American Idol

What American Idol has to teach professional speakers and entertainers:
Or: Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Fantasia and Ruben

By Brad Montgomery, CSP

While the lessons that Fox network has to offer us may be few and far between, I think there is something to be said for what American Idol can teach us. Not surprisingly, this lesson was not stressed in the classroom, but is still vital to successful motivational speakers. This season, I watched as the long lines of seventy thousand kids were slowly trimmed down to the top thirty-two people all dripping with talent, but still, there could only be one winner. With so much talent, how could one be singled-out? It all came down to individual personality as it does with motivational speakers.

The top thirty-two all had tons of talent and could succeed in a bar act any day, but most still left us cold. Why? The more I studied them, I realized I had watched most of them before. Well, not them, but their act. They were very good imitators of rock stars we have all seen before. They shut their eyes at touching moments and clenched their fists at intense lyrics. Others had the cool thing going. They looked at the camera, worked the crowd, and said all the right things. But it looked planned and prepared, like the people that came before them. The judges finally said it: they wanted somebody with something new to add.

In the end, it was Fantasia who won. She was as talented as the rest. I thought she was fantastic. But, most importantly, to me, the judges, and apparently the rest of the nation, she was totally unique and refreshing. She did not resemble another contestant or imitate another rock star. And now she is number one. Sure, she had tons of talent, but so did the rest on that stage. Sure she had coaching and was totally prepared, but so were the rest. Her personality set her apart.

I’m sure the other contestants had personalities as well; they just did not have the ability to show it, perhaps the hardest part. They never let themselves come THROUGH the preparation and the shine, as often happens with motivational speakers. You must be yourself in spite of the preparation and the shine.

Too often motivational speakers cannot make it past the Las Vegas show club or the rock and roll lounge to arrive at the main stage. They may have the talent and audiences may love them, but they still never see the top because the personality does not shine through. They get caught in the actions, clothes, and trappings they think they should imitate to be in the business, only because those that came before them had them. With each item they copy they lose an opportunity to set themselves apart from the crowds, some of which can be as demanding as Simon.

Today the speakers and people in general who are successful are truly unique with personalities and a sense of self that shines through strong! Individuals like Bill Cosby, Ellen Degenerous, Billy Crystal, and Chris Rock follow no mold of those who came before them. They are not filling a position, they have created their own.

Copyright by Brad Montgomery, CSP Brad is a Funny Motivational Speaker based in Colorado. All rights reserved. You may republish this article as long as you leave in the contact info and create a live link to


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