Recently, I read a blog listing the 'Top 60 Motivational Speakers in the World' - now that's a tall order. I recognized 33 of the names, I've met 2 of them, heard 4 of them in person, and listened to 26 of them, either intentionally or otherwise. Names you've probably heard of include Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Les Brown, and Deepak Chopra top the list. Some I'd never heard of include Farrah Gray, Kevin Abdulrahman, Delatorro McNeal II, and Dr. Roch Paraye.
There's no real criteria listed beyond 'motivational' - and even among those listed, 'motivational' is loosely applied. A lot of them would be considered 'leadership' or 'marketing' or 'inspirational' speakers, or even simply experts in certain fields that encourage their listeners to be better - such as Dave Ramsey.
So, how do YOU become a 'Top Speaker'?
Let us count the ways.....
1. Find a 'Top Message' - one only you can give that the audience wants to hear.
It doesn't have to be an original message. Most of the speakers on the list all give the same basic message - it's how they personalize and package it - combining their authentic selves with the unique needs of each audience to help them 'Awaken the Giant Within' or 'Crush It' or 'Insert Random Platitude Here'. Gary Vaynerchuck is very different from Brendan Burchard - but much of what they have to say overlaps. Bob Proctor and Joe Vitale are practically the same speaker, simply differentiated by age and experiences. I'd still listen to both on the same day, even if I'm NOT a huge Law of Attraction fan.
2. Become a 'Top Marketer' - if you can't market yourself and your message, you quality will sit unnoticed on the bottom shelf.
Of course, it certainly helps if you can buy a bunch of infomercials, or star in a hit movie like 'The Secret'. It also helps if you're a celebrity, and frankly, having no arms and legs is an advantage for Nick Vujicic, though I'm sure he'd trade his 'advantage' any day of the week - he just might never have become a 'Top Speaker'.
Marketing can be as simple as networking to start - get yourself out there, meet people, and tell them who you are and how you can help them. The snowball has to be made before it becomes a snowman.
Ask yourself - what is YOUR advantage? It doesn't have to be losing a limb, climbing Everest, or appearing in a movie. It can simply be your powerful and effective reaction to adversity, be it personal, financial, physical - something the world can connect with, that you can transfer to your audience.
Then start creating - writing, recording, speaking - building product. The more you speak, the more content you create, the more you'll have to market, the more traction you can make in the business, and the faster you'll be recognized as the goto speaker in your space.
3. Become a 'Top Deliverer' - You may think I'm talking about delivering results for the audience, and while that is crucial, it's not always that measurable. I'm talking about how becoming a 'Top Deliverer' from the platform.
Having tight, entertaining and educational content paired with an intentional delivery, from voice to staging to pauses to breaks to sales pitches to crowd interaction. Have it all planned to a 'T' - and become so prepared that when all heck breaks loose, you're flexible enough to be great even then.
This is last on the list because, well, many of today's 'Top Speakers' are there because of #1 and #2, and #3 just isn't as big a concern. It's true, you CAN become a well-paid, in-demand speaker without 'Top Delivery'. But why would you want to settle? Adding exceptional delivery to an exceptional message and exceptional message turns you into an elite speaker - able to demand fees second only to major celebrities such as sports figures, past presidents, and Donald Trump.
In terms of what truly makes a 'Top Speaker' of any kind - it's a two-sided argument. First, you have to become the best YOU can be. Then, you have to let the audience decide. To some of them, you will be 'The Top'. To others, you will be 'The Bottom'. To most, you'll simply be 'The Best One Today'. And that's how most make their living.
Remember, even the top folks face their critics. Anthony Robbins, tops on this list, probably has as many or more people that HATE him as love him. Brian Tracy? Too corporate. James Malinchak? Too 'car salesy'. Michael Beckwith? Too spiritual. I could find something wrong with everyone on the list, if I looked hard enough, or asked enough other people. (editor's note: I'm a big Robbins & Tracy fan, as disparate as they are, I've followed Malinchak for years and enjoy his content and energy. Beckwith? Well, again, I'm not an LOA fan.)
At the end of the day, it's a nice list. It's missing quite a few I expected to see, and there are some I would drop off. Just like I do when I hear people discuss the top five NBA players who ever lived (Russell, Magic, Bird, Jabbar, and Lebron, btw).
Where are you with your message? Your marketing? Your delivery? As always, if you need some guidance in any of these areas, find someone to model, and find someone to coach you - like, y'know, ME.
Now go out there and quit worrying about your ranking and start worrying about your audience - go Speak....and Deliver!