Dear Jeffrey: I'm a reporter with the Peoria Journal Star in Peoria, Ill. I'm working on a story on how the down economy is affecting motivational speakers. More business? Less? Do the times dictate a change in tone or approach? Here is my response.Many of my speaker friends tell me their business has never been better, and many of my speaker friends tell me their business has never been worse. It’s a tale of two speakers. Charles Dickens said it best in 1859, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”Prospects will call and whine, “Jeffrey, my people need to be motivated.” In a way, they’re correct, but it’s in a bad way.In a down economy, personal motivation is something everyone needs, but few people are aware of how to discover it for themselves. They focus on negative news, the state of the economy, business worries, job security and in many cases even personal financial security.Meanwhile, corporate leaders are slashing budgets, cutting meetings that they deem unnecessary and doing their best to communicate as little as possible to their people, until the other shoe drops. And these leaders wonder why morale is down.In these times, people don’t just want motivation; they also want answers, truth and communication from leaders that all will be well.One major answer: Leaders must be the truthful, trustworthy, positive example of what they expect their people to do, and they must be willing to take action.Another major answer: They should employ expert communicators, with personalized, meaningful, real-world, impactful messages to help them.Enter outside experts. Many experts bill themselves as ‘motivational speakers.’ I do not. I’m an inspirational speaker and an informational speaker. I provide my audiences with the two things they need the most: new information and hope. I do it with a method called ‘transferable concepts.’ The audience member says, "I get it. I think I can do it. I’m willing to try it." Thereby motivating themselves to think positively and take action.The idea of a motivational speaker getting in front of an audience in these times, telling how he climbed Mount Everest, or how she overcame adversity, poverty or illness, is not acceptable, much less applicable.Every person in every audience I have ever spoken to asks the same question: “What’s in it for me, now?” If the presenter (either outside or inside) cannot convert his or her story to real-world actions that each audience member can perceive themselves realistically taking and improving their lot, then the message will fall on deaf ears. Or worse, grumbling mouths.Bonus: If the speaker’s content is relevant, the audience members will not only resonate and take action; they’ll also want more.Note: This means senior management must be ready and willing to invest in additional real-world programs both online and in the classroom. This also means that the speaker better have that content ready to go at the time the speech is delivered, or long-term impact and results will be lost.There’s no simple answer. There’s no simple solution. There is, however, preparation and hard work, a customized message, relatable content, real-world answers and a passionate presentation, in order to be able to provide new actions and better, positive thoughts in the minds and hearts of each audience member.In other words, if you’re a leader or a speaker, especially an experienced speaker, renew yourself if you hope to renew an audience. It’s the difference between the audience getting the message and taking action or walking out of the room shrugging their shoulders.•••Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of "The Sales Bible" and "The Little Red Book of Selling" and president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Buy Gitomer, www.gitomer.com. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts Internet training programs on sales and customer service at www.trainone.com. He can be reached at 704-333-1112 or e-mail to email@example.com. His columns are posted on his Web site, www.gitomer.com.