Meeting podium and stage

I had an e-mail on Monday from a teacher who wanted to know how to motivate his speech team. While this is out of the realm of things we typically work on, it intrigued me. Below is my response:

“I have been thinking about your question and how you could use some motivational techniques with your speech team. I definitely believe that motivation is something that can be used with high school students in a number of situations such as the classroom, sports, and extracurricular activities such as debate and speech.

Some of the key things that I think would help in motivating the students on your speech team include:

1. Understand that each individual will have a different motivational profile. In other words, individually they are going to be more motivated by different things. For some, it is going to be the challenge of being in a competition or improving themselves (i.e. the Challenge Drive). For others it might be the prestige and recognition that would go along with winning a contest (i.e., the Acquire Drive). And for others it could be the comradery they have from being on the team and furthering those relationships (i.e., the Bond Drive). For others it might be that they don’t want to lose or be bested by another team (i.e., the Defend Drive). That being said, we are currently working on a tool to help people better understand their motivational profile in terms of the 4-drives. The tool is not currently completed (I can send it to you when it is), but in the mean time you can ask questions of your team to try to figure out which of the 4-drives (Acquire, Bond, Challenge/Comprehend, or Defend) is the greatest motivator for them.

I would use open ended questions such as “Tell me what you think it would be like to win XX contest?” “What will make you the proudest about winning?” “What are you looking forward to most after winning the prize?” “What are you going to focus on to motivate you to practice – even when you don’t want to?” “If you put one or two words up on your mirror to motivate you every day, what would those words be?” Use the responses from these to try to figure what drives each students motivation.

2. Customize how you talk to each individual to leverage their individual drives. For instance, if someone is motivated by the prestige of winning, talk about how they are recognized, what type of trophies they earn, or how proud their parents/peers/teachers will be. If the individual is driven by the challenge, talk to them about how they are learning and growing by working through this, how they can demonstrate their knowledge by how well they do, and how they will be able to use their newly acquired skill set in the future.

3. Have the students set individual goals for what they want to accomplish. Have them write these down and share them with the team. The goals should be stretch goals and be as specific as possible. Remind them of their individual goals when you talk with them.

4. Have a team goal that is a stretch for them. Have them think about what it would mean to achieve this goal and what they need to do individually to help the team achieve it. Have them make a verbal commitment to doing that. Set key milestones to achieving this goal (steps to the final goal with specific timeline for achieving them) and celebrate when the team achieves them.

5. Have them write down the two or three motivational words that will keep them inspired throughout the process and put them in a prominent place where they will see them every day.

6. If possible, have them pick a topic that aligns with their motivation and interest. Or have them frame the speech with that in mind. If you can tap into their intrinsic motivation around a topic or idea, then you will need less of other types of motivation to keep them going.

These are some simple ideas, but hopefully they might spark an idea or two for you. I would also invite you to join our newsletter mailing list – these come out quarterly and provide some insight into motivation that you might find useful. You can sign up by going out to and clicking the newsletter icon.

Good luck and let me know if any of this was helpful!”