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Motivational Speaker

Self-motivation is essential for success in today's fast-paced world. Unfortunately, it doesn't come easy to most people. And even those who have it can't always maintain it on a regular basis.

The early 1990s saw an explosion in the field of human development. People wanted to know how to get more out of life, how to stop living from paycheck to paycheck, and how to become the people they always wanted to be. Public speakers exploded on to the scene to help people help themselves.

Pam Lontos is one of the products of the boom -- one who turned her troubles into a successful sales career, and then a successful venture into self-employment.

When Lontos was in her 20s, she went into a deep depression that lasted for five years. Then she listened to a motivational speaker who turned her life around.

"I went out and bought his audio tapes and listened to them over and over again. Within a few weeks, I was over my depression."

Lontos took a job in radio sales that resulted in a quick climb to a management position. After that, she worked for three years as vice-president of sales for Disney's Shamrock Broadcasting. At Shamrock, she helped increase sales 500 percent in one year.

Today, Lontos is a nationally recognized sales trainer, motivational speaker, and president of Lontos Sales and Motivation, Inc. She's the author of Don't Tell Me It's Impossible Until After I've Already Done It, and other books, audio tapes and videotapes available on sales and motivation.

John Amatt has a different story. He trained to be a schoolteacher and taught for six years. Then, he moved to an administrative position, still in the educational field.

In his personal life, he was a climber. In 1982, he was a member of the first Canadian expedition to climb Mount Everest. It was also the first expedition ever to do a "live" climb, with climbers doing live television reports to ABC-TV's Nightline for over a month.

Amatt had been talking about climbing since he was a teenager, but it was the Everest climb that began his career as a professional motivational speaker.

"Business leaders who had followed the expedition on television started phoning to ask if we would speak at their upcoming sales meetings," says Amatt. "Initially, I spoke for very low fees -- quite often for nothing but expenses -- accepting every request in order to generate interest and exposure."

The year after the climb, Amatt founded his company called One Step Beyond WorldWide, an educational and motivational organization. He continued to build the company's reputation through word-of-mouth and promotional activities.

It paid off -- today his company has associates and representatives all around the world, from North America to the Pacific countries, including Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, to Latin America and Europe.

The key to being a good motivational speaker is having a genuine knowledge of your material.

"The best professional speakers are those who speak from personal experience, articulating some learning from their own lives, and not relating material that they have read in a book," says Amatt.

Obviously, motivational speaking involves a tremendous amount of public speaking. Lontos suggests taking Dale Carnegie courses to learn the art, but says that joining a local Toastmaster's club is a cheaper alternative.

"You can have the greatest message in the world, but you need to be able to communicate," she says. Giving free speeches is another way to get exposure. "Remember that the more you give, the better you get."

Lontos has a master's degree in psychology and advertising, but says that lack of education shouldn't keep someone from becoming a motivational speaker.

"You don't necessarily have to wait four years to become a motivational speaker. You can read books, listen to audio tapes, watch videotapes, and start studying and applying the concepts to your own life."

Motivational speakers can earn anywhere from $500 to $50,000 a speech, depending on experience. The average is $2,500. Factors include experience and celebrity status.

In addition to the obvious financial rewards, feedback from the audience gives speakers tremendous personal gratification. But motivational speaking is more than just accolades and praise. It can get downright tough at times. The toughest parts are unresponsive audiences.

"This happens for many reasons, but many times it's because the speech is scheduled for early in the morning, and the audience is tired from being up all night," says Lontos.

She recently spoke to a very responsive audience, with the exception of one man. "He fell asleep with his head on the table, right in the front row. It was awful. I had to look at him during the whole speech and I couldn't stop thinking about it."

For his part, Amatt considers speaking a continuation of his career as an educator.

"I still see myself as an educator through my speaking. To become a professional speaker is the continuation of a career path. I draw great satisfaction from being able to help people climb their 'mountains,' just as I have been able to climb mine.

"Although we all operate in different 'arenas of challenge,' the principles of what it takes to get to the top are the same, whether you are climbing the highest mountain on Earth, or whether you're aspiring to be the best that you can be in any field."

Lontos offers this advice to those who want to pursue a career in motivational speaking:

"Become tops in what you're doing. Number one people in their respective fields can succeed in this niche because they are able to go out and say, 'I achieved something by doing this.' Connect with the audience and share your failures, as well as your successes. No one can relate to someone who has no failures."


National Speakers Association
The professional organization for experts who speak for a living
Pam Lontos's articles on motivation and information on her products

One Step Beyond WorldWide
John Amatt's company uses the metaphor of adventure to help others deal with the changing world

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