In many ways, the evolution of women in society has come a long way. 100 years ago, women were finally granted the right to vote but nonetheless faced countless other obstacles to their independence and their ability to grow, at least in a professional sense. Even in the speaking industry, female motivational speakers, coaches, or consultants might have seemed radical at one time or another.
Thankfully, many of these roadblocks have since faded. And although there’s still work to be done, there’s arguably never been a better time for women to become speakers or to advance their speaking careers. Want evidence? Look no further than Mel Robbins or Michelle Obama. Both of these women built speaking into their primary professions. Then, they turned it into one of their most well-known skills.
But new opportunities bring new challenges. To make it as a female motivational speaker today, you need to know how you want to present yourself and the message you want to deliver. Plus, you need to have the right array of top-notch qualities, both professionally and personally.
With that in mind, let’s break down examples from some of the best female speakers out there. That way, you can learn from their skills. Who knows? Maybe next time we publish a list like this, we’ll be highlighting you! 😉
- They’re not afraid to break the “rules”.
- They tell stories exceptionally well.
- They’re passionate about their message.
- They know what they’re talking about.
- They’re not afraid to be empathetic.
- They give credit to those that inspire them.
- They don’t shy away from tough topics.
- Their presentations are clear and concise.
- They balance education with humor.
- Their visual aids are eye-catching but simple.
- Their speeches are well-practiced but not memorized.
- They provide actionable steps for their audience.
They’re not afraid to break the “rules”.
The first thing successful female motivational speakers do is learn when it’s necessary to break the “rules” of professional speaking.
In nearly every profession, unspoken rules are undeniably important to know. In many ways, they represent the so-called “keys to the kingdom” because they give you some hints about how to be accepted and make headway when it comes to knowing what to do and not do. But they can also be a straitjacket. For many female speakers (or non-cis-gender speakers, especially), many of the “rules” are in direct contract with their authentic personalities or, in some cases, what they believe to be appropriate. I, myself, was instructed – in a college public speaking course, no less – to not wear too much makeup or use profanity because it “makes you look unladylike.” In many cases, the definition of both of these restrictions varied by audience, making it hard to know what was “correct,” not to mention that I don’t personally have a problem with either.
In the same way, remember that part of what makes the best speakers memorable is their authenticity. Some “rules” are worth following, sure, such as “Don’t offend your audience.” But, in the grand scheme of things, you don’t have to look, speak, or carry yourself in a certain way to be a successful female motivational speaker. More than anything, you just need to be yourself.
Example: Kindra Hall
One female motivational speaker that excels in this area is Kindra Hall. In the Facebook post above, Hall speaks directly and eloquently about how she was approached by a fellow speaker regarding her style. To her surprise, this woman was almost in awe of Hall and the speech she had just completed, during which Hall broke several “rules” of femininity. Rules like “Don’t wear lipstick,” “Don’t be too feminine,” and “Only wear the right kind of heels” were all commonplace to this audience member, but Hall broke them all and, at the same time, delivered a compelling and memorable speech. Shocking, right?
Maybe, but it shouldn’t be! As Hall describes in her post, each of these rules doesn’t align with her personality. They’re not representative of her, personally, and so can’t authentically represent her professionally either.
Likewise, consider the “rules” of professional speaking you hear from event organizers, colleagues, etc. but balance them with your truth, too. Like Hall’s fan mentioned here, audience members will not only remember you more if you are yourself. They’ll also respect you for thinking outside of the box and standing your ground.
They tell stories exceptionally well.
The second thing successful female motivational speakers do is master the art of storytelling. It’s no great secret that storytelling is a crucial part of speaking and, in a larger sense, thought leadership. It can persuade audiences to act, compel them to change their views, or educate them on complex topics while still making them memorable.
“We discovered that, in order to motivate a desire to help others, a story must first sustain attention – a scarce resource in the brain – by developing tension during the narrative. If the story is able to create that tension then it is likely that attentive viewers/listeners will come to share the emotions of the characters in it, and after it ends, likely to continue mimicking the feelings and behaviors of those characters.”
