11 Qualities of a Great Youth Speaker

Are you looking for a youth speaker to motivate and encourage a group of students in Australia?

If so, you’ll need to choose carefully. You want someone who will deliver the right message, with the right tone, in the right way. Positive words can impact students for life, motivating them to achieve great heights. However, the opposite also holds.

In your search for the best one, you’ll find that not every professional public speaker will be a great fit for your audience. To help you make a decision, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide that covers the qualities to look for in a youth speaker. Use this as a checklist before you make your hiring decision to make sure you’ve chosen the right person to fill the spotlight.

Why Should a Speaker Visit Your School?

What are some of the advantages of hiring a professional public speaker to visit your school?

In short, hearing from an esteemed expert with knowledge and experience on a topic can help drive an important point home. Every day, students receive motivation and guidance from a range of sources, including their parents, peers and counsellors.

However, the very frequency of these interactions can muffle their significance. It isn’t uncommon for school-age students to become numb to the words of advice from their well-meaning friends and family members. However, the same point told from a fresh perspective can make all the difference.

Take bullying, for example.

Research shows that around one in four Australian students in Year 4 to Year 9 are bullied every few weeks or on a more frequent basis. That equals 28% of the overall student population. Social media only fuels this fire, with 83% of students report bullying both in-person and on the internet.

These students have likely heard anti-bullying messages from myriad sources in their community. However, it could take hearing the same message from someone they admire or esteem to allow the point to sink in.

Hiring a motivational speaker to visit your school allows you to introduce your audience to an entirely new viewpoint. One large survey found 99% of students said they “highly value” guest speakers. It’s an excellent way to expose them to different outlooks, widen their understanding and present a topic differently.

What Are The Essential Qualities Of A Great Youth Speaker?

As you search for the best youth speaker to visit your school, what are some of the qualities and characteristics to prioritise?

1. Experience
2. Qualifications
3. Testimonials 
4. Topic
5. Success
6. Motives
7. Price
8. Confidence
9. Engagement
10. Flexibility
11. Showmanship

1. Experience

Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t want someone without any public speaking experience taking the microphone in front of a group of impressionable students.

Not only could they deliver a message that flops or fails to motivate. They may also lack the skills necessary to understand the context and audience and adapt their message accordingly. Vulgarities, crude references, and other inappropriate insertions have no place in an academic environment.

At the same time, an inexperienced speaker might have an unclear speaking voice, get stage fright or be otherwise ill-equipped to take centre stage. Instead, look for one who has an impressive resume of public speaking gigs under his or her belt. Ask about those presentations to learn more about the size of the audience, the message they delivered, and the approach they took. I believe each speaker should have videos of them speaking (I mention this again in point 4 with graphics) and have done a variety of presentations to different audiences for free before charging or promoting themselves.

2. Qualifications

While there are no specific educational or professional prerequisites required to become a professional youth speaker, there are certain qualifications that can make a major difference.

For instance, someone who completed a communications degree program at university will have plenty of experience in this realm and will be comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.

Even if the degree isn’t in this exact field, academic courses in public speaking, public relations or communications can help hone their presentation skills. In addition to academic achievements, what else qualifies someone to deliver a motivational message to others?

The answer is often that person’s life story. Do you know someone who overcame great odds as a youth to become a successful adult? That speaker might be more influential than someone with a laundry list of professional credentials. Still, you’ll need to make sure he or she is comfortable sharing that story and can do so eloquently. Ted Talks are a great example of this. They refer to qualification as experience and experience as living through it. For instance, a “doctor” may not be as good at explaining cancer as a ‘cancer patient’. The patient does not have qualifications but they do have first-hand knowledge.

On the other hand, it’s important to note I have seen some drug & alcohol speakers take this too far. Using the stage as a place to vent emotional baggage and “share their story” leaving little room for what the majority of the presentation should be about; the solution.

3. Testimonials

Before you hire a new speaker, check out what other people are saying about his or her work, first. A professional will have a user-friendly website that includes feedback and reviews from a range of past speaking engagements. You can also find out this information via social media accounts, community forums, and other local resources.

