Reality Coaching – Coaching Motivational Presenters


I received a phone call asking if I was available to coach a pair of TV personalities preparing to deliver a high profile motivational seminar.  

The pair had been asked to run an event together and the rehearsals were not being as successful as they had hoped.

Let’s get to know the clients:

  • He had been a presenter on terrestrial TV for some time and a motivational speaker, he was very successful. Let’s call him Joe.
  • She was a sports coach and motivational trainer who had recently moved into mainstream TV work, let’s call her Anna.

Anna & I had worked together in the past when I had been asked to model her presentation style and train others to her level.  I had seen Joe but never met him.


The Situation:

Joe had a slick presentation prepared with all the visuals and VT (videotape) you would expect of a world class presenter.  He had the script, could present it with passion and enthuse people to take steps towards their own success

Anna on the other hand preferred to work with no script – and to ‘wing it’.  She is a pragmatist, she likes to play and dislikes too much structure.  I had worked with Anna a year or so earlier when I was asked to ‘model’ her style and workshop content and design a programme to train others to run this high energy and motivational day long seminar.  So I know how Anna likes to work.

The styles just collided.


My Role

I was asked to attend one of the rehearsals and then provide feedback about their performance.  This was designed as a one off coaching session.

I remember sitting through the first run and making copious notes – they wanted me to see the whole thing in its current form before making any comments or providing any feedback. When coaching people it is vital to know ‘where they are now’ so many coaches focus on where they want to get to that knowing the starting position help me to understand their strengths.

At the end of the first run they both left the room for a while, this left three of us. Divina (Joe’s manager) Joe’s agent and Anna’s Father.  The lady to my right (Divina) said “well what do you think?”  I paused for a moment and gave my view of the presentation and what would in my opinion make the whole thing more powerful.  I also made some comments about Joe’s and Anna’s style.  Divina said “no one has said that about him before – that’s very interesting”.  We chatted about style, impact and the purpose of the presentation and what they thought I could offer.  Joe& Anna returned some time later – Joe introduced himself and said I see you have met my wife – Divina. Whoops I thought.  Divina replied “yes we have been introduced – I think Mike can help us… a lot”.

Had I have known that Divina was Joe’s husband I would have said what I said in a much more guarded fashion – that taught me an important lesson that afternoon – say it like you see it.  I am not sure that at up until that time Joe had bought in to me being there – Anna said I was there for her (I found that out later too!)

The first interaction


Joe when you are working like this what makes you comfortable?


I need to know what is happening, I am not very creative and know that the script I have is well written and interesting.


So you believe that people are engaged by the script you have developed?


Yes – it has worked for me so far


Why do you need to change? Why work with Anna?


This client wants someone who will allow the messages in the presentation to be taken to the next level, I can’t do that – Anna can.


So you need Anna to interject in the presentation with “how you can use this ‘skill’”


Yes – she can do that so much better than I can, Plus I think the contrast of styles is refreshing.


For who?


For me certainly and I think the client will love it – I know they will – we just need to get the formula to work well.


What one think will help you?


Anna sticking to the script…

The above dialogue is an example only not a true record of the session


The discussion with Anna was very similar – but opposite!


I spoke to Joe for a while and discovered that he was really uncomfortable with Anna not running to a given script, it made it difficult for him to know when his cue was to progress with the next section


Anna likes to be spontaneous; she detests being ‘constrained’ by a script.  I spent some time with Anna and pointed out that to some extent she always worked of a script – all be it in her head as opposed to a written one.


Creating the Goal or Vision 

Joe, Anna & I sat for a while and explored what success looked like for this presentation – both have very highly tuned visualisation abilities and this was the fastest visioning session I have ever experienced.

We ran a few parts of the presentation with Joe working ‘free wheeling’ and Anna to script – both were uncomfortable.  Joe was more engaging than he had been, the presentation was wrapped in a real passion, yet he was uncomfortable, too uncomfortable to do such a high profile event this way.

Then I changed track – I asked them both to start using the start and finish paragraph of each section, this provided Joe with the structure he needed and Anna with the permission to ‘do her thing’.  It worked very well.

By this time several hours had passed and we were all very tired.  We had a short debrief and agreed that Joe & Anna would have another day of rehearsals later in the week; the main presentation was not for 3 week so we all had time.  They were going to see how it went and then if necessary I would be called for another session the following week.

The following week I had a call from Joe; he thanks me for the input and structure – he said the rehearsals went very well – he thought her performance had improved and that they were ready for the ‘big day’.


Key gains for the clients (as stated by both at the time and Anna in later discussions)

  • Being prepared to go out of their comfort zone
  • More confident attitude to flexibility & change (for Joe)
  • More confident attitude to structure and predictability (for Anna)
  • The ability to focus on here & now and using emotions to engage people in a powerful way

Further learning opportunities

  • To practice the fluid changes from one presenter to another
  • To learn how to ‘be in the room’


The first delivery of the new format motivational presentation for a major international blue chip company went very well.  They had been invited back to run the session again for others in the organisation and have since run the presentation for other organisations.


This article is © Mike Morrison 2006-2009 All rights reserved. If you wish to circulate this article please contact the author via this site – no reasonable request refused.

The Names of people, times and places have been changed to protect my clients.

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About Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison is a consultant and change agent specialising in developing skills in senior people to increase organizational performance.
Mike is also founder & director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy.


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  5. Mike
    What an interesting coaching situation and approach to working with two such different characters. I just wanted to reiterate your point about being in at the start and where the coachee is. I often see a coach already concentrating on the end game before even picking up the raquet. Feedback is what coachees need and crave. Too often that stage is fogotten. Glad to read how successful they have gone on to be but not surprised.

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  7. Everything Counts says:

    Very inspirational and thought provoking. We should first be aware of our inner selves. Only then we can build up on our strengths. I quite appreciate the thought and agree with it.

  8. Reality Coaching – Coaching Motivational Presenters


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