How to Inspire Audiences

Christopher Witt —  January 23, 2018

how to inspire audiencesIn spite of what you might think as a result of witnessing motivational speakers at work, you don’t inspire people by jumping up and down excitedly, thumping your chest, and passionately proclaiming a slogan from a Successories™ poster.

You inspire people, not by being louder and more animated than you normally are, but by engaging their deepest values and most authentic emotions.

Inspiration means, literally, to “breathe into.” In this case, to breathe life and vitality into your audience. You do that not by giving them step-by-step instructions but by giving them a motive, a desire to act.

You give people the hope that they can achieve what they want and be the best self they can imagine.

First, you influence people. You shape how they look at their situation, how they envision it, how they think and feel about it. Then you show them what they can do about it.

How to Inspire People

Be a role model.

You lead first by example, then by words.

You can’t tell people, for example, to stay late and work hard as you’re headed for the door. (Of course, you could try that, but as product disclaimers always say, “Results may vary.”)

General George Patton, America’s most distinguished combat commander, inspired his troops in part by his willingness to expose himself to many of the same dangers his men faced during battles.

Tell a story.

Harvard professor Howard Gardner said, “Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” That’s because stories bypass people’s critical thinking and appeal directly to people’s imaginations and emotions. And emotions are the wellspring of action. (That’s why there’s motion is emotion.)

When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for telling so many stories, he replied, “People are more easily influenced and informed through a story than in any other way.” He might have added that they are more easily inspired through a story, too.

Issue a challenge.

People aren’t inspired by the thought of being normal or of achieving the ordinary. They’re inspired, rather, by a desire or by the hope that they can be or do something extraordinary. Dale Carnegie wrote, “Give people a fine reputation to live up to.” Inspiration gives them a fine aspiration to live up to.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather the wood, divide the work, and give orders,” wrote Antoine Saint-Exupéry, aviator and author of The Little Prince. “Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

What do you think your people need more these days? What do they need in order to regain their focus, drive, and ingenuity? Do they want you to give them more information? Or are they hoping you’ll help them see their situation in a new way and help them regain their confidence? It’s your choice.

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.