I have worked in the speaking industry for 8 years and in that time seen hundreds of appearances of motivational speakers. There are motivational speakers who trudge through all the clichés (one foot in front of the other anyone?) and serve only to motivate you making you think, ‘this is so bad, I could do that.’ Yet then there of those motivational speakers with a special quality who make your hairs stand on end, your eyes fill with water and lead you to go home and genuinely change your approach to life. Here are the four best motivational speakers I have come across:

Marc Woods

There have been two Olympic Games since Marc last won a medal, yet the fact he continues to be booked ahead of more recent Paralympic motivational speakers is testament to his power. Marc faced cancer and subsequent amputation of his leg and then the death of his father on the day of the games. Yet he went on to win 10 medals. His moving speech crescendos with Marc commentating over video footage of his own wins. It never fails to bring audiences to their feet, punching the air and drying their eyes.

BJ Cunningham

It begins as a battery of anecdotes from his astounding life so far. Delivered with a mischievous public-schoolboy sense of humour, BJ often seems as surprised by his massive achievements as the audience. Then, from amongst the laughter and repeated jaw-dropping, there emerges a powerful message to leap at every opportunity, come back fighting after setbacks, and not fear the Goliaths who obstruct our path. Finally, his almost spiritual distillation of the concept of “brand” will see you throwing your pantone and typeface charts in the dustbin, never to consider the subject in the same way again.

Richard Villar

Ex-SAS medical officer and current orthopedic surgeon Richard Villar is a super hero. When a disaster occurs somewhere in the world (earthquake in Haiti, Typhoon in Philippines) Richard takes a call and is there in 48 hours to setup up an emergency response hospital. He has seen more horrors and coped in more difficult conditions than all the other motivational speakers, yet he delivers his tale with a nonchalant matter-of-factness that puts our day to day problems in extreme relief.

Daniel Tammet

Daniel is perhaps the most unique of motivational speakers. If you can resist the temptation to group him alongside the side-show freaks for calculating giant sums and memorising seemingly impossible strings of numbers, Daniel has a much more interesting tale to tell. For the handful of other “real life rain-men” on the planet, a dark side of their “gift” is the severe social impairments that come with it. Daniel has trained himself to overcome these and in doing so offers us a fascinating window into the power of the human brain.

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