The late Chris Farley was an amazing actor and comedian. It’s a shame that he died so early and so young. One of his more famous roles (and one of my favorites) was Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker. If you’ve never seen the skit on Saturday Night Live, here is a short clip.
The character is interesting because he’s the complete opposite of what most of us think of when we think of motivational speakers. He’s grossly overweight, sloppily dressed, rude to his audience and speaks in a condescending and angry tone. And of course, that’s the point of the character and why it’s funny. You might be surprised, but I’ve seen a number of supposed motivational speakers that fit into one or more of these categories. And in many cases, it lessens the effect of their message on the audience.
While we hate to admit it, our appearance matters. Take a look at the people on your TV or that grace the covers of magazines and you’ll see that most of them are at least somewhat attractive. While a few people have become successful in speaking and even in Hollywood without looking good, the vast majority of those who have become successful are physically attractive.
Now we can’t control every aspect of how we look, but the good news is that there’s a lot we can do with our appearance to help us look good enough. If you were to watch the video clip above without sound, you probably will still agree that Matt Foley doesn’t make a believable motivational speaker. While he’s very overweight, his outfit was about 20 years out of date (even in the 1990’s when it was filmed) and his hair was greasy and sloppy. While there’s no way that Chris Farley could have hidden his weight, there were other skits and characters that he played where his appearance was much cleaner and would have been fine as a motivational speaker. So sometimes, a quick visit to the clothing store and the hair salon can work wonders for your appearance.
More surprisingly, I see speakers act rudely and condescending towards their audience. This is something that the speaker totally has control over which is why I don’t understand it. But sometimes, speakers forget that a speech is about the audience and not about them. While there is such a thing as a bad or dead audience, acting hostile towards them isn’t always a good option. Yet I see speakers all the time lecture the audience as if they were children, telling them that the things they think and do are wrong. They make false assumptions about the audience by telling them they must have been living in a cave unless they’ve heard of a certain person or new fad. They shout at the audience, acting like the stereotypical high school gym teacher or army drill sergeant.
The bottom line is this: you should always respect your audience. Start with your appearance — dress appropriately and neatly. Then make sure you speak to them as you’d like to be spoken to. Talk to them, not at them. Don’t make them feel bad because they don’t follow sports or the latest hot TV show. Watch this full clip of Matt Foley and make sure you don’t do anything he does. And yes, while he may accomplish the goal he was hired for, keep in he won’t be getting re-hired and probably won’t get referred either. Best of luck.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.
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