In other words, if you, as the speaker, are able to build tension in your storytelling and maintain your audience’s attention, they’re more likely to absorb your message and leave your presentation inspired to act on it.
Consequently, in your own speeches and presentations, don’t merely aim to inform your audience. Aim to enthrall them. If you share your information as a story, you won’t just educate them but also inspire and motivate them. Win, win!
Example: Paula Stone Williams
If you’re unsure what high-quality storytelling looks like in speaking, look no further than TED talks, specifically TED speaker Paula Stone Williams. As a transgender female speaker, Williams’s transition story is one of condescension and diminution, both of which she endured during her transition and her subsequent expulsion from her long-held position at work and in her church.
Today, however, Williams’s story is entirely different. Having overcome these insults and challenges, she now serves on the board of the Q Christian Fellowship while also leading RLT Pathways, Inc., a non-profit that provides counseling and coaching services.
Throughout her TED talk above, Williams is calm and passionate in sharing this story and explaining the “tilting of culture” toward the male gender. She points out that it permeates virtually every aspect of her life – clothes, airplane travel, etc. – and that ordinary experiences remind her of how different life is depending on which gender you identify as. But it’s the way Williams delivers her message that makes her so brilliant and effective. Part of her message is structured in religious terms, as she describes the call toward authenticity as being “sacred” and “holy.” Yet, many of her stories are closer to a stand-up routine, making both her message and approach as unique as her take on this important subject.
With your own speeches, the same impact of a story is possible, and by sharing your story, your audience is almost guaranteed to be more interested. Plus, like Williams, each of us has the opportunity to help each other grow and treat others around us with more kindness and respect, simply by sharing our experiences. Regardless of your focus industry, that’s an important goal to work towards together.
They’re passionate about their message.
Third, the greatest female motivational speakers are always exceptionally passionate about their message. In many ways, passion may sound like an obviously necessary component of a good speech, but it’s also a tricky line to walk.
How can you show your passion and energy without seeming overexcited or manic, for instance? How can you share the arguments you’re passionate about without being pushy or argumentative? And, above all, how can you communicate why you’ve stayed passionate about your message for an extended period of time?
These questions are just a few of the angles to consider when preparing for a motivational speech, regardless of your gender. It’s also imperative that you tie your answers into the two topics we covered previously, namely the storytelling aspects of your speeches and your own authenticity. That way, your audience can see a clear path from who you are to what you believe to why they should believe it, too.
In short, as author and speaker Nicholas Boothman stated in his 2002 book, “It’s much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic. Figure out what’s important to you about your message and speak from the heart.”
Example: Amy Purdy
One speaker that embodies this passion exceptionally well is Amy Purdy. As motivational speakers go, Purdy has a common message, but an incredibly uncommon story. To put it briefly, after losing her legs early in her life to meningitis, Purdy overcame what she refers to as “obstacles and borders.” This included becoming a World Cup medalist in snowboarding and founding her own company, both of which are spectacular.
But the subtle message in her TED talk above is how she motivated herself to meet these goals, how she stayed passionate – and continues to stay passionate – about tackling obstacles as they came. Beneath her thoughts on creativity, living life as a story, and pushing off borders, Purdy took a step-by-step to each obstacle she faced, and that in turn propelled her to achievement after achievement, all of which might have been unthinkable if she hadn’t lost her legs when she was a child.
Similarly, keep in mind that your own speaking events are just steps towards your bigger goals, and staying passionate throughout each one is key. Ask yourself what’s driven you in the past, what’s driving you now, and what you’re looking forward to in the future. Then, build these motivators into your presentations so your audience can use them, as well.
They know what they’re talking about.
In addition to passion, the most successful female motivational speakers can back up their rhetoric with evidence. Like arguing in a debate, the best speeches incorporate evidence from at least one of two sources to make their case.
The first source is credentials. Because each speaker has their own unique approach to public speaking, it can be hard to compare speakers and even harder to argue that one is better than another. In fact, in most cases, neither is “better” than the other. They’re just different and each better than the other for specific events or industries.
