Motivational Speaker Says There’s Still No Business Like Show Business

There’s Still No Business Like Show Business: How The Show Affects The Bottom Line Of Your Community Event

I received a call this morning from one of my healthcare clients who has been given the task of putting together an event that honors stroke survivors and their families, that educates the audience on a particular stroke medication and its benefits, and solidifies the brand of the healthcare organization in the community. The event will have a strong media presence, and there will be some well educated people discussing the latest advancements in the field. Wow. Important event. I know what you’re thinking: What in the world would they want with Kelly Swanson, the funny motivational speaker who writes customized one-woman shows for her audiences? And there was a day when I would have asked myself the same question. Until I learned the value a show brings to a community event. And by “show” I mean something beyond just a speech or a lecture or a presentation, or readings from my latest book. By “show” I mean something designed to wow the audience – to impart knowledge, to entertain and engage, to help make the event unforgettable.

This meeting planner is very wise in that she realizes that just as important as the event, is the importance of getting people to want to come to the event. She knows that people are busy – pulled in a million different directions – especially in the evening (when the event is taking place) and their commitments are often to family. Personal time is valuable to people, and they are becoming more and more critical of how they use it. So if you are going to ask them to leave the comfort of their own home and their family commitments – then you had better have something they want to come to.

And that’s where I come in. Because I have seen what makes people leave their homes. Humor. Fun. The show. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me at events and say, “I so didn’t want to come to this – but I saw that you were going to be here.”  Don’t get me wrong – people aren’t coming because Kelly Swanson is a celebrity. They are coming because they read about the hilarious motivating one-woman show – and they said, “I want that!” They came for the show. THAT is what makes them leave their house.

And if you’re going to give them a show – don’t make it a twenty minute show. I have seen audiences get angry when a show was promoted as the draw for the event – and the show was only twenty minutes of the event. They feel cheated. They came to see the show and feel like you buried it in a list of other things you wanted to do instead. Yes, your cause is important. Yes, you have to get other things done. But stay tuned to your audience and what brought them in – and deliver that too. I have seen the evaluations where people said they heard Kelly Swanson was speaking, bought a table of tickets for their friends, and showed up only to find the thing they came to see lasted twenty minutes. You’re the meeting planner  – you are the expert on what your audience wants. It’s your event. I’m only giving suggestions from my perspective and my experience. And telling you to be in tune with your audience is still great advice.  And, yes, there are events where people are coming for the content. I’m not talking about those events today. I’m talking about the community event.

Funny sells. Motivation hooks them. The show makes the meeting planner look like a rock star. The “show” isn’t just a nice little addition to an event. Sometimes the show is the very reason they come out of their house – the hook – and the only thing they go back and talk to others about. And if you care about people coming back next year, you want them to go talk about the event, and blog about it, and tell others about it.

So if you think a motivational speaker doesn’t add value to the bottom line of your event – you might find yourself staring at an empty audience.

(And, sure, there will always be the handful that say they wanted something else. But that’s what they are – a handful. Listen to the 80%, not the squeaky wheels.)


Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
To book motivational speaker Kelly Swanson:
Motivational speaker Kelly Swanson's website

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  1. I think you missed another value good motivational speakers brings to a conference. I can’t count the times I’ve gone to an industry conference where a motivational speaker could have helped me be more receptive to learning – by giving me a mental break after a couple of heavy content sessions.

    The 80% you allude to at the end of your post is a good point. I think readers may enjoy an expanded explanation of the topic from one of your recent articles: Love You Hate You.

  2. Your show is incredible and would certainly get this motivational speaker out of the house! 20 minutes? You’re just getting started…..

  3. Oh Kelly, can I send this post of yours to several meeting planners I’ve worked with in the past?  So, I’m hired as the motivational speaker for a woman’s health event (a big one). The meeting planner says, “Oh I want between 20 and 30 minutes.”  Okay, I ask her if she could pick one or the other, so I can…oh, I don’t know…like, PLAN WHAT TO SAY.  She says, well, we have to be flexible.  Okay, sure thing. You’re the boss.  THEN when I’m there waiting to go on, they end up giving me 13 minutes.  THIRTEEN flippin’ minutes!  Come on.  Seriously?  I’m standing there back stage looking at my watching thinking, “Okay throw out the refrigerator story… Okay now throw out the multi-tasking story…Okay now throw out the frickin’ gratitude shower sign story.”  I walked out, said, “Hi!  Here’s a rap song for ya.!”
     Whew. Okay. I’m breathing. It’s over. I’m good.  Ohmmmmmmm.

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