As a motivational speaker, I am constantly working to make my own presentations better—crisper, clearer, funnier, more actionable, all-around stronger. So naturally, I gravitate toward any new article I see that claims to offer insight into the art of the speech.

A recent Fast Company article, written by Neil Pasricha, claims that any good speech should do three things—entertain, educate, and empower. That’s certainly catchy, and I love the three-point alliteration. How accurate is it, though? Let’s look at Pasricha’s breakdown in a bit more depth.

Motivational Speaker 101: Building a Great Speech

Here, according to the Fast Company article, are the three things every motivational speaker should do:


This is foundational, Pasricha says—and I very much agree with him. Bottom line: If people aren’t actually paying attention to your speech, they’re not going to get anything out of it. You can’t’ just give something dry, boring, or rote. You need to engage them, and that means entertaining.

Now, you may wonder how you can possibly compete with other forms of entertainment—like YouTube videos or podcasts. The secret here is that you’re there in the room, and that means that your audience will give you about 30 seconds to snag their attention.

This, Pasricha says, is something you have to capitalize on. “Reward it immediately,” he says. “Show the audience the bonus they get by paying attention to you. Raise interest as you get onstage, create a laugh, but most importantly, be the most into your speech of anyone there.”


People are coming to your speech to learn things; to expand their minds and their points of view. You can’t just tell jokes and funny stories the whole time. You’ve really got to feed them, intellectually.

The Fast Company article recommends writing out the gist of your speech—the main takeaway point—in 140 characters or less. I agree. Have a tweet-sized summary, an elevator pitch of what you’re saying, to ensure clarity and substance.


But you can’t just educate, Pasricha says; you also have to provide something actionable that your audience members can take back to their offices with them.

“Yes, you’re the one on stage,” the article states. “But they have to feel like they own the message if they’re going to take it with them—and, ultimately, change their minds or behavior.”

The goal of the motivational speaker is to send people out with more than they came in with—including some specific action steps to improve their personal or professional lives. That certainly sounds good to me. Ultimately, I agree with this breakdown—with the idea that speakers must first engage, then educate, and ultimately provide something actionable to the audience.