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What's in a speech? - Deccan Herald
What's in a speech?
Surekha Kadapa-Bose,
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DeccanHerald
They are increasing in number. Every organisation of repute, both here in India and abroad, are seeking their help. A decade ago, their numbers were small and they were comparatively an unknown group. They were looked at with doubt and skepticism.

Then came Barack Obama who declared, "Yes, we can”. It was 2008, and those three words by America’s former president in his first victory speech not only got the entire America but the whole world fall in love with him. People started believing in him and his endeavour to take the country once again to the centre stage of the world. Those three words 'motivated’ Americans to look at life with new hope and zeal. And this also heralded a new set of motivational, inspirational or activational speakers into this century.

The world rediscovered the strength of motivational speech and speakers. They realised that the entire scenario can change with a good inspirational speech. In fact, the reason for the resounding victory of Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 elections was the high adrenaline motivational speeches by the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A majority of Indians wanted a change and they saw the hope of a new India and a positive future in his five words - 'Na khaoonga, na khane doonga’. Those words touched a chord and motivated the whole nation to vote for change. That is the impact of a good motivational speaker.

Impressive talkers

Motivational speakers were not born after Obama’s three words. From the days of Lord Krishna and Lord Buddha, to the days of Chanakya, Subhash Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Fidel Castro and Martin Luther King Jr to the present day leaders, there have been many, but perhaps it was those three words of Obama in the 21st century which made motivational speaking a very lucrative profession, attracting hordes to this vocation. Earlier, there were leaders. From the late 20th century, they are motivational speakers. It’s their increasing presence which has made business entities realise that besides hard work, employees need to be motivated to work better. The daily routine, stiff competition and urban loneliness is taking a heavy toll on the emotions of people. This hinders their progress at work.

Motivational speakers address all these problems. They are tackling every ailment of the society - from losing weight, following a diet, doing well in exams, career growth, interpersonal relationships, family ties, marriage, tackling old age, ill-health, and of course, the megalomaniac corporate world. Most successful motivational speakers travel a lot in India and abroad. Depending on their success and experience, they take home an annual package of anything from Rs 50 lakh to a couple of crores. Many speakers specialise in certain subjects as they have to be very thorough in what they speak, and need to have a great number of personal or observed anecdotes to pitch their speech properly.

A motivational speaker works in sessions - ranging from a minimum of two hours to eight to 10 hours. It can be a one-time session, or a couple of them spread over a period of time. Every speaker has his or her own way of tackling the subject.

One of the best motivational speakers from America, the late Zig Ziglar, who was also an author and salesman, had famously said, "Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. Remember you were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win!”

And, this is the mantra every motivational speaker follows. This is the underlying principle that motivational speakers use to stimulate their clients or the audience. These speakers are very good communicators and can hold a lengthy dialogue with their audience. Business houses hire them to communicate the company’s strategy, new policies and rules to their employees in a language which they can understand, can get inspired, start looking at future in a positive way, and start working more constructively.

Systematic approach

In India too we have many motivational speakers. Search engines throw up hundreds of names. Akash Gautam, a popular motivational speaker, says, "In the days of Ziglar and earlier motivational speakers, it was a field of gentlemanly speeches. Not exactly sermons, but straight and formal talks were the norm. Now we include fun, sarcasm, satire, games etc to motivate our audience. The approach of a motivational speaker today is more informal, involving participation from the audience at every step.”

Chandigarh-based Gautam, who has nearly 2,00,000 followers on Facebook, and has so far done more than 1,200 events as a motivational speaker across the world, has spoken to a diverse group of clients including the Tihar Jail inmates, rural women of Haryana, Miss India beauty pageant contestants, the corporate sector, premier institutions like IITs, IIMs, and many others.

He says a motivational speaker has to communicate more than utter mere good words borrowed from here and there. It needs a lot of research in the subject that he or she plans to talk, plus recalling and narrating anecdotes from one’s experiences in life. Agreeing with Gautam, Vasu Primlani, a standup-comedian-turned-motivational-and-TEDx speaker, says, "Many motivational speakers think their work is to change the person or group. I don’t think like that. Change is temporary. I want to transform the person or the group I work with. And this requires a lot of homework before actually starting work.”

