Our Era of Motivational Speakers: Public Speaking is a Catalyst for a Healthy Society
Public speaking has a long and glorious history. Without the captivating public addresses from orators spanning Cicero to Margaret Thatcher, world leadership would not be the same. Despite the plethora of books and articles available for perusal, there is nothing like the warm familiar voice of an inspired individual. Instead of picking up newspapers, our generation stays glued to television and portable information devices not only because the moving images are entertaining, but because the audio is inviting, familiar, and engaging. Print is mono-dimensional and can showcase skills in writing and presenting arguments, but absent is the tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions that make a live talk so irresistible. Not that it is a comforting statistic regarding the importance of reading and writing, but the publication of newspapers has been steadily declining recently, in favor of online news sources, as well as live news broadcasts.
While modern motivational speakers may seem like a relatively new development, models for these contemporary demagogues reach far into history. Across the globe, people gather to listen to their favorite speakers, whether they are political, religious, vocational, medical, or from an array of disciplines. There is something magic about a human connection, when someone similar to everyone in the audience stands up, takes the podium, and lights a room figuratively on fire with their words. One example is my new friend Mary Alice Hill whom I met last year. In a group setting, she is a natural leader and sees the big picture. Without dominating anyone, but respectfully sharing her knowledge on project development and achievement, she guides people in the right direction. We are all lucky that she has recently made herself available for public speaking engagements where she can share her wisdom in a live forum with listeners.
One of my brothers invited me to hear a speaker where he lives. Why not, I thought, a chance to visit my sibling and hear someone who has sparked his interest. The talk was free, there were about 30 people in a small room, after hours, in a Temecula strip mall. The crowd was excited with eager anticipation, as if the latest rock band was about to take the stage. When the speaker arrived, he was dressed like everyone else, in jeans and tennis shoes, and explained that he was sleep deprived from a long string of talks. For about an hour, without notes, he walked back and forth in front of our group, full of energy and enthusiasm as he unrolled story after story of how to turn discouraging situations into opportunities, how to look up instead of down. Without my having been to the gym, the experience was uplifting to say the least, each face in the room was mesmerized and brightened up by the end of the talk. It turns out that he was a healer of sorts and did his best to do healings on many in the room, with positive effect, even if one person who came in with a cast left with a cast, but healing can take time.
Dr. Edie Egar tells her moving story of being a holocaust survivor who had to dance for the notorious Dr. Mengele, and while she could have withered away her life in bitterness, she has chosen to turn new leaves and gives this life changing message always: “Don’t ask ‘Why me?’ but ‘What next?” Challenges to humanity are many, the fact that we can join together in the warm company of other travellers on our journey together, helps our life experience. CNN vice President Wendy Walker engages audiences on tour in support of her new book The Producer. By telling stories of her humble beginnings with colleague and friend Katie Couric, she endears herself to listeners as we learn that those in the highest echelons of television production began with all the same tools that we all have now. The rewards of hard work are infinite. For anyone considering adding public speaking to their repertoire of activities, remember that there are professional coaches available, like Sandra Schrift, who can help shape and focus ideas into a valuable and educational medium. Who does not enjoy hearing lifelong celebrity icons share their stories verbally whether it is at a social event or in a televised interview. Our online culture makes it easy to view talks at any time of the day or night. As long as people craft their histories into talks to be shared with others, and those helpful talks are not silenced, then our human community figuratively keeps holding hands together against the often biased and skewed human dilemmas presented by Hollywood.
–Dr. Bridget McDonald is CEO of the Women’s International Center, a composer, and writer.