What’s in a Name?

Another LinkedIn discussion question asked professional speakers for their opinion about the term ‘motivational speaker’. I really enjoyed sharing this load of steaming rant:

‘What’s in a name … indeed!’ What we call ourselves defines us and our value proposition. ‘Speaking’ is what we do – a presenter-centric term. ‘Learning’, ‘Growing’ or ‘Improving’ is what they do – an audience-centric term. I agree with the consensus that ‘Motivational Speaker’ is passe and carries a lot of negative connotative baggage. Many people immediately think of Matt Foley from SNL living in a van down by the river.Taken literally, we can’t motivate anyone. Only they can motivate themselves. And I like ‘Inspirational Speaker’ even less – way too TV preacher for me.

While I am ‘president’ of my company and serve clients as a ‘consultant’, ‘trainer’ or ‘executive coach’, I never use those terms to introduce myself. When asked what I do, my ‘Elevator Speech’ response is … ‘I work with business leaders who want to communicate confidently.’ No titles, just a concise statement of my value proposition.

If the person introducing me at a speaking engagement reads the intro I provide, the audience hears ‘Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, Inc. and empowers business leaders to take some of the pain out of workplace communication and sales pitches.’ It’s not about what I do, but who benefits from what I do.

Just about any title we would use has some negative connotative baggage, so I advise clients not to use one at all. Even worse is using several – ‘Founder, CEO and President’ comes off very ego-centric, especially if people know you’re a ‘sole-pro’. I don’t have ‘president’ on my business card or signature block either. The only people who really care about our titles are our family and the IRS.

Thanks … I feel better now.

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