That’s where credentials come in. In recent years, more and more speaking associations and industry organizations have offered certifications to help speakers stand out from the crowd. A few of the most common include the Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) and Council of Peers Award for Excellence (CPAE) from the National Speakers Association and the Certified Virtual Presenter badge from eSpeakers.
That said, none of these awards are absolutely necessary to be a great speaker, and the second source of “evidence” can almost always outshine them. I’m talking about experience. It can be personal or professional, but many event planners won’t care if you don’t have a badge or certification to your name. Instead, they’ll want to know you have real-world experience with the topic at hand and so can empathize with their audience.
Obviously, the importance of each of these factors depends largely on the event and the planner in question. When building your own speaking portfolio, just remember to highlight at least some credentials or experience (or both!) to show why you’re an expert. Then, as you learn what matters more in your focus industry, you can give that area of evidence more of your time and energy.
Example: Jill Bolte Taylor
One particularly unique female motivational speaker who meets both of these requirements is Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. As a neuroanatomist who has both studied brain injuries and lived with one of her own, Taylor’s a uniquely qualified speaker on the topic.
For starters, as a young adult, her brother’s experience with schizophrenia kickstarted her personal and professional journey into neuroscience and the study of mental illness and injury. Then, later, her own brain injury gave her personal experience involving how the two brain hemispheres determine experiences in different ways. Mirroring this contrast between the two hemispheres, Taylor describes the function of each with markedly different tones, using a scientific and rational one when discussing her logical hemisphere and an almost hallucinatory one for the emotional hemisphere.
In describing both of these stories, Taylorr clearly demonstrates her authority on the matter, both through her professional education and her personal experience. Where her credentials are concerned, she’s quick to touch on them before moving on to her main points, avoiding any suggestion of arrogance. Where her experiences are concerned, she’s surprisingly vulnerable, sharing in vivid detail what it felt like to have a stroke and, at the same time, be conscious of the science behind it.
In the same way, your own speeches should definitively illustrate not just your primary message but also why you are qualified to have an opinion on it at all, so your audience can connect with your story and build trust in your arguments.
They’re not afraid to be empathetic.
The fifth thing you’ll see among successful female motivational speakers is a simple one: empathy. For many new speakers, it can be tempting to lean into a stereotypical “persona” of speaking. There’s the “drill sergeant” persona, for instance, that presents their message bluntly, so as to not waste any time. On the other hand, there’s the “educator” whose speeches are like a lecture, extended in time and soft in tone.
But regardless of the speaking persona you build for yourself, it’s critical that you include an element of humanity. If you’re speaking to salespeople whose numbers are down, share an experience of your own, where you were struggling to sell your products or services. If you’re speaking to an audience that’s looking for direction, share a memory of when you felt lost.
Essentially, whatever you’re speaking about, specifically, the goal is to empathize with your audience. By expressing your familiarity with their emotions and their experiences and by being vulnerable about your own shortcomings, audience members are more likely to connect with your message and remember you after you leave.
In short, with your own speeches, remember that a good speech doesn’t have to be full of commands and instruction. The best ones also include how the speaker can relate to the hardship their audience may be experiencing. That way, everyone in the audience knows they’re being listened to, just as they’re listening to the speaker in return.
Example: Elizabeth Gilbert
As far as speakers go, one who’s been unafraid to empathize with her audience from the beginning is Elizabeth Gilbert.
The author of Eat, Pray, Love and a number of other best-selling books, Gilbert’s primary area of expertise is creativity. Although it’s a broad subject, in her TED talk above, Gilbert’s approach to the topic is anything but broad. In fact, rather than talking about creativity in a purely analytical sense, nearly all of her references mention external sources from different cultures and well as the social constructs that tend to foster or inhibit the average person’s creative process.
On a personal level, Gilbert’s talk also highlights her own creative process. This includes her own struggles and worries around the creative process, her fear of failure after creating something wildly successful, and her ongoing mission to overcome it. Overall, you can tell she’s considered it from all angles – intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.
By sharing these details in addition to her initial analysis, Gilbert shows her audience that she’s not only experienced enough to know what she’s talking about but also that she knows how they feel. From hitting creative roadblocks to worrying your creativity will dry up, she knows the challenges. Consequently, she’s more invested in solving them than another, less experienced speaker might be. This lends her credibility and relatability and, by showing the same empathy in your speeches, you can achieve the same.
