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

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

By Joel Garfinkle

As an audience sits spellbound by the speaker before them, something magical happens: Listeners’ spirits soar, their skin tingles, and a world of new possibility opens. Psychologists have a term for the emotion associated with this sense of hope and expectation. They call it uplift. When an entire group shares in their experience of uplift, it can grow into a self-reinforcing collective emotion called elevation—the goal of all great motivational speakers.

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 conducted research showing 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 wield their awareness of people’s natural stimulus response to engage their audiences and draw them into a shared vision and collective sense of purpose. Motivational speakers hoping to bring their audience to a state of elevation should consider incorporating the following speaking strategies into their presentations.

5 Methods Great Motivational Speakers Use to Uplift their 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, Joel Garfinkle and other motivational speakers help audience members connect with one another 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, making it much more likely that 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