How to Give a Motivational Speech on Leadership to Students?

motivational speech on leadership to students

Preparing for a successful motivational speech is a different process than preparing for talks delivering information.  Motivational speeches are meant to spur action—to compel audience members to do, or become something different, something more. 

Motivational speeches can be very rewarding for both the audience and the presenter.  The audience can leave feeling inspired, ready to take action to do or become more. 

The presenter can make positive change in many people’s lives, which can make a positive impact on the world.  And there’s nothing more rewarding than delivering an inspiring motivational speech on leadership to students. 

Motivating youth to become leaders pushes this next generation to develop skills that can eventually influence the direction of families, companies, philanthropies, schools and other groups, one leader at a time.

So how do you ensure your speech is successful? 

A motivational talk centered around teaching leadership to students includes 5 main components:

  • Capturing their attention
  • Relating
  • Knowing the topic
  • Inspiring emotion
  • Compelling action

Let’s get into each of these in more detail.

Capture their Attention

Capturing the attention of students starts with knowing your student audience.  Why are they there?  What do they hope to get from your talk? 

There’s little chance to motivate your student audience if you don’t engage them.  If their attention is focused on their exam in a couple of days, or even what they’ll be doing the next weekend, there’s not much hope in making an impact. 

There are many ways to capture the students’ attention before getting into the meat of leadership.  However you choose to do it, master it.  It’s essential. 

Possibilities might include:

Asking a lingering question

Initial questions to students about their own existing leadership skills and what they envision themselves doing in 5 years by way of leading a group may be a way to capture their thoughts, getting them all in the right mindset, thinking about leadership.

Providing an interesting fact or visual

This could include statistics about leadership, quotes from historical leaders, or unusual or otherwise striking visuals of leaders or wanna-be leaders.

Shocking the audience also works, generating interest and sympathy/empathy.  (I’ve seen disfigured speakers talk about how they adapted to their new selves, overcoming mental and physical challenges to become CEOs of companies!)


Funny personal experiences or stories about others can create a clear picture of leadership in action. (A key trait of leaders is confidence and there’s no better way of showing confidence than being able to publicly make fun of yourself, or laugh alongside another for a personal experience that was funny.)

Look no further than our modern-day motivational speaker icons to see the variety of ways each has found to immediately engage their audiences.

Tony Robbins often asks the audience a series of questions, prompting audience feedback/participation. 

Les Brown has been known to engage his audience in an immediate personal visualization exercise to image possibilities. 

Dr. Wayne Dyer was a master at weaving a powerfully-relatable personal story into the beginning of his talks to draw in his audiences. 

Zig Ziglar drew an audience in with his self-deprecating humor and stories about his experiences which showed his authenticity and made him incredibly relatable.

However you choose to make a connection with the students, be impactful.  Pique their curiosity about their own potential to be effective leaders.


Once you gain the students’ attention, you have to keep it.  “Leadership” will hopefully be presented in a way that interests them, but the audience also has to relate to the person talking about it or their take-aways will be minimal at best.  But it can be difficult to build rapport with both extroverts and introverts.  So how do you make yourself relatable?

Tony Robbins has said that connecting with the audience by building rapport is essential in any public speaking initiative.  If you want to connect, he says you can and should draw them in and make them a big part of your presentation. (T

You make it all about them, how they’ll be impacted, challenges they may have now or in the near future, how they can overcome them, and how they can become better leaders. 

Knowing Your Topic

Clearly, any motivational speaker must know their topic, and they have to have passion towards it. 

If you’re speaking to students about developing their leadership capabilities, you know about leadership.  You may have specific examples ready of recent graduates who’ve moved quickly into corporate leadership roles.  You may have stats on private sector leaders, philanthropic leaders, government or world leaders, and, depending on your outline, may have historical figures in mind, along with examples of actions they’ve taken to exemplify their leadership prowess or inadequacies.  You may decide to get into the specifics of what leadership skills are important for success.

Knowing your topic, your outline, and how you want to deliver it will give you the ability to deliver it with the confidence and passion needed to make your presentation memorable.

Speaking of passion, this brings us to our next component…

Inspiring Emotion

The best motivational speeches sell concepts by making the audience feel something strongly.  Emotions sell… but only if the person on the receiving end truly feels.  This concept is summed up really well through a couple of quotes from some well-known authors:

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People remember more of what transpires while steeped in emotion.  Research conducted by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions shows that personal experiences which take place while individuals have heightened states of different emotions like joy, disappointment, fear and anger are remembered more. 

They state that this is because of “a hormone released during emotional arousal ‘primes’ nerve cells to remember events by increasing their chemical sensitivity at sites where nerves rewire to form new memory circuits.” (S

If each of us thinks back to our own past, we know this is true; we remember both the things that made us feel really good, really badly, scared, or disappointed.  With this in mind, when speaking to students about their leadership skills – where they are now and where they’d like to be – it’s essential to make them feel strongly.

These feelings will ultimately be what compels the audience to take action.  Which leads us to the final component…

Compelling them to Take Action

We’ve already discussed that eliciting emotions is what will compel audience members to do what they need to do to put them on the path to the desired goals. 

But part of getting the most number of students in the room to take action to develop or demonstrate their leadership abilities is in reading the room.  (And this goes back to knowing a little about the audience in the first place.)

Is the audience engaged?  Are they feeling inspired?  If they seem to be, that’s great, but that’s only the first of two steps that need to be taken.  The second is a call-to-action. 

A call-to-action is a statement or question at the end of a persuasive speech guiding them take action to get them where they want to be.  Depending on the student audience, this might mean that they need to practice some of their leadership skills in a small group.  

It might mean that they force themselves to be the primary public speaker at a large event. 

The call to action needs to geared toward the audience, but according to Andrew Dlugan from “Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills,” there are five keys to making the call to action stellar: 1)

  1. Make it direct and clear
  2. Ensure they act in a timely manner
  3. Reduce barriers to make action happen
  4. Explain the benefits of action)
  5. Make it as specific as possible to your audience

Whatever it is, this call-to-action is what can separate an energy-charged student leaving your speech feeling enlightened about leadership, and one who leaves motivated with specific action steps in mind about how they’ll take their leadership skills to the next level;  it can make the difference between thinking and doing.


As you prepare to deliver a captivating motivational speech to a group of students that will encourage them to take steps to excel in various leadership roles in life, take steps to know who they are.  What motivates students?  Know their ambitions, their fears, potential challenges and rewards.  Connect with them and spellbind their imaginations. 

Help them envision their leadership in motion. Help them find their passion in the types of leaders they can be and then motivate them to take specific action, inspired to always learn more and be more.

Leave them with the ingrained understanding that developing leadership skills is a journey, not an event.  Leave them knowing that:

“Leadership and learning are indispensable from each other.”

John F. Kennedy


“The only thing tougher than developing leadership skills is attempting to be successful with them.”

Orrin Woodward

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