by the cynicism and demotivation around us.” 

On entertaining false, unrealistic hope, Mr Mukasa describes it as a dangerous path for any speaker, saying speakers should always back up the speech with evidence. Challenge the speaker to show you where a castle has been built in the sky in the nearby village/country!

In another interview with the executive director of Enterprise Uganda, Mr Charles Ocici, an acknowledged commentator and authority on private sector investment and enterprise development issues in the African region, a motivational speaker should endeavour to act professionally at all times including while delivering talks, speeches and messages.  

Himself, a professional motivational speaker, is of the view that when delivering talks and speeches, endeavor to understand a point of view in which people, culture etc. operate.   
Once you have done so, you can now indicate to them that they can have another view “by bringing it to the picture they can associate with.”

The issue here is, how much research or background check do you carry out before your presentation?
“Once you have put on their shoes, you now begin to illustrate to them the alternatives. Alternatives are best captured when they come in style of stories that people can associate with,” he says. 

He continues: “If people think they can’t do something then you should demonstrate to them through real stories and testimonies that this can be done. And that is where people draw motivation from – humanize your illustration to relay motivation.”

A large part of motivation and inspiration also depends on the credibility of the message. If you’re not convinced with your own message then you will be misleading other people. Just because you picked the message from the internet or heard somebody speaking about it from somewhere doesn’t mean that it is true – check its authenticity.

Mr Ocici is also of the view that motivational speakers should be grounded in a particular subject of their choice. This is important in distinguishing yourself and the diction you use to convey your message.
Oratory skill or your persuasion ability is but not everything when it comes to motivational speaking.

“Motivational speaking is not about crafting words and making people laugh or get excited or clap. That is something that comedians do all the time. The point here is you need to have content that is grounded with evidence, real experience and even with your own track record in this business,” argues Mr Ocici.

He has also seen confusion between motivational speaking and public speaking. He believes most people in the motivational speaking arena are public speakers which is a different ball game despite possessing many similarities and skillsets as motivational speakers.     

Another eye
Mr Moses Ssesanga, a senior human resource management professional with more than 20 years’ experience, does not believe the thought of employing in-house motivational speakers in organisations should even suffice.

However, he recognises the role of motivational speakers, saying they are supposed to get audiences to reflect on themselves in terms of living their potential in whatever field/profession they are pursuing.
“This concept is borrowed from Psychology where counselors try to help their clients to turn round and take charge of their lives!”

“There must never be exaggeration at any point! They must be truly knowledgeable but subtle in applying themselves. The point is their job is to help the client/audience discover themselves and feel they have independently achieved although they have clearly been facilitated all the way,” argues Mr Ssesanga. 

Instead of drawing applause to themselves, they should be engaging, saying: “Remember, it is the audience/client who must be central in this.”
Mr Ssesanga concludes his thoughts by saying the audience should be wary of motivational speakers who are like fake preachers, stressing that motivational speakers must have the ability to get their audiences to reflect on themselves and not become excited and high on nothing.

So, there is good in listening to motivational speaking but by all means, sieve and vet as the partaker of the “inspiration and reflection” being delivered to you.