As a professional speaker, I’ve heard the same question more times than I can count: “What’s the difference between an inspirational vs motivational speaker?” So, buckle up and let me take you on a journey through the marvellous world of motivation and inspiration. In this article, we will explore the differences between inspirational and motivational speakers to help you decide which type of speaker is right for your event.

Now, you might think inspirational and motivational speakers are like two peas in a pod, but it’s actually like comparing apples and oranges. Sure, we speakers all love to talk, and our speeches often overlap like a beautiful Venn diagram, but our methods are really quite different. However, it’s important to note that many good speakers, including me, like to be both an apple and an orange! I deliver both inspirational and motivational speeches and which hat I wear completely depends on the event itself, the message the organisation wants me to get across, and what the audience needs – that’s the key to success!

What is an Inspirational Speaker?

First, let’s talk about those dreamy, starry-eyed inspirational speakers. If I’m wearing my inspirational speaker hat, then I won’t be here to hand you a step-by-step guide to success. No! I’m not going to tell you what to do, I am going to spark fresh thought, sharing inspiring stories of triumphs and challenges, and stirring up that inner fire to chase your dreams.

Inspirational speakers shine in events where the goal is to uplift, encourage and connect teams. We’re like your personal cheerleaders, pumping you up with stories of triumph and anecdotes about challenges that connect with the audience on a deeper level, inspiring you to take action towards your goals.

I was recently asked to do an inspirational speech for a group of female leaders at the national awards ceremony. Leader Debbie Gilbert asked me to deliver an inspirational talk that would leave the audience feeling positive, motivated and encouraged. They were struggling with overwhelm and self-doubt as they considered what growth looked like for themselves as female leaders. I shared uplifting stories to inspire people, and delivered some hard hitting anecdotes that were personal, relatable and connected – and the feedback was amazing. My work was done, and these incredible women left feeling ready to tackle anything!

What is a Motivational Speaker?

Now, motivational speakers are like a different breed. We’ll roll up our sleeves and give you practical advice and actionable steps to achieve your goals. We’re like the personal trainers of the speaking world, sharing our expertise to motivate you to take greater action than you would on your own… but it’s still up to you!

Motivational speakers thrive in a variety of events and occasions. We love energising attendees at conferences, guiding managers at away days, inspiring teams to conquer the world and more. Our mission is to motivate people to make a difference by offering practical motivational techniques to take away.

For example, the motivational talk I gave for 120 senior finance leaders at the NHS. Nicola Brooks, Founder and Chair of the Women in Leadership Finance Network, approached me to deliver a motivational talk on the hot topic of Imposter Syndrome. She was looking for a speaker to empower her audience with tangible ways to ‘get out of their own way’, to help her audience feel like they weren’t alone, and to provide some actionable steps that they could implement back at work. Of course I said yes! I will! The amazing female leaders who attended the virtual event told me they loved how my talk was deep-rooted in the science of human behaviour but also how it was really easy for them to see how it related to them. They were surprised at my disruptive approach on how to unscramble thoughts about imposter syndrome, which “made them really think outside the box”. Importantly, they felt enabled, more connected and empowered to take action – which is the aim of the motivational speaker game!

Choosing the Right Speaker for Your Event

So when you’re choosing between an inspirational vs motivational speaker for your event – there’s a hec of a lot of pressure, right? But take a deep breath and think about what you want to achieve. A couple of questions to help you clarify:

  1. Do you want your audience to leave feeling warm and fuzzy, or ready to take on the world with some tough love?
  2. Do you want practical advice, or some inspirational quotes to put on the wall back at work?
  3. Do you want both?! (A LOT of my clients go for option 3!)

Whatever you want to call a speaker, inspirational or motivational, the important thing to remain focussed on is the audience. What do they need to hear? What type of speaker will best tap into their mindset and challenge them to listen differently and leave with fresh thought? Consider their level in the organisation, their role, their responsibilities – some may respond better to an inspirational speaker who can provide relatable stories, while others may benefit from a more practical and straightforward approach to motivation.

And of course, you want someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. As one of my mentors Maria Franzoni taught me – you are not a speaker (gulp!) you are an expert who speaks (phew!). Speakers, whatever their expertise, whichever industry they’re speaking to need to be three things: relatable, memorable and easy to work with.

And the type of speaker you choose needs to align with what kind of event it is. Both inspirational and motivational speakers are often found at:

  • Corporate events: Speakers can motivate and inspire employees to reach their full potential and increase company productivity.
  • Leadership conferences: Speakers provide guidance and inspire attendees to become exceptional leaders.
  • Professional development workshops: Inspirational and motivational speakers share their experiences and insights to help attendees develop their skills to achieve their goals.
  • Team building activities: Speakers facilitate team building activities and motivate team members to collaborate and work together more effectively.
  • Sales training sessions: Speakers provide sales teams with the motivation and techniques they need to achieve their sales goals.
  • Mental health awareness events: By sharing their stories of overcoming challenges, speakers can inspire others to own their own mental health and resilience.

But in the end, the key is finding a speaker who can connect with your audience and make them feel something (preferably other than boredom). Because whether you’re aiming for warm and fuzzy or tough love, the most important thing is that your audience leaves feeling inspired and motivated (and maybe even a little bit smarter).

So, Inspirational vs Motivational Speaker: Which to choose?

So, inspirational vs motivational speakers – what’s the verdict? In a nutshell, it’s like the difference between watching a tear-jerking romcom or a no-nonsense action film. Inspirational speakers will make you experience all the feels, while motivational speakers will give you a swift kick in the pants and tell you to get your act together.

So, before you choose a speaker for your event, think about what you want to achieve. Are you trying to make your audience weep with joy, or get them fired up to conquer the world? Do you want them to walk away with practical tips, or a renewed sense of purpose? It’s all about finding the right fit for your audience and your goals.

And let’s not forget – a great speaker can do both! They can bring you to tears with their emotional stories, and then give you a list of actionable steps to take when you’re done blubbering. It’s like crying and conquering the world at the same time – who wouldn’t want that?

So, when it comes down to it, the key is finding a speaker who can connect with your audience and make them think, feel and act differently. Because whether you’re inspired, motivated, or just plain emotional, the most important thing is that you walk away feeling like you can take on the world (as well as the next item on your to-do list!).

Gitanjali Trevorrow-Seymour is an award-winning Speaker, Executive Coach, Professional Possiblist, neuroscience nerd, and a catalyst for change.

Her proven, science backed High Definition You Coaching Method is influenced by her time as a leader, in her 15-year banking career where she ran a multi-million pound P&L, weathered the Global Financial Crisis and led highly-engaged teams.

If you are looking for a speaker who leaves your audiences inspired, motivated and empowered with tangible takeaways, get in touch.