Are the testimonials positive and encouraging? Are there any negative ones? Read each one discerningly and don’t be afraid to reach out to others in your area to see if they’ve hired anyone in the past that they would recommend again.

4. Topic

Not every public speaker is qualified to speak on every topic. You’ll find that most of the ones that speak to local schools have their niches. For instance, one might focus primarily on bullying, while the other might talk more about the importance of studying and time management.

It will be difficult to convince a group of students in Year 10 to reduce their social media use if the speaker is a local YouTube star. It’s important to make sure the topic and speaker are an appropriate match.

Before you start researching a keynote speaker for your school event, consider the topic you want to present. This can help you narrow down your list of candidates to make sure you’re choosing someone who has the necessary experience and qualifications required to speak on it.

If you are a speaker consider mastering one topic before you go on the next. Josh Shipp founder of youth speaker university found in a survey of over 2100 event planners topic reliance was the major reason for hiring a speaker.

5. Success

Does the youth speaker in question practice what he or she preaches? In other words, is this a success story that schoolchildren can look up to and aspire to replicate? Someone successful automatically commands a stage and encourages others to listen. I believe successful motivational speakers were successful before they ‘become’ speakers. “You are the message” as Jon Kraushar said it.
You want to book a speaker who has found success in this realm. While they don’t have to be illustrious celebrities, they shouldn’t be still struggling to find their place in this industry, either. Great presentations speak for themselves and once a speaker delivers a dynamic message, it isn’t long before other schools and organisations in the area are in contact for an encore.

Think of it this way: Would you hire a contractor to build your home if he was available every second of the day? Keeping a full schedule means that the expert’s skills and talents are in great demand.

Look for a speaker who has an impressive calendar and a list of former and future speaking engagements. Success speaks for itself, and this kind of esteem will be evident from the very beginning. If anything about the candidate’s experience or accomplishments sounds fishy, it likely is.

6. The Right Motives

Does the speaking candidate appear to have the right motives? If the interview or conversation centres around your pay rate, when you’ll make the payment or any other financial topic, it could be a sign that the speaker is only interested in the job for the money it will bring.

Instead, look for someone who appears to be genuinely interested in motivating your group. Yes, there should be adequate and appropriate compensation involved, but do you get the sense that they’d share the same message for free? An excellent public speaker is passionate about the topic at hand and as such, can speak convincingly on it.

Find a speaker whose motives include opening the minds of your students, encouraging them to be their best, and imparting invaluable knowledge to them. They should be more interested in the non-tangible rewards than the economical ones.

7. Price

Speaking of finances, it’s wise to stick with professional public speakers that are within your budget. It can be disheartening to find someone who checks every box on your list, only to find that they charge an exorbitant fee to visit your school.

Meet as an academic team to discuss how much money you’ll allot to this event. Then, use those figures to guide your hiring decision. Keep in mind that the best speakers aren’t always the highest-priced ones, nor are the lowest-priced ones the worst. Price should be one factor to consider as you research your options, but it shouldn’t be the only one.

If you’re an aspiring youth speaker I go into the detail and other key points more in my article: How to become a Youth Motivational Speaker which explains how to get bookings and How To Write a Speech.


8. Confidence

Does the speaker project a clear speaking voice during the interview? Or does he or she talk quietly and seem nervous the entire time? While a few nerves are to be expected, you don’t want to invest in someone who will take the microphone and suddenly develop stage fright. If this happens, it can rush or ruin the entire presentation. Motivational speaking is about the transfer of emotion.

The word “en-courage” means to install courage. I think Motivational speaking is about installing confidence into young people. The best public speakers are confident that they know enough about their subject to speak authoritatively on it.

Every speaker should take their craft seriously and master it. Every speaker needs to ask themselves have you practiced your speech. This confidence should be evident during the interview. If you get the impression that they’re second-guessing themselves, it should lead you to do the same.