They give credit to those that inspire them.
Sixth, the best female motivational speakers – really, the best speakers, period – are humble. We’ve all seen speeches in which the speaker seems to focus on themselves too much. You might have heard the “humblebrag,” where they offhandedly mention something that flatters them. The other common one is oversharing the “evidence” component of a speech that we covered earlier.
On the flip side of that, however, is the ideal speaker, one that balances their credentials and experience with humility. These speakers share their applicable experiences, including those that show them at a point of weakness. They own up to their mistakes, admit that they’re still working to improve, and give credit to the people that helped them get where they are.
Ultimately, the best speakers are always looking to get better, including sharing the speakers and thought leaders they look to for inspiration themselves. Likewise, as your speaking business grows and you achieve some level of fame and fortune yourself, remember to show your audiences your gratefulness for it. It’ll make you and your message appear more approachable. Plus, to make mistakes and to change is human! Showing your flaws is only going to make audience members want to connect with you more.
Example: Lizzie Velásquez
When it comes to embracing flaws – and thanking those that helped us embrace them – one of the best examples among female motivational speakers is Lizzie Velásquez.
Unlike most speakers, Velásquez’s journey started in the womb, when her parents discovered she’d developed without amniotic fluid. Things got worse from there when they discovered that she had a rare congenital disease called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome that would keep her both short and strikingly thin, a combination that led her to once be labeled “The World’s Ugliest Women.”
Flash forward to today, and Velásquez has turned these experiences into an incredibly inspirational message, asking, “What defines you?” and sharing how she defined herself on her own terms. She’s dealt with bullying, body shaming, and all of the surrounding issues that have come with her condition. But Velásquez answered that question by becoming incredibly successful—she’s a college graduate, a published author, and a riveting motivational speaker.
Through all of these achievements, she’s also remarkably humble in sharing her inspiration. Among other sources of happiness, she mentions her family, and friends, and her faith. She’s also open about the fact that she hasn’t necessarily conquered her self-consciousness yet but instead merely gotten better at managing it. She doesn’t pretend to be perfect or “better” than anyone, just different like we’re all unique in our own ways.
When planning your own motivational speeches, keep this attitude in mind. Be humble, be human, and be thankful for your support mechanisms, and the audience won’t want to look away.
They don’t shy away from tough topics.
The next trait of successful female motivational speakers is similar to the first one about breaking rules. For many female speakers, besides being instructed on how to look and speak, they’re also encouraged to avoid certain topics, mainly for the sake of comfort. In fact, for many years, hard-to-hear topics like sexual assault, systemic racism, or drug addiction were not just avoided but flat-out ignored, even though they’re undeniably important.
In these cases, the best female speakers would say, “I’ll share what needs to be heard, not what’s most comfortable”. Each of the aforementioned topics – not to mention the countless other issues affecting our world every day – is definitely worth talking about, and if you have a related story or viewpoint to share, even better! Even if a subject seems a bit risky, I can almost guarantee that there is someone out there that wants or even needs to hear about it.
With this in mind, when planning your speeches or presentations, go after what you’re passionate about, not what others tell you is “appropriate”. It can be one of the topics mentioned above. Alternatively, your main focus can be a common topic balanced with your own raw and vulnerable experiences. Whatever your take – and regardless of whether or not everyone is comfortable with it – remember that you can’t make everyone happy, and sometimes the tough topics are the ones the world truly needs to hear more about.
Example: Mel Robbins
If you’re unsure what a direct speaker looks like, one great example is Mel Robbins. As a former criminal attorney and legal analyst, speaking frankly is a long-established part of Robbin’s background. In fact, to this day, as the host of the Mel Robbins Show and an award-winning thought leader, she still exercises this approach to speaking.
In the TED talk above, in particular, Robbins doesn’t intellectualize anything, nor does she sugarcoat her solutions. She also uses data to back up those solutions, making her words hit that much harder.
