When a school hires you, ultimately they want you to deliver a message that can get through to their students. If they just wanted to give the gives a simple message, they could easily get the Principal or an internal employee who is good in front of people.
Schools hire speakers to be the neutral person in the room and say the hard stuff and also motivate kids to make positive choices in their lives.
The best way to motivate any audience is to get to know them ahead of time. I don’t mean at a personal level. The pros of the speaking business will tell you that the secret to immediate success is to know your audience.
How to know your audience ahead of time?
Whenever you land a speaking contract, make sure to have a phone conversation with the client 1-2 weeks leading up to the event date. Ask the questions that will help you get comfortable and ready to speak to their constituents.
Ask about the demographics of the audiences. Rough estimates and percentages are perfect and they don’t make the client do work. An example that they could give is that the audience is 50% Caucasian, 20% African American, 15% Hispanic, 15% Other. They could say that the majority of their students live in low-income neighborhoods. A sign of this is when they say that they are a Title I school. Title I means that the schools needs help funding it and they require federal funds to make ends meet.
You should also ask about the number of students that will be in attendance, especially if you plan to pass out a postcard or something tangible for students. Be sure to ask about which grade levels you will be speaking to and in what order. If you’re speaking at a middle school, they might get you to speak to the younger grade levels first and end by speaking to the older students. Knowing this information will help you know the kind of energy you must bring.
Knowing your audience is key to motivating them to make positive choices.