The Speech Wiz shares an insight on being an inspirational speaker.

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"To succeed, you need to find something to hold on to,
something to motivate you, something to inspire you."
Tony Dorsett

We speak to achieve one of three outcomes – to inform, to persuade and to entertain. We lead to achieve one of three outcomes – to help others succeed, to be an agent of change, and to fulfill a collective purpose or promise.

Speaking and leadership have a great deal in common. Chief among these is the ability to influence others. In the speaking world, there are Three Types of Influential Speakers – Inspirational (What is possible), Motivational (Why it is important) and Transformational (How can you achieve it). Each has its own underlying purpose and fulfills a different need for the listener. In this blog post I will share some insights on being an Inspirational Speaker and the challenge of What.


An Inspirational Speaker shares stories and perspectives with their audience about “What” is possible for them to achieve in life when they meet and defeat a challenge. Inspirational speaking examines how one approaches life challenges by offering either first hand examples or the example of others who have overcome challenges and achieved an intended goal.

Often, an inspirational speaker will rely on a spectacular tale of incredible accomplishment. Sometimes they are first person recounts, while other times (most often this is the case) the speaker will use a third person narrative of some famous event or accomplishment to make their point. What usually happens is the speaker is lead down a rabbit’s hole believing the more spectacular or incredible their challenge story, the more gravity their message will have. Unfortunately, the correlation between the depth of the challenge accomplishment and “What is possible” when you overcome a challenge does not always translate or inspire an audience.

When you speak, true inspiration comes from telling stories of challenges met and overcome that fall within the realm of everyday people. They need to be relatable to a common life. If the challenge story is too big to fit within the listener’s daily existence, they will fail to see the value of your inspirational message. They will dismiss your example as being beyond their realm of achievability and the “What is possible” you wish to inspire will miss the target completely.

The secret to inspiring people is to share with them “What is possible” as achieved in everyday life by everyday people like them.


One of the stories I like to share in the inspirational portion of my keynote presentation, Won’t Power: How to become a Hope Less Success, is about my great grandfather. It is an ancestral story of highly focused intention in the face of a commonly-faced, almost impossible challenge met by an everyday person facing extraordinary circumstances. It clearly answers the question of “What is possible” when you dedicate yourself to a vision of higher purpose attached to a deeply personal mission.

When telling the story, it must be possible for your audience to imagine themselves in your main character’s place. How would they react? Would they be able to make a similar sacrifice? Would they feel capable of taking on a similar challenge while maintaining relative, highly-focused intention?

I will share the gist of the story I tell about my great grandfather so you can see the inspiring people through story can help them see that within them lies the ability to meet and defeat life’s challenges and succeed.


In the early 1890’s my great grandfather, Israel Kovalchesky, lived in the village of Romanova just outside of Minsk. There, like his family had done for decades, he plied his trade as a blacksmith. Life in Romanova was becoming more oppressive. Some of his cousins had already made their way to freedom and opportunity in America. With a wife and five children, he knew their future lied across the Atlantic. In 1892, he left his wife and children behind. Making his way out of Russia, across Lithuania, to Liverpool where he boarded a tramp steamer bound for Ellis Island in New York.

After his arrival he made his way out to iron ore mines of Wyoming where he could ply his skill as a blacksmith making spikes for the western railroads. He toiled through blistering hot summers and numbingly freezing winters for two years. After two years, having earned and saved enough money, he made his way back to New York, boarded a ship for England and made his way back to Romanova. There, he gathered two of his children and repeated the journey back to New York. Once in New York, he left his children with relatives and went back to Wyoming to earn enough money to bring more of his family to America.

After three more years, he made the return trip to Russia. He was greeted by a happy wife and a new child, the product of his last trip home. This time he took three children leaving his wife and the youngest for his final journey.

Once back in America, after leaving his children with relatives, he headed west to Wyoming again. Toiling for another two years, he prudently saved enough to make a final round trip to Russia where he claimed his wife and child and returned to America.

In all, it took him ten years to complete his mission. Ten years dedicated to a singular goal. A goal with no awards show, no government programs, no political support. All he had was a singular vision to meet a daunting challenge head on and succeed in the mission he had embraced based on his own ability.


My great grandfather’s story is a common tale. Outstanding as it is, his story serves to make the inspirational argument that the enormity of what you do is not as important as dedicating yourself to getting it done with extremely high-focused intention.

When you speak or lead, if you want to inspire your audience, use stories of challenges met by common people in the course of their everyday lives. That’s what inspires an audience, because that is what they can relate to and what they want to hear.

Thanks for your support as a reader of my blog and I eagerly welcome any comments on how you’re thinking about achieving the possibility of your promise.  Also, I would appreciate any suggestions you might have for future posts in this blog on a topic near and dear to you in the comments section below. As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague.

To Your Speaking Success,
The Speech Wiz