As a whole, Robbin’s speech is a perfect example of how to be feminine but forceful, how to be assertive without being condescending. Some audiences expect female motivational speakers to be at least somewhat passive. But, if you want to make sure your message gets across, boil it down to its essence and deliver it firmly.
Here, Robbins proposes several ways to do this, but the best is her brain “model”. In this argument, she proposes that our brains consist of two things: an autopilot mode and an emergency brake. While the former is what we’re most comfortable using, the latter shifts us out of normal thought, forcing us to solve problems and confront harsh realities. Simply put, the less time we spend on autopilot, the better our chances of finding a solution.
In motivational speaking, the same approach also applies. If you’re new to speaking, don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re sharing details on a touchy subject, stand your ground. Whatever you do – and whatever you speak about – keep your autopilot off.
Their presentations are clear and concise.
The eighth thing successful female motivational speakers do is keep it short and sweet. Unlike this blog, some of the most impactful speeches have been remarkably short.
The Gettysburg address, for instance, was famously only about three minutes long. However, within those three minutes, then-U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was still able to rally the Union troops onwards to win the American Civil War. I think we can all agree that’s a lot of punch in a small package.
Likewise, the great speakers of every gender know that a speech doesn’t have to be an hour and a half long to make a mark in the audience. It doesn’t have to incorporate visual aids, audience participation, or interactive elements. And, most importantly, it doesn’t have to be overly wordy.
When in doubt, I always recommend remembering the following quote by Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. In other words, you’re an expert in your field with valuable knowledge and experience to share. Don’t feel pressured to “glam” up your arguments with extra words, activities, or flash. Just keep it clear and concise, so the audience is compelled to pay attention and able to leave with a higher level of understanding. That’s what matters most.
Example: Rita Pierson
One female motivational speaker that embodied this attitude perfectly was professional educator and counselor Rita Pierson. As a career teacher from a family of educators, Pierson undeniably knew the world of teaching inside and out and continued to serve fellow educators and students until her death in 2013.
During her 40+ year career, Pierson saw all sides of the education equation and wasn’t afraid to question methods that don’t work, even if they were her own. She also didn’t hesitate to focus on relationships, emphasizing compassion, understanding, and likability over dogma and traditional, rigorous teaching methods.
In her speeches and coaching work, such as the TED talk above, each of these attitudes is clearly evident within the first minute of her presentation. As a motivational speaker, Pierson doesn’t waste words talking herself up or glamorizing a story. In this TED talk, specifically, she shares a memory in which she apologized for teaching a math lesson wrong, only to discover that her students already knew.
Overall, Pierson’s humor, humility, and brevity make the arguments of her speech stand out exceptionally well. In the same way, the highlight of your motivational speeches is never you, as nice as that sounds. It’s your message and your arguments, both of which will be more evident if you’re sure not to bury them in added “fluff.”
They balance education with humor.
Speaking of humorous speakers, I mentioned above the importance of speaking frankly rather than by “sugar-coating” hard-to-hear messages. But, when speaking – and especially when speaking about tough topics – it’s also important to balance education with humor.
From a social standpoint, it’s no secret that the most sought-after speakers tend to be ones that make us laugh. In a previous SpeakerFlow article, for example, we shared ten of the most popular motivational speeches as well as what aspiring motivational speakers can learn from them. Among these examples were commencement speeches by Jim Carrey and Matthew McConaughey. For both of these cases, these men may have been chosen originally for their fame but ultimately stole the show with their ability to make the audience laugh.
Conversely, from a scientific standpoint, humor has even been proven to improve memory. In recent years, multiple studies have even cited the use of humor as a significant factor in whether or not their subjects were able to recall the adjoining educational content.
In the end, the key is to remember no one likes to hear “You could be better if…” but everyone likes to laugh. Balancing jokes with education makes the latter more memorable. Plus, it’ll make you more relatable and approachable in the eyes of your audience. Plus, it’ll make them more likely to pay attention for the duration of your presentation.