9. Audience Engagement

Chances are, your students don’t want to feel like they’re in the middle of a stand-up comedy special. Your public speaker shouldn’t pull everyone up on stage, embarrass anyone by calling them out against their will, or do anything else that could ostracise or isolate audience members.

Still, he or she should know the correct and effective ways to encourage audience engagement and participation. This might include asking for volunteers or requesting a group response (“Raise your hand if…”). The result will be an audience that feels involved and invested in the presentation but isn’t nervous about being exposed the entire time.

(Above: My Office During Lock Down. Need to be Flexible)

10. Flexibility

A great public speaker will know when a talk is going well, and when it’s getting off-track. They won’t require sophisticated software to tell them that it’s time to redirect their approach or try a different method.

This type of self-awareness isn’t exactly taught in school. Rather, it’s sharpened over time.

Look for a candidate that can read a room well, understand appropriate responses, and tweak planned methods as necessary. If someone appears too rigid or set in their ways, they might not be able to cope when the audience’s response isn’t what they expected.

A youth speaker should also be flexible in the approach that they use to deliver a message. One audience might respond better to shared images and video, while others will benefit the most from a strict oratory offering. If you have ideas on ways to engage your students and they’re unwilling to consider them, it’s time to continue your search elsewhere.

11. Showmanship & Enthusiasm

You need a speaker who can capture a large audiences’ attention and keep it the entire time. A motivational speech should have passion and enthusiasm are contagious and go hand-in-hand. If the speaker appears subdued and muted, their presentation might be a better fit for an older or less impressionable audience.

There’s no denying that schoolchildren of all ages grow bored easily. However, this trait isn’t limited to this demographic. Research shows that as a whole, our attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish’s. The speaker has a limited time to convince your students to listen up, are they qualified to use it correctly? A great youth speaker communicates energy in their voice and body language. They have systemic jokes to give the audience a breather from intense topics and know how long they should linger on each sentence for effect. Speaking of humour.

Bonus: Humour

One of the top four qualities in the New Zealand military was “Humour & Humility”. The NZArmy believed humour has a key to resilience. I must say I do too. When we would march in the snow for hours it would begin to feel like we didn’t have any physical or emotional energy left.

You would be hungry and often in pain from walking day after day with heavy packs on.

You would just feel empty and cold and doubt would start coming in. “Why did you join” “go home” “you’re not meant to be here” then, someone would make a joke. I remember a teammate said “rather be here than in Drawn’s room” referring to another teammate who was stationed next to the barracks toilets.

We all laughed and at the moment felt like oxygen came back into our souls, it strengthened us and gave us a second wind (no pun intended). Have you ever had humour break you out of a bad place? I believe having and communicating a healthy mature sense of humour is Powerful yet has a bad name cause few to do it correctly. It’s why I spend so long on my presentations making them funny.

Students often remember jokes & stories – but it’s the jokes which lead the story and the stories which end in powerful points. Humour allows a speaker to take people ‘up’ to a fun place so that when a ‘serious’ point has to be made (‘the down’) the contrast is that much more powerful.

Have you ever heard a speaker who’s just serious the whole time? Their points are usually not powerful because the listener usually takes the person as just being a ‘serious person’. Truly powerful speakers demonstrate a full range of emotions all while being professional for 3 major reasons;

  1. It’s the most effective way to communicate & contrast emotions to emphases points
  2. Demonstrate how humour can change emotions, people, situations and
  3. Be an example of someone who uses it professionally.

When looking to hire a speaker ensure they have humour and any other qualities you want to be reflected in your audience. I want my kids to be “positive & hardworking” so these are the qualities I demonstrate and emphasise.

I hope this list helped! Let me know what qualities you believe speakers should have. If you think I’ve missed any out message me (and if I agree) I’ll add them to this blog. Thanks for reading!

Hire a Qualified Youth Speaker Today

Now that you know a few of the traits that qualify a youth speaker to stand in front of a group of students, are you ready to hire one for your next event or online classroom?

If you would like a Funny, Engaging & relevant speaker to encourage your students in school and life

Enquire now. I would love nothing more than to speak at your school and encourage your students!

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