Being a triathlete (swimming, cycling and running in one race), and also a rock climber, Primlani, a visiting professor at many international universities, also works as a somatic trauma therapist. She has worked with a rapist, with suicide bidders, victims of child sexual abuse, women victims of domestic violence etc. Being the first openly gay standup comedian, she brings in a lot of her own experiences to her talks.

"Each client needs a different kind of preparation. To inspire or motivate them to lead a better life, one needs a different approach. So, all motivational speakers are neither homogeneous nor do they do only one kind of work,” explains Delhi-based Primlani.

Primarily, motivational speakers work to bring in a balance of the mind and emotions of a person. Mumbai-based homeopathy practitioner-cum-motivational speaker Dr Rahul Joshi explains the seven basic points where motivation or inspiration is needed to lead a more productive life. "We have to work on the happiness, enthusiasm and willpower of people in the audience to help them learn to forgive, develop a good value system, and focus on their work. This, added with a touch of spiritual quotient, automatically helps a person perform better in whatever field he or she is.”

Working with diverse groups of clientele, Dr Joshi says, "In my sessions of motivational speeches, I believe in doing 'dhamal’! I believe that every member in the audience should enjoy the time, have fun, play some games, and go home with a smile on the face and a zest to start afresh.”

Being a classical singer (he is the voice of actor Ranbir Kapoor in the Asian Paints advertisement of rain havoc on walls), he incorporates music also in his sessions. To emphasise his point, he happily breaks into old Hindi film songs while talking about his motivational speech sessions. While pursuing his post-graduation in Homeopathy and winning the Mr Pune contest, he realised his mentor Lovell Prabhu, an image consultant, groomer of models and actors, was right when emphasised the necessity of good grooming to infuse confidence in a person. "A well-groomed person is motivated to work better!” declares the consulting homeopath.

Like Joshi, every motivational speaker has his own method of communicating with his clients in a session where the participants’ numbers vary from one to 10 to 100s. Depending on the type of group one is addressing, they either work solo or have a team of their own to help them in a session. "I have a team that I work with. Before starting the actual session, we talk to people in the organisation - everyone from the top brass to the lowest in the rung - and sometimes videoshoot their response to get a better idea of what needs to be done in that organisation. We even distribute questionnaires. It is only after these excercises do we decide how to go about actually conducting the session,” explains Anand Chulani, who too began his career in public speaking as a standup comedian and gradually moved to becoming a motivational speaker.

A winner in everyone

"I am actually not a motivational speaker. I prefer to be called an activational speaker!” says the jet-hopping Chulani who is forever travelling to some country or the other at any given time. He invented the 'Peak performance pyramid’ and believes that he only works with champions.

According to Chulani, there is a champion lurking in every person, which sometimes gets obscured by other events in life. A person just needs a gentle prod, a gentle push, to help him get back his championship qualities. He has worked with the team of Kings XI Punjab of IPL in 2016, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and so on. He loves his work with students, youth and their parents. "These people were already great workers. I just activated their inner self to do better, and the results were great,” says the activational speaker.

The question that pops up at this junction is whether there’s a difference between the leaders who have a great following and this breed of paid motivational speakers. Kolkata-based motivational speaker and trainer of professionals, Kunal Chakrabarti says, "Leaders have an agenda. They want to bring in social changes and not personal ones. So when Subhash Chandra Bose said, 'Give me blood, I will get you freedom’, he instantly motivated people to join the freedom struggle. When Field Marshal General Manekshaw roared, 'Your task is your duty. You have to fight, and fight to win’, he won the Bangladesh War along with his soldiers. Such leaders have a very homogeneous crowd who do what their leader says. Our audience and work is entirely different.”

Continuing, Chakrabarti explains that the present day motivational speakers first need to win the trust of their audience. "The audience at no point should feel that the speaker is fibbing or doesn’t have the experience to talk about a subject. So, we need to narrate a lot of personal anecdotes. We, the present day professional speakers, need to keep our eyes and ears open to everything that is happening around us, and keep improvising our act. We can’t be repetitive.”
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