Extra, extra, read all about it: high school students call B.S. on motivational speaker.
Kash Shaikh gave a speech to Austin high-school students (33% of which are economically disadvantaged) about following your passion without having a plan-B.
And boy did those students called bull-shit on Kash and his message. Kash, who is swimming in cash, didn’t have the the cred to tell kids who don’t have money to live their dreams.
I’ve advocated before that motivational speaking is a dying and if you want to be a speaker be anything BUT a motivational speaker.
But this speaker…well he highlights everything that is wrong with motivational speaking. Actually, he highlights the biggest mistakes that speakers can make when giving a speech.
The biggest mistake speakers make is failing to be audience-centered.
Let’s learn from Kash, shall we?
What could you do differently in your next presentation so that it is a remarkable success instead of a big old hot mess?
1. Meet your audience exactly where they are
This motivational speaker came in with his “If I can do it, you can do it too” message without considering who the audience is and what is challenging them currently.
This guy left his six-figure job to pursue his passion. Good for him. He had money in the bank, resources galore, and if things didn’t work out he could get another job.
These high school students don’t have those types of resources available to them. Some are wondering where their next meal comes from and other are worried about having a place to hang their sneakers.
If you go back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, your basic needs must be met first before you can self-actualize and follow your passion. This speaker didn't take the time to find out where these kids were coming from, and what their day-to-day reality was like. If he had, he wouldn't have told them to follow their dreams with no plan-b simply because he had done it and so could they.
Start where your audience lives and then take them on the journey to where they want to be.
2. Discover the resistance to your message
Not everyone in the audience is going to buy into your message 100%.
Your job as a speaker is to uncover areas of resistance to your message. Places that you feel your audience is going to think “Nah, I don’t buy it.”
Addressing those areas of resistance tells the audience two things: 1) you've thought about them and how they think about your ideas; and 2) you've gone out of your way to discuss those areas and provide solutions for them.
Imagine if this motivational speaker thought for one second, “Hey, I wonder if these students aren't going to swallow the follow-your-passion pill?” He could have restructured his message in a way that addressed this resistance, and ultimately would have provided meaning to these kids.
Resistance is message magic. Dig it up and counteract it. It’s the quickest way to turn a lukewarm audience into strong advocates for your message.
3. Provide solutions and results
Motivational speaking is a lot like fast food. It’s tasty in the moment but leaves you feeling sick about 30-minutes later.
It’s great to hear messages like “follow your dreams,“ “create your destiny,” or “live your best life,” but after the speaker finishes you know what you’re left with?
You've got no idea how to take action on any of those inspiring ideas that the motivational speaker put in your head. It’s a huge let down.
These speeches are not useful. It’s not constructive for a kid who is worried about the basic necessities of life to be encouraged to follow his “bliss.”
Audiences want information that is useful, helpful, result-oriented, solution-based, not pie in the sky wishful thinking.
Every speaker who works with me must answer this one question (and I wished this guy who wasted those high school students time had taken the time to answer it):
“As a result of hearing me speak, how will my audience change?”
Knowing that they can live a better life doesn't count as change.
Knowing doesn't create change – acting creates changes.
Audiences want value for their time. If a speech is providing approximately the same level of inspiration as a quote on Pinterest, then it’s just not worth it.
A presentation can never be successful if you don’t meet the audience exactly where they are, answer their resistance to your message, and create value with every turn of phrase.
When a speech does not do that, a speaker gets called out to the mat. I’d love to say that Kash learned a valuable lesson, but judging by his response on social media…he didn't learn a damn thing.
At least we can cash-in on Kash’s mistakes.