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Q & A: Get a Degree in Motivational Speaking?


Q: What kind of college courses would I take my freshman year of college in order to become a successful motivational speaker like you? -student, Georgia State University

There’s no official curriculum for becoming a motivational speaker. In fact, we come from all walks of life. There are professional speakers that have majored in education, business, engineering, law, performing arts (me), psychology, religion, and plenty of other majors that I haven’t mentioned.

Regardless of your career path, here are some nuggets that will help you to become a good public speaker and build a solid professional speaking business.

1. Major in something you do well, you love, and that will help you get a job or start your own business. This is crucial. You should love what you do and you should do it well enough to get paid to do it.

It takes time to build a rep that makes people want to pay you to speak. In the meantime, you need to eat, right? Keep in mind that you can speak professionally and work in your profession or run your business. People do it all the time.

2. Take a public speaking class and join (or start) a Toastmasters Club. There should be one on campus or close by, if not, start one.

3. Take some entrepreneurship classes. (Man, I wish somebody would’ve told me that!) Public speaking and professional speaking are two different things. If you want to speak for living then you will be running a speaking business. 

Running a business involves marketing, sales, branding, negotiating, accounting, and more. If it seems like a lot it’s because it can be. But…it sure is fun being your own boss!

4. Become a master (expert) of something. Inspiration and motivation are good, but people pay big money for expertise. There’s nothing wrong with a little “rah, rah, rah” every now and then, but that isn’t enough.

The professional speaking industry has evolved. If you’re a celebrity, a famous athlete, or someone with an amazing story–the kind they make movies about–you could get booked for some gigs simply because your life story is inspiring. But it doesn’t work that way for most speakers.

You have to be a master of what you do because people want tangible results. They want their personal and professional lives to be better.

Duncan Nugget® #10: 
The true measure of a speaker is not
in the awards or praise received.
The true measure of speaker is the ability to
inspire people AND deliver empowering information
that will help them get what they want.

5. Write. This one is up for debate. Many well-known professional speakers use ghostwriters or staff to produce their articles and books. Is that cool? There’s nothing wrong with it, but…

Million-Dollar Question: 
Long before you make enough money as a 
speaker to pay someone else to write for you, 
who’s going to write your material?

If I couldn’t write I wouldn’t be answering your question. Think about that. Writing is a good way to supplement your income, it gets your name out there even more, and it helps you to master your subject. I suggest you start a blog–now. (Let me know when you do and I’ll check it out, okay?)

Write about what you want to speak about. Write about what you’re reading. Write about whatever is on your mind. And write a book on the topic you want to speak about.


Public speaking is an art that will enhance virtually any career. So, it’s well worth the effort to get better at it. The professional speaking industry is extremely competitive and it can take a while to build a strong business. So, make sure you have a way of making money in the meantime.

Use the nuggets you just read and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a good public speaker with a solid speaking business.

More public speaking tips from

Got a question? Use this form to ask Al.


Nilesh Raut March 4, 2014 at 1:57 am

hey there i am pursuing my last year of
engineering in electronics and
communication and i want to make
motivational speaking as my profession.
How shall i start?

Tanvi February 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

Hey hello :) i am a final year student of Engineering in Electronics and communication and i want to make motivational speaking as my Profession. from where shall i start? I have the idea of Doing MBA in HR :/

Al Duncan February 27, 2014 at 11:00 am

Hi Tanvi, I apologize for the delayed response. An MBA can be a powerful tool if you want to go the traditional education route. One of my business partners got his MBA while he was building his business and he is very successful. On the other hand, I don’t have an MBA and I’ve been very successful.

I think the main thing to do is to focus an area that you are curious and passionate about. Look for 2-3 problems currently facing that industry/target market and explore how your future message and expertise will solve these problems.

This doesn’t have to be a permanent choice. You can always adjust as you progress.

Tanvi February 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

hey there i am pursuing my last year of engineering in electronics and communication and i want to make motivational speaking as my profession. How shall i start? i have the idea of doing MBA in HR

Regina Kirk January 29, 2014 at 12:07 pm

All Duncan I thank you for the information, truly has blessed and inspired me. I have been long journey figuring out my purpose in what direction to go and just the other day I was able to speak to a group of young ladies that played basketball and the desire to be a motivational speaker came back. I decided to start doing my research on where to begin and. your sites have been very helpful. Again thanks and may God continue to use and bless you

Al Duncan January 29, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Regina, thanks for the kind words. I wish you much success and many blessings. I’m sure you will inspire and empower many people on your journey. :)

keshawna November 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm

hello, my name is keshawna i am 24 years old im a returning student at riverside community college in moreno valley ca in im barely figuring out that i would love to be a motionval speaker to men, women, boys and girls to influence them on becoming a better person each in every way you can by changing your attitude, your eating habits , your social life, friends i want to lead them to success so they could be influence to someone else. My question would be to you is that where do i go from here as far as a good university to transfer to starting my own club here on campus and how to land my first job.

Al Duncan November 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Keshawna, my advice for picking a good university is to start with the institutions that have relationships with Riverside.

To start your own club, go visit student activities or student affairs and they will give you the school policy for starting new clubs.

Your first gig will probably be a freebie. Go volunteer with an organization that focuses on the group you want to speak to and also offer to provide a short talk for the volunteers and program participants. Video tape it. Let me know after you’ve done

Anonymous December 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

This is good, sound advice. Thank you!

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