Example: Maysoon Zayid
When it comes to humorous approaches to motivational speaking, it’s hard to beat Maysoon Zayid. Although she boasts a successful career as a comedian, actress, advocate, and dancer, Zayid’s path to prosperity is remarkable, considering the many obstacles she’s faced. To put it in her own words, “I have cerebral palsy, I’m Palestinian, a Muslim and a woman, and – to top it off – I’m from New Jersey.”
It’s a great line, and Zayid has plenty of those to spare. On stage, despite the fact that she visibly shakes throughout her presentation, remarkably, Zayid references her palsy as a joke. She even goes so far as to name the TED talk above, “I Got 99 Problems… Palsy Is Just One.” She also continues to share her experiences with a relaxed and playful tone.
That said, Zayid’s humor never gets in the way of the message, and her rapid-fire jokes always stay on point. Zayid cites the likes of Roseanne Barr, Whoopi Goldberg, and Ellen Degeneres as her mentors, and you can see what she’s taken from each one. She also uses some simple photos to act as visual aids and underscore her humorous take on her life story, making it hard to argue with her speaking style and impossible to lose interest in it.
Summarily, the primary message of Zayid’s presentation is the importance of representation, especially in the media. But what truly keeps you engaged and motivates you to act on her advice is her easygoing tone and sense of humor.
In your own speeches, the same outcome is possible so long as you don’t take yourself too seriously (well, at least part of the time) and you remember to balance learning with laughs.
Their visual aids are eye-catching but simple.
Tenth on our list of tips from successful female motivational speakers is the use of visual aids. Like most experiences, the more senses you engage during a speaking presentation, the better your audience members tend to remember your content. During a group event, like church, for example, you might listen to someone speak before joining together in song. At a lecture, you might follow along with the professor’s notes using a notebook or worksheet.
By combining auditory and visual content, specifically, however, you not only boost audience engagement in the moment. You also, by preparing a visual presentation, give audience members something they can take home with them to remember it by (assuming you offer to share your slides, of course). This is because humans naturally remember visual information better than spoken words.
In fact, according to a study from the Rotman Research Institute, the difference is substantial. In the researchers’ words:
“People can remember more than 2,000 pictures with at least 90% accuracy in recognition tests over a period of several days, even with short presentation times during learning… One theory of the mechanism underlying superior picture memory is that pictures automatically engage multiple representations and associations with other knowledge about the world, thus encouraging a more elaborate encoding than occurs with words.”
In other words, too many graphics, colors, or animations can make visual aids distracting. But, on the other hand, modern, well-branded visual aids can considerably improve your presentation and help your audience better remember what they learned during it. Your job is to find the right balance.
Example: Amy Cuddy
Using visual aids can be especially helpful when tackling a complex or scientific topic, as shown in the above TED talk from Dr. Amy Cuddy. As a Harvard Business School professor and researcher, Cuddy primarily studies nonverbal behavior and how “snap judgments affect people from the classroom to the boardroom.” Consequently, she has a lot of important things to say to non-male across the board, but her lessons are especially appropriate for female motivational speakers.
Here, Cuddy provides a brief overview of her research, arguing “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are”. In doing so, she covers a number of concepts such as power poses, how women can use testosterone to boost their appearance of confidence, and how we can all learn to avoid the influence of cortisol, a toxic stress hormone.
The end result is a basic handbook of how we can employ non-verbal cues effectively in high-stress situations. This includes job interviews or social gatherings, both of which can make the more introverted of us feel small. To further her points, Cuddy also provides photos and illustrations throughout her presentation. This provides the audience with a visual for the “power poses” she mentions, so they can mimic them on their own after leaving her talk.
In the same way, using visual aids in your presentations will almost inevitably produce a slew of benefits, including increased audience engagement and retention. All you have to do is make sure they correspond with your arguments and match your branding.
Their speeches are well-practiced but not memorized.
The eleventh thing successful female motivational speakers master is arguably the most important: comfort with their speaking abilities.
If you’re like me, public speaking is no easy feat, and even if you can fake it on stage, long presentations are exhausting. A large part of the time, to avoid this outcome – and try to quell some of my nerves – this means memorizing my speech. I can’t mess up if I know it word-for-word, right?
