Last year in August I flew on a plane from Fresno, Ca to Dallas, Tx for a motivational speaking event in Brownwood, Tx. I was invited to be the keynote speaker on substance abuse, speaking to an audience of 400 high school students and nearly 30 kids from a youth correctional institution. While I was on the plane, I overheard a conversation between two women that were seated across from me. The two ladies shared a commonality in their job descriptions, which was some form of State, or Department of Corrections work with youth. The topic of public speakers was brought up, and during their conversation the words, “motivational speaker” was said. This struck a chord with me as I am a Motivational Speaker who speaks about substance abuse. The women literally said, “Speakers who speak about substance abuse don’t work.” I was very intrigued to see where their conversation was heading since I focus on speaking to kids about choices and substance abuse. But I sat back and thought for a bit. It made me ask myself, “does what I do really work?”
As much as I wanted to interject and share my five dollar opinion, yes dollars - I had more than pennies concerning this matter - I decided to hold back. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at refraining from my opinion being given out so freely, and yet here I am six months later sharing my opinion to more people than those two women. I think many people believe that motivational speakers and speakers on substance abuse don’t work, because quantifying the results of what someone hears is not easily measured. You can measure the results of some things, but not all. For example, Johnny started with D’s in all of his academic classes, and after this program he is now passing every one. I also believe that there are speakers that have done less than stellar jobs in their work, and have created turbulence for those of us who share gifts and passion in the arena we speak of. One of the two ladies, who was from Colorado (I was eavesdropping to the fullest, creeper status, I know…), even mentioned a well-known speaker from her area that she said is rumored to have still been using drugs and lying to his audience that he was clean and sober. That was probably the main reason why some people believe Motivational and Public Speakers are not effective. If the speaker isn't authentic, the message won't be real, and the results will be few, if any...
While that might be the unfortunate case for some, I will share with you some of the results that I have seen from public speaking locally in my hometown.
I’ve probably given over 75 presentations locally, in Fresno, Ca, and if I had to put a number on how many individuals that have heard my message, it would be around 25,000. The main chunk of this audience has consisted of high school to middle school students, and a great deal of why I continue to speak, is because of the response and feedback I have gotten. On social media, messages come about the impact my story makes, and how it’s motivated them. I remember a few years ago I had received a message from a young woman who told me she was contemplating suicide the day that I came to speak. She wrote about her rough childhood and how she felt life wasn’t worth living any longer. She ended her message saying after hearing my story she had come to realize that maybe her life wasn’t all that bad, and that she could change it by changing her outlook. What makes this message special is obvious, but what makes it even more special is that it was several months after I spoke. That’s impact. That is something tangible and very special that goes beyond measure.
It’s not always over social media that I am greeted with kind words about my presentations, though. A lot of times I will run into people who have heard my message and come up to me to share a quick word. I remember one time I was at the gym and a young man came up to me and he said, “You spoke at my school two years ago.” I replied, “Awesome! Did you enjoy it?” His reply was, “Do you know what an epiphany is? When you were speaking I had one. I remember listening to you speak and it felt like you were only talking to me. At the time I was using drugs and hanging out with the wrong crowd but what you said hit me really hard.” I asked him how he was doing now and he said, “Since hearing you speak, I’ve changed my friends, stopped using drugs, got a job, and have been doing my best to make good choices.”
How can I measure what that young man told me? He had graduated high school and moved forward with his life. Had I not ran into him, no one would of known the impact that my speaking made on his life. And we are talking about one person of a crowd around 500 kids from that presentation. These stories are only a very small percentage, and I could take up pages writing about similar happenings.
Do motivational speakers and speakers on substance abuse work? If you ask me, of course they do. I do wonder how many out of the 25,000 people locally that have heard my message drew some kind of inspiration from my words but never said anything, though. I wonder how many measurable amount of life-changing successes my presentations on Substance Abuse has made. But then again, what I do isn’t about me… I just pray the number is in the thousands, for the sake of those who will adhere to the message I share, and find a cleaner route to happiness and success in their lives.