Contact Joel Garfinkle now to book a motivational leadership training program for your employees.

What great motivational speakers do

A Great Motivational Speaker Can Alter an Audience’s Brain Chemistry

As an audience sits spellbound by the speaker before them, something magical happens: Listeners’ spirits soar, their skin tingles, and a world of new possibilities opens. Psychologists have a term for this sense of hope and expectation: uplift. When an entire group shares an experience of uplift, it can give them a powerful collective sense of elevation—the goal of all great motivational speakers.

Elevation is a deep sense of joy, optimism, and community. When groups share this profound experience, it gives them a long-lasting belief in their team. Psychologists and philosophers have long known about the existence of elevation, but scientists have only recently begun to pinpoint its physical existence. Dacher Keltner, a neuropsychologist from the University of California-Berkeley, has shown that uplift and elevation result when members of an audience experience the stimulation of their vagus nerve, the part of the brain that literally connects the brain to the gut.

Great speakers understand the physiology of elevation and can use their awareness of people’s natural stimulus response to engage their audiences and draw them into a shared vision and collective sense of purpose. Good motivational speakers can become great by adopting speaking strategies that foster a sense of elevation.

In my talks on developing influential leaders, I share strategies for inspiring and uplifting groups. Here are five key methods I share with my audiences.

  1. Most people want to believe that they can make a difference in the world. A great speaker can capitalize on this mindset by clearly describing a reality in which each member of the audience can make an important, tangible contribution. People whose brains are primed with specific, actionable directions are more likely to be receptive to the rest of a speaker’s message.
  2. Audience members naturally want to connect with the speaker. Skilled presenters research their audiences and relate to their everyday experiences using personal anecdotes and tasteful humor. When people’s brains encounter relatable scenarios and experiences, neurons make connections that render the mind more receptive to suggestions and new ideas.
  3. A great motivational speaker develops a rhythmic delivery. The act of rhythmic chanting, both vocalizing and listening, can stimulate the vagus nerve. While it rarely makes sense for motivational speakers to engage in an actual chant, they should seek to develop a rhythm in the same way a practiced musician does. A well-paced speech punctuated by moments of crescendo is truly brain-pleasing.
  4. Brain research has shown that vivid descriptions and precise language activate the brain and evoke real emotional responses. Whenever possible, a motivational keynote speaker should help listeners visualize the actions and achievements to which they hope to inspire their audience.
  5. Humans learn best from events that surprise them. The greatest motivational speakers are never entirely predictable and throw their audience the occasional curve ball. Audiences respond best to moments of novelty that precede important, potentially transformative content. When people experience true surprise, their entire mind-body connection lights up and becomes ready to receive and process input. Using motivational stories that surprise the audience, a motivational speaker keeps them riveted to the talk.

By utilizing these five techniques in the talks that I give, I strive to help audience members form a strong sense of community and experience a sense of collective purpose.

Joel understands how the brain works. In motivational speeches from Eastern Canada to Wall Street, he induces a sense of elevation in his audiences, helping ensure they take his presentations to heart and act on them. Contact Joel if you need a motivational public speaker for your next conference or business meeting.

Copyright © 2012 Joel Garfinkle, All Rights Reserved. Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., and the author of 7 books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. He has worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Google, Deloitte, Amazon, Ritz-Carlton, Gap, Cisco, Oracle, and many more. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, "41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!"

This article may be reprinted or forwarded to colleagues and friends as long as the above copyright notice and contact information is attached in its entirety. If you reprint this article, please advise us that you have done so and forward a copy of the article, or a link to the web page where the article can be viewed, to Joel Garfinkle.

Scroll to top