What makes an “inspirational speaker” inspirational?

I’m not like most people. Everyone flocks to hear inspirational speakers. I’m annoyed by them. I had forgotten this fact when I went last night to hear a man dubbed as an “inspirational speaker.” He told his story, the story of his spiritual journey. What was his life like before and what meaning did he find in the new turn it took? I know that this will sound strange coming from someone like me who claims to be a searcher of meaning, but I was not inspired. The delivery was a turn-off.

After going home disappointed I thought to myself there must be a meaning here, nonetheless. After all, meaning can be squeezed out of every situation. The meaning for me was this: It illustrated for me what does not inspire me. From the negative I can learn the positive. How did he speak? He alternated between raising his voice strongly at certain key junctures and speaking very softly at others to let his points sink in. He spoke about himself in the third person. Thirdly it seemed to be a prepared script. As a result some of his comments felt disparaging for this audience even though it might have been appropriate for a different audience. In short, I don’t appreciate theatrics. I want to hear a real person talking to me. This is what I would have liked to tell him: If you’re feeling passionate about the topic – good! You can show it. But don’t do it artificially in order to drive home your point. Speak in first person. Tell me: “This is what it was like for me… This is how I felt… This experience inspired me because…

Having said that, was there nothing positive that I was able to get out of it? There was. His basic premise was true. He said that we can find ourselves chasing after what we think we want when the important question is: Who is the real me? This was a potent reminder.

More than that, it made me think: If I had to get up and give a talk about my own spiritual journey what would I say? What would my authentic, personal communication be? I won’t answer yet, but I will shelve it as a special project to do hopefully soon.

Batya Yaniger

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