Wrong… well, kind of wrong. Memorization is all well and good. But, if you choose to memorize your speech, it’s important to make it look like you didn’t. Below are a few tips to work into your presentation:
- Take lots of pauses. Speaking abnormally fast makes you appear less confident.
- Don’t be afraid of messing up. Everyone does it, so if you stumble over your words, just pause and laugh it off. Then, move on.
- Be mindful of your body language. Showing confidence in your speaking material is as much about how you carry yourself as it is about your language.
- Vary your cadence and tone. In a normal conversation, you wouldn’t be monotone. You’d emphasize important points with volume or speaking speed. The same should be true for the important parts of your speech.
All in all, it’s easy to get bored when you can tell someone’s said the same thing a thousand times. If they speak naturally, it’s more engaging and they come across as a greater authority. In your own speeches, keep this in mind, so you can come across as confident and authentic every time.
Example: Brené Brown
For confident and well-spoken speech inspiration, few presentations rival those of Brené Brown. As a research professor at the University of Houston, Brown’s main areas of study are courage, vulnerability, and shame along with how these emotions can either help or hinder our paths to our goals. In her words, “I believe that you have to walk through vulnerability to get to courage, therefore… embrace the suck.”
In sharing this message, Brown not only shares her professional research, emphasizing the importance of a variety of concepts, including connection, worthiness, bravery, compassion, and – most of all – empathy. She also balances that data with personal memories. In the above TED talk alone, she shares more than half a dozen of her own vulnerable moments. Then, she describes ways to learn from her experiences for our own breakthroughs.
Despite the contrast between these two areas, however, Brown always manages to speak as if both are her own memories. With data, she’s clear and concise, and you can tell she hasn’t just read the necessary research. She’s lived it. Likewise, with personal experience, she’s consistently honest and careful to always relate it back to her main point.
When preparing your own speeches, aim for a similar level of poise and conviction. Whether you’re sharing professional facts or personal flashbacks, your audience should know you don’t necessarily need to memorize your speech. You know your topic that well.
They provide actionable steps for their audience.
Last but not least, the greatest female motivational speakers always remember that actions speak louder than words. No matter how inspiring or revolutionary a speech may be, the key is to provide audience members with concrete examples and takeaways, so they can leave the event with a plan of action. Otherwise, the speech is just a bunch of words and wasted time, for them and the speaker.
For example, if you’re speaking live (in-person or virtually), include a reminder at the end of each section. Then, at the end of your speech, repeat the reminders you covered. That way, your audience has a list of sorts at the top of their mind as they leave the event.
Additionally, if you’re recording a speech that will be presented at a later date, consider providing post-event resources (i.e. actual lists of action items). This can be a workbook, a one-page PDF – whatever suits the length and topic of your presentation. When in doubt, consulting with the event organizer is always a good idea, too.
In the end, even if you’re inspired by a speech, the best way to show it is to follow through. For your audience members, the same is also true. By giving them detailed “to-dos,” you ensure they make the most of their experience with you.
Example: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One final example to consider is the 2009 TED talk of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. An accomplished author, Chimamanda was born in Nigeria. There, she grew up reading Western fiction, but it wasn’t until she discovered her own story against the backdrop of her culture that she realized there are many stories, all of which matter and can be skewed depending on whether or not you look outside of your own story.
Essentially, no single story defines any culture, so it’s important to recognize the perspective in all stories as well as their ability to “break or repair,” to use Adichie’s words. In her talk, she also states, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
On that note, she concludes her speech by urging the audience to actively seek the stories of others. It can be at work, on social media, or in their communities. Wherever they choose to reach out, Adichie’s goal is merely to inspire her audience to act long after they leave the TED auditorium. Ideally, your speech should aim to do the same.
Ultimately, the defining qualities of a great female motivational speaker – or any speaker, for that matter – can be hard to pin down. After all, every speaker is different and, as you build your own speaking business and deliver more speeches, you’ll uncover your own unique tips and tricks soon enough.
In the meantime, hopefully, this guide gives you a jump start on your journey into motivational speaking. For more information, check out our Free Resources Library or shoot us an email at [email protected]. 👍