Motivational Speakers Versus Trainers – Knowing the Difference

Motivational Speakers Versus Trainers – Knowing the Difference
Here are the differences as I have experienced them:
(Again, this is not a hard and fast science. There will be exceptions.)

1. Motivation motivates – training teaches. I know. Basic. But you’d surprised how often speakers call themselves motivational and never get around to motivating. When you’re a motivational speaker, your audience expects you to encourage them, inspire them, and motivate them to do something. This is important – be sure your able to tell us what you motivate people to do. We expect a motivational speaker’s keynote to be filled with energy, emotion, and entertainment. We expect a trainer to teach us skills and help us implement them. We expect a lot of content in more of a classroom atmosphere.

2. Motivation tends to go in the keynote slot. Training in breakouts. Due to the fact that motivation tends to be more of a touchy, feely, emotion kind of thing – and since motivational keynotes tend to be more high-energy – they are often put in the keynote slots to open or close a conference, as opposed to a breakout session. The opening slots are critical in a conference because this sets the tone and these are the parts the audience remembers longest. A depressing horrible closing speaker can ruin a conference and future attendance.

People expect the motivational keynote to me more entertainment oriented. They don’t expect you to read from a manual or show them four hundred PowerPoint slides. They expect to be motivated and energized. This is all about how you make them feel. I do find that a client will often look for good content in addition to the motivation. So just funny and motivating is often not enough to get me hired. Keynotes tend to be in broad strokes (often limited to three major points) – training goes into heavy detail and depth.

Training is often scheduled in between the keynotes, in classrooms when in a conference setting. But many trainers are hired to work directly with the client company. Not so much for motivational keynote speakers.

3. Keynotes are shorter. Training is longer. My standard keynote is usually 45 minutes to an hour – sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. Trainers often get asked to speak anywhere from an hour to a week. I did get asked once to do a four-hour keynote. So clients don’t always read the same rule book we do.

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4. Training business is easier to get. Or maybe I should say that there’s a lot more need for trainers than keynote speakers. A conference will often have two keynotes and a bunch of breakout sessions. Motivational speakers often have to find events that already exist. Trainers can sell their end result to the client and be booked to come in and train.

The keynote slot is often more competitive, therefore harder to get. There is a higher expectation from the keynote speaker, therefore more careful consideration given to the speaker chosen.

When you’re a motivational speaker it’s often hard to find out what companies you should target, and who the buyer would be. With training it’s easier to figure that out.

5. Trainers get a lot of repeat business and can get booked over and over. They can develop long-term relationships with clients that result in a lot of repeat business and referrals. Clients rarely hire the same keynote speaker twice.

6. Trainers can get more business locally. Keynoters have to travel further to get enough business to sustain a career. When you’re a motivational keynote speaker looking for a conference or annual event, it is hard to find enough business in your own state to keep you afloat – especially if you are niched in one market. Trainers, on the other hand, can run a successful business without traveling too far.

7. Keynote speakers in a conference often get paid more than breakout session presenters. Sometimes breakout session presenters are not paid at all – but take the opportunity as exposure or a chance to pitch their own products and services. The larger the conference the more valuable the breakout session opportunity. We’ve all seen a free job spin off into a full fee job. This is not to say that keynote speakers make or charge more. There are plenty of keynote speakers working for pennies – and plenty of trainers with impressive fees.

8. Humor belongs in both but is most apparent in keynotes. Clients love humor because their audiences love humor. So many will look for motivational speakers who use humor to deliver their message. While humor is not expected (unless you advertised it) – it certainly is a selling advantage. Trainers don’t have to be funny – but a funny trainer has an advantage in connecting with the audience, being memorable, and being selected for the speaking slot.

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9. Branding is often done differently for motivational keynote speakers versus trainers. When I get on your website does it scream trainer or keynoter? Do the photos of you in action have you standing in a conference room beside a podium or on a stage with big screens flanking you? Does the text in your promotional material talk all about the end result and return on investment, or does it talk about the amazing high-energy experience? Does your site look like a fan site or a resource center? What do the demo videos show you doing – dancing like a chicken or pointing to a pie chart? How you position yourself in your promotional materials will reflect the kind of work you want. Take a look at other speakers’ websites to see how they choose to pitch themselves to the world. Sometimes you can effectively position yourself as both keynoter and trainer – but sometimes you have to pick a lane and run with it.

10. Motivational Speakers get training business and trainers get motivational keynote business. Just because you position yourself as a trainer doesn’t mean you don’t do keynotes. And I have been booked many times by clients who saw the show and now want me to come take it even further.

11. Motivational keynoters must have whiter teeth and be able to cry on command. Trainers must be addicted to PowerPoint and bad jokes. Just a little joke to remind you not to take this too seriously. You don’t have to figure this out all at once.

The most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter how we define what we do. What matters is that we have a clear understanding of what our clients expect – no matter what they call it.

Good luck and happy speaking!

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