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Motivating Motivational Speakers in a Recession

Motivational Speaker
Motivational Speaker

I think motivational speakers have the hardest job in the world.

Harder than being a standup comic.

If I pay money to go to a comedy club, I'm choosing to be there, I'm hoping to laugh. Being forced by management into a conference room to sit and listen to someone talk to me is not usually the best part of a corporate junket.

The speakers who do it well are gifted, with the ability to entertain you, teach you, and maybe even inspire you.

Terry Paulson is one of those people.

He's a long-time friend of mine who's made a nice living speaking at corporate events. A past President of the National Speakers Association and the Global Speakers Federation, Paulson is naturally, honestly, authentically optimistic, a talent that has served him well.

However, in this recession, motivational speakers are trying to motivate themselves. Business is down, and they're trying to get the word out that their skills are needed now more than ever. Do you agree?

Here's part of an editorial Paulson wrote for Townhall.com. Read it, and let me know what you think in the comment section at the bottom.

"When the Meetings Industry Is Hurting, Business Feels the Sting," by Terry Paulson

There is some less than funny business going on in these tough economic times. Offhand comments by politicians and media pundits about "meeting excesses" have had a chilling effect on the meetings industry. One event planning company reported losing 90% of their scheduled events for 2009 after President Obama commented on Las Vegas meeting excesses. In response, associations have merged, meetings moved from resorts to less "lavish" properties, and meetings were consolidated or scheduled for fewer days.

According to the CEIR Index published by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, the exhibition industry suffered big declines in the first quarter of 2009, dropping nearly 12 percent compared to the first quarter of 2008. In the first quarter, revenues were hardest hit, dropping 20 percent, as both exhibit space used and the number of exhibitors also fell double digits.

The Convention Industry Council, Meeting Planners International and the National Speakers Association have all been working to get the message outthat meetings are good for business and jobs. The US Travel Association has developed a Web sitewith factual information, an engaging video and other resources to help make the case. A recent study released in September by the U.S. Travel Association found that for every dollar invested in business travel, businesses experience an average of $12.50 in increased revenue and $3.80 in new profits. Such meetings not only provide benefits to the meeting sponsor and attendees, but to the economically vulnerable meetings destinations.

For members of associations and those working for corporations, meetings mean more than business. Author and management visionary Peter Drucker once observed, "The fastest growth industry in the U.S. will soon be continuing education of adults because things are changing so fast in every field and occupation." The age of lifelong employment and secure professions is over, and there is a compelling need for targeted, competency-based training that will help leaders and professionals in all areas move from obsolescence to relevance. National Speakers Association President Phil Van Hooser says, "Not only do meetings help drive a vibrant and productive economy, but, with the right programs and speakers, meetings matter in developing leaders and a workforce ready to help invent a profitable future." In support of meetings, Van Hooser has challenged speakers around the world to use the platform to reinforce the message that Meetings Matter and to provide the content to help attendees make change work.

More optimistic projections are surfacing. According to a poll conducted by Special Eventsmagazine, event planners are getting more optimistic about business for the rest of the year: Some 41 percent of special event professionals polled this summer by Special Events predict that the economy will start to recover this year, up from 7 percent of respondents in March.

No matter what the short-term numbers indicate, meetings do matter. Meetings mean business. Meeting together, we can invent a profitable economic future and create the jobs that will help turn this economy around. It's time politicians and media experts focus on the importance of meetings rather than discount their value. Meetings are part of the answer in turning